September 15, 2004
Number 68, Volume 2

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

Editor's Note: This week we take a close look at the worldwide numbers of animals slaughtered for food each year, as well as recent trends. Periodically we will provide detailed reports on a range of topics related to farmed animal welfare. If you wish to submit ideas and/or contribute to in-depth topics for future editions of Farmed Animal Watch, please write to us at


Globally, slaughter of farmed animals for food increased to more than 50 BILLION individuals in 2003, not including any types of aquatic animals. The estimates, which are compiled and provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, are based on reports from more than 210 countries and territories. It is important to note that, while fairly comprehensive, these estimates may be significantly understated due to some countries or territories not reporting statistics and exclusions of some types of slaughter.

With nearly 46 billion slaughtered in 2003, chickens accounted for 93% all types of farmed animals included in the FAO database. Following chickens, more ducks were slaughtered for their flesh than any other animal; approximately 2.3 billion ducks were slaughtered in 2003. Not considering birds, the slaughter of pigs was highest with more than 1.2 billion pigs slaughtered in 2003, followed by more than 850 million rabbits slaughtered last year. See below for a summary of the minimum 2003 worldwide slaughter estimates, by type of animal.

     --  45,895 million (45.9 billion) chickens
     --  2,262 million (2.3 billion) ducks
     --  1,244 million (1.2 billion) pigs
     --  857 million rabbits
     --  691 million turkeys
     --  533 million geese
     --  515 million sheep
     --  345 million goats
     --  292 million cows and calves (for beef and veal)
     --  65 million other rodents (not including rabbits)
     --  63 million pigeons and other birds
     --  23 million buffalo
     --  4 million horses
     --  3 million donkeys and mules
     --  2 million camels (and other camelids)

These numbers indicate some significant changes compared to slaughter statistics from 1998. Over the past five years, slaughter of birds for meat has increased substantially, driven by a 30% increase in ducks and a 20% increase in chickens slaughtered. Goose slaughter also increased significantly, 17% over the five-year period, while turkey slaughter grew at a relatively slow 4% since 1998. The period from 1998 to 2003 also saw significant global increases in the slaughter of rabbits (21%), goats (19%), camels (12%), asses (10%), sheep (10%), buffalo (10%), and pigs (9%). On the other hand, the same five-year period saw decreases in the numbers of rodents (down 10%, not including rabbits) and mules (down 22%) slaughtered for their flesh.

According to the FAO database, farmed animal production is highly concentrated in a handful of countries, most notably China and the United States. For each of the ten most slaughtered animals, at least half of the total 2003 slaughter is accounted for by the five highest-production countries. China slaughters more ducks, pigs, rabbits, geese, lambs, goats, cows and calves than any other country in the world. The US slaughters more chickens and turkeys than any other country, and is second only to China when it comes to pig slaughter. Overall, in 2003 China slaughtered more than 10.5 billion animals for their flesh, while the US slaughtered more than 9.5 billion animals, not including aquatic animals in either case.

FAO Statistical Database - Agriculture


In the United States and other countries, large numbers of animals who are not slaughtered are bred and farmed to produce eggs, milk, and other products. In the US, during July 2004 approximately 340 million egg-laying hens produced more than 7.5 million eggs, representing an average of 45 eggs per bird for the month. From April-May of 2004, the US has had more hens producing eggs than at any time in the past three years. As of August 2004, more than 5% of these hens are currently undergoing "forced molting," with another 23% said to be "molt completed."

While the number of hens on US farms is up, the number of dairy cows is down slightly to an "inventory" of about 9 million cows. So far in 2004, 3.6 million female calves have been bred as replacement dairy calves. Including cows and calves raised for both their flesh and meat, there are approximately 102 million cows currently living on US farms. As of June 2004, there were 62 million pigs on farms, with about 10% of those kept as breeder sows. Comparable numbers for "broiler" chickens and turkeys currently kept on US farms are not available.

USDA / NASS Report, "Chickens and Eggs," August 23, 2004

USDA / NASS Report, "Cattle," July 23, 2004

USDA / NASS Report, "Hogs and Pigs," June 25, 2004


The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a notice on September 9, 2004 reminding all farmed animal slaughter establishments to comply with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). FSIS says it chose this time for the reminder "because there has been considerable congressional and public interest about the humane treatment of animals, and because the number of humane handling noncompliance incidents documented by FSIS in establishments has increased over the last three years." The notice cites more than 20,000 letters over the past few years from citizens and organizations concerned about humane handling and slaughter.

FSIS is encouraging slaughter facilities to systematically ensure compliance with the HMSA, and to "identify where and under what circumstances livestock may experience excitement, discomfort or accidental injury while being handled in connection with the slaughter process." The notice further encourages facilities to "minimize discomfort and injury in accordance with existing regulations" and to periodically evaluate slaughter practices for effectiveness.

"FSIS Issues Notice on Humane Handling Requirements," USDA / FSIS, September 9, 2004

"FSIS Calls for More Diligent Humane Handling,", Brendan O'Neill, September 10, 2004


A researcher with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is currently undertaking a study of more than 100 current and former slaughterhouse workers to determine levels of bacteria resistance resulting from the use of antibiotics in chicken production. Toxicologist Ellen Silbergeld is studying the impact of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on poultry workers and on the natural environment, primarily rivers. The current study builds on past research in which Silbergeld found that 60% of her sample of 60 slaughterhouse workers was found to have antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This was compared to an incidence of only 10% among the general population in the same geographical area. Other research has found resistant bacteria in catfish and in meat products available at supermarkets.

Responding to concerns raised by Silbergeld's research, Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council downplayed the impact of using antibiotics during chicken production. Lobb said that chicken producers have been "routinely adding microbe-killing formulas to chicken feed since the 1950s." Lobb went on to say that farmers add antibiotics to entire flocks of up to 200,000 birds when only a few birds show signs of illness or disease. Scientists like Silbergeld, however, believe that the 2.5 billion pounds of waste from chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula is a risk to slaughterhouse workers and is causing an unknown, potentially harmful effect on the environment.

"Study of Antibiotic Effects Targets Workers," Baltimore Sun, Tom Pelton, August 31, 2004 (Baltimore Sun website - Registration Required)

"Pigs and Other Farm Animals are Harbouring Major Reservoirs of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria,", September 8, 2004


"Chickens Suffering, Claims RSPCA," BBC News, September 14, 2004
UK: The RSPCA is initiating a new campaign to increase public awareness of the effects of intense confinement and increased growth rates on "broiler" chickens, in the hopes that chicken welfare legislation will be enacted.

"Asia Faces Bird Flu Crisis of Unprecedented Scale," Reuters, September 15, 2004
With millions of birds and 28 humans killed from Avian Influenza in Asia, World Health Organization officials call the outbreak "historically unprecedented" and say the disease could cause a global pandemic.

"Who Cares About Animal Welfare? Not Our Customers, Says British Retail Consortium,", Digby Scott, September 14, 2004
UK: The UK pig industry is clashing with the country's retailers over what constitutes proper labeling of animal welfare, with producers saying the label shouldn't apply to lower-welfare, imported pig products.

"Livestock Injured in Highway Transit a Concern,", Linda McNatt, September 14, 2004
Farmed animals injured during transport are a growing concern, but not all states can handle such situations; 230,000 pigs are killed and another 420,000 injured during transport each year.

"British Beef Laws Blamed on Calves' Waste,", September 14, 2004
UK: Some British farmers say that up to 3,000 calves are slaughtered as animal feed every month due to what they say are unnecessary restrictions on the movement of calves and cows.

"Calgary Slaughterhouse Plan Sent Back to Commission,", September 13, 2004
Canada: The Calgary City Council has blocked plans for a beef-packing facility following a protest of more than 400 people opposed to the idea, and signatures from 6,000 more.

"Air of Unease Over Big Dairies," Associated Press, Brian Melley, September 10, 2004
The severe impact of large-scale dairy farms on the environment and livability of a region are causing some California cities to impose moratoriums or initiate lawsuits.,1,5120929.story


  1. Statistics: Global Farmed Animal Slaughter

  2. Statistics: Non-Slaughter Use of Farmed Animals in the US

  3. USDA Prompts Farmers on Humane Handling and Slaughter

  4. Farmed Animals Harbor Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

  5. Other Items of Interest



Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.

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