Untitled Document

May 7 , 2004
Number 49, Volume 2

Farmed Animal Watch is sponsored by Animal Place, Animal Welfare Trust, Farm Sanctuary, The Fund for Animals, Glaser Progress Foundation, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The treatment of "broiler" chickens in the US has come under fire from a veterinarian and animal activists who say that selective breeding, special feed and drugs cause chickens to grow quickly without developing the necessary skeletal structure to support themselves. Chickens today are grown to "market size" in only 45 days, compared to an average of 84 days fifty years ago. University of Guelph veterinary professor Ian Duncan said, "I think it's time for breeding companies to take a step back. They have been breeding heavily for fast growth without taking into consideration the health of the birds." A spokesman for the National Chicken Council denied the claim, saying that Europe has a problem with weak-boned chickens, but not the US, a statement that is directly contradicted by a recent report from activist group Compassion Over Killing (COK). According to a study cited in COK's report, "90 percent of broilers had detectable leg problems, while 26 percent suffered chronic pain as a result of bone disease." (See #7, http://tinyurl.com/2neb3)

In the UK, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is taking heat from the British Poultry Council (BPC) for its airing of "secretive filming and commentary" about the welfare of "broiler" chickens. The Council questions the impartiality and accuracy of the broadcasting company's report on lameness and hock burns of chickens. As of April 29, the BPC is still awaiting a response to its complaint from the company. Also in the UK, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has launched a campaign to educate consumers about the living and dying conditions of "broiler" chickens. The campaign is in response to an RSPCA survey that found that nearly half of consumers think these chickens are raised in the same manner as egg-laying hens, and more than a third of respondents mistakenly believe that the UK's "Red Tractor" logo requires that they be "free range." An RSPCA scientist said that about 100,000 "broiler" chickens die prematurely every day "due to strains placed on their young bodies."

The University of Georgia published a Q&A fact sheet relating to "contract broiler production" in the US. Among the key points from the series: i) The US poultry industry has seen significant growth because of increased chicken consumption by "health-conscious" consumers; ii) There are about 50 poultry companies operating in the US, but the top 10 account for more than 60% of all production; iii) An estimated 99% of all "broiler" chickens are produced by "contract growers;" iv) For disposal of chicken litter as a fertilizer, an estimated 35-50 acres is needed for each broiler house: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/FeaturedArticle/FATopic.asp?Display=147 (see also: http://www.ces.uga.edu/pubcd/L423-w.html ).

Additional information on "broiler" chickens is available at:

"Activists Charge Mistreated Chickens Have Weak Legs," Scripps Howard News Service, Lance Gay, April 20, 2004
"BBC under fire from poultry body," Farm Weekly Interactive, Richard Allison, April 29, 2004
"RSPCA to Highlight Chicken Cruelty," ITV Network, May 5, 2004

USDA inspectors at a slaughterhouse in San Angelo, Texas failed to follow BSE ("mad cow disease") testing procedure for a cow exhibiting signs of possible central nervous system disorder. A cow was observed "staggering and falling" by an inspector, at which point standard procedures call for holding the slaughtered cow until inspectors from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) can take samples for BSE testing. In this case, however, the cow's body was sent for rendering before samples were taken. USDA says tissue from the rendered animal was not destined for the human food chain and present no risk to human health. The Department also says it is beginning a new surveillance program on June 1 that will "target as many animals as possible from the populations considered to be at highest risk for BSE." A May 5 update to the story cites two sources that say an APHIS supervisor from Austin, Texas overruled an on-site technician who had called in to say she was taking a sample for BSE testing. The technician is said to have told the managers of the slaughterhouse to dispose of the carcass "in a routine manner." The USDA is conducting an investigation into the matter.

The Dairy Food Safety Lab at the University of California at Davis has released new training materials and videos for euthanasia of farmed animals, "dairy" cows in particular. The materials include instructions and guidelines for euthanizing cows with potential central nervous system disorders, including BSE, and other diseases: http://www.vmtrc.ucdavis.edu/dfsl/euth/euth.html

"BSE Test Omitted for Downer Cow in Texas," CIDRAP News, May 4, 2004 http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/hot/bse/news/may0404cow.html
"Joint Statement by Dr. Ron Dehaven, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Dr. Barbara Masters, Acting Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service,"
APHIS Press Release, May 3, 2004
"USDA's San Angelo Vets and Techs Ordered not to Test Suspect Cow," Meating Place, Daniel Yovich, May 5, 2004

The National Meat Association recently held "Veal Day" in California, with the director of the American Veal Association (AVA) outlining current challenges and opportunities for the US veal industry. On the agenda was the upcoming June 6 FDA ban on veal calves with implants entering the human food supply (see item #2: http://tinyurl.com/3ce84 ), as well as trade issues with Canada. The AVA presentation was followed by one by Joost Teunissen, Managing Partner of California-based Rancho Vitello, which raises calves six to a stall rather than in individual crates. According to Vitello, the goal is for their production process to be as "transparent and defendable"as possible. He also said that calves are switched from a liquid diet to a solid diet "as early as possible," with no negative impact on meat color. Rancho Vitello products are sold as "Certified Humanely Raised," a California state-approved label.

Farmed animal advocacy group Farm Sanctuary has released a new Flash animation video called "Veal Fughedaboutit," which illustrates concerns about the treatment of calves raised for veal: http://www.noveal.org/forgetaboutit

"NMA Veal Day," Kiran Kernellu, Lean Trimmings, May 3, 2004

Several former USDA veterinarians are claiming that the Department pressures its inspectors to falsify documents, declaring some products safe for export, and has been doing so for up to 20 years. Former USDA vets Tom D'Amura and Lester Friedlander offered statements supporting the claims of an anonymous inspector currently employed by the USDA. The allegation also comes from attorney Bill Hughes of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, which represents about 80% of the 900 veterinarians employed by the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

Scientists from several US government agencies have released preliminary results of the FoodNet surveillance program. The report says that data shows steady declines in food-borne contaminations and infections, including those from Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia and, more recently, E. coli. FoodNet is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the USDA. Despite this news, several large recalls have occurred in the US in the past three months, including two beef recalls for possible E. coli contamination, and most recently "pork rinds" possibly contaminated with Salmonella. For information on these and all federal recalls, see http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fsis_Recalls/index.asp.

"USDA Vets: Documents Falsified for Years," United Press International, Steve Mitchell, April 23, 2004
"Pathogens in Retreat," Meat News, April 30, 2004

From May 3-5, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a three-day meeting of experts to discuss the transmission of animal diseases to humans, including avian influenza, BSE ("mad cow disease") and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, see item #4: http://tinyurl.com/znd0 ). Emphasis was on identifying "zoonoses," the factors that allow diseases to jump from animals to humans, and methods to mitigate the impact on animals and humans, as well as on industry. The discussion, which involved a number of leading international scientists and public health officials, also covered improvements to monitoring and control of such diseases, and possible preventive measures.

In a suspected case of zoonosis, it turns out an Everett, Washington man does not have SARS, but instead has severe pneumonia. The man, who had recently traveled to Beijing, China, was admitted to the hospital on April 28 and SARS was preliminarily ruled out on April 30. Five new cases of SARS were confirmed in China at the National Institute of Virology in Beijing, which conducts research on the disease. The institute's virology lab is closed as four more possible cases and the lab's employees are being monitored.

"International Consultation Aims to Identify, Minimize Impact of Disease Transmitted from Animals to Humans," World Health Organization, April, 30 2004
"World on SARS Alert Again," USA TODAY, Anita Manning, May 2, 2004

On April 28, a new bill to prevent horse slaughter for human consumption was introduced into the US Senate, joining a similar House bill with over 200 cosponsors. The Senate bill would also prohibit shipping live horses to other countries for slaughter. In 2003, nearly 50,000 horses were slaughtered in the US for human consumption, primarily in Europe and Japan. According to data recently obtained from the USDA by the American Horse Defense Fund, an estimated additional 20,000 horses from the US were shipped to Canada and Japan for slaughter in each of the past three years, for a 2003 total of more than 70,000 slaughtered horses. CBS affiliate KDKA in Pittsburgh ran an in-depth story about horse slaughter on April 30, including interviews with people on both sides of the issue. The full video is available in the station's archives at http://www.kdka.com/local/investigatorvideo/ According to one of the Senate bill's sponsors, "A series of recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support a ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption." The bill was introduced by John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

"Senate Takes Action to Protect U.S. Horses," The National Horse Protection League, April 28, 2004
"50,564 + At Least 20,000 More Slaughtered in Canada and Japan," American Horse Defense Fund, April 28, 2004

Last week the Louisiana state House of Representatives voted to outlaw controversial "hog-dog rodeos," in which dogs, typically pit bull terriers, attack de-tusked boars (video at: http://tinyurl.com/3hddv ). The bill passed with a 75-25 vote and was sent to the state Senate, where an attempt to derail it was unsuccessful last Thursday. A similar bill to ban cockfighting in Louisiana was being considered the evening of May 5 by the House Agriculture Committee, but was deferred back to the full Senate and requires a two-thirds vote from the floor before being reconsidered by the Ag Committee. The move effectively kills the state's anti-cockfighting bill, with Louisiana and New Mexico remaining the only states that permit the activity. Before the state legislative session began, activist groups conducted an opinion poll in which 82% of Louisiana respondents would like cockfighting banned, 71% "strongly" so.

"Hogs, Chickens Vying for Lawmakers' Votes," Associated Press, Kevin Mcgill, May 3, 2004 http://www.2theadvocate.com/stories/050304/opi_lasptlt001.shtml
"House Committee Kills Bill to Ban Cockfighting," Associated Press, Melinda Deslatte, May 6, 2004