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1. Humane Handling of Pigs the Focus of Two Recent Studies
DOWNER PIGS: Researchers at the Prairie
Swine Centre have released a study showing that use
of electric prods and "aggressive handling" can lead
to higher rates of so-called downer pigs. (Also see
FAW #76: http://farmedanimal.net/Newsletters/Newslettern76v2.htm).
The report provides detailed information on rates
of downer pigs, and states that the incidence of downer
pigs arriving at slaughterhouses has increased by
275% over the past decade: "Levels of downer pigs
arriving at various U.S. packing plants are typically
reported at 0.25 to 0.75 %; however, levels as high
as 10 % have been reported for individual loads. The
incidence of downer pigs has increased from 0.08 to
0.30 % over the past 10 years. Stressful handling
appears to be a triggering factor for the occasional
high levels of downer pigs."
The research study tested different groups of pigs, some of whom were handled gently while others were handled aggressively and/or with electric prods. Another aspect of the study tested the efficacy of changing pigs' diets to reduce downer rates. The study showed that while altering diets had no impact, aggressive handling has a dramatic impact on downer rates. According to the results, "we obtained downer rates of 2, 15 and 34% for pigs handled gently, aggressively but not prodded, and aggressively including electric prodding, respectively." The researchers concluded that pig farmers and transporters should minimize the use of electric prods and aggressive handling to mitigate the number of downer pigs.
TOXOPLASMA INFECTION: Researchers
in The Netherlands recently published a study showing
that "animal-friendly production systems" may lead
to an increase in Toxoplasma infections. The research
compared two groups of pigs raised either in conventional
indoor facilities or in animal-friendly housing. While
none of the pigs raised on conventional farms tested
positive for Toxoplasma, about 3% of pigs on alternative
farms were infected. The researchers conclude that
"Conventionally (indoors) raised pigs are free from
Toxoplasma infection, and animal-friendly production
systems may lead to a reemergence of Toxoplasma infections."
They go on to advise animal-friendly producers to
monitor processes and take steps to improve hygiene
to control the rate of Toxoplasma infection, which
is a known contributor to Toxoplasmosis in humans.
"Stressful Handling of Pigs," ThePigSite.com, 12/21/04
"Toxoplasma Gondii Infection in Animal-Friendly Pig Production Systems," Vetscite.org, 12/21/04
Source article - IOVS.org: http://www.iovs.org/cgi/content/abstract/45/9/3165
2. Research Finds Airborne Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria at Pig Farm
A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released findings showing that some people are at risk of airborne exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria from concentrated pig farms. According to the lead researcher, "Eating retail pork products is not the only pathway of exposure for the transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from swine to humans. Environmental pathways may be equally important." In the study, 98% of the airborne bacteria samples taken from one US factory farm were resistant to at least two types of antibiotics considered important in the treatment of humans. The antibiotics include erythromycin, clindamycin, virginiamycin and tetracycline. The research suggests that employees of concentrated pig farms may be at highest risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, the authors state that those workers "may also become reservoirs of drug-resistant bacteria that can be spread to family and the broader community."
"Airborne Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria Isolated from a Concentrated Swine Feeding Operation," Chapin, et al, NIEHS (FULL REPORT AVAILABLE)
"Researchers Find Airborne Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria," Pork News, 12/20/04
"Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria Found to be Airborne in Concentrated Swine Operation," Vetscite.org, 12/21/04
3. BSE News: US Plants Violating Rules; Canadian Feed Contains Animal Parts
US RULES VIOLATIONS: A national US-based
union of federal meat inspectors says that brains
and spinal cords from cows over 30 months of age are
still entering the food supply and are being sold
to other countries. The ban on such "Specific Risk
Materials" (SRMs) was put into effect by the USDA
for all cows over 30 months of age, who they believe
to be at higher risk of having Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
(BSE). According to the union's chairman, "We know
USDA's zero tolerance is not being met. We believe
this is a widespread problem." The union says that
inspectors have been contacting them since October,
complaining that plant employees are incorrectly identifying
the cows' ages. The SRMs, according to the union,
have made their way into the US food supply and some
products have been sent to Mexico, violating a trade
agreement between the US and that country.
CANADIAN FEED: The Canadian government
conducted private tests on animal feed in early 2004
and found that more than half of the samples contained
animal products not listed on the ingredients. The
feed in question was labeled "all vegetable feed,"
but it is unclear whether the contamination of animal
products was deliberate or accidental. In the tests
conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,
59% of the 70 feed samples taken were found to contain
animal products, something the agency calls "worrisome."
The rate of contamination was higher among feed produced
in Canada than among those imported from other countries.
However, the scientists have been unable to determine
from which species the contaminating animal products
were rendered, so the specific risk from cow parts
is not known.
"US Meat Plants Violating Mad Cow Rules-Inspectors," Reuters, 12/20/04
"Secret Tests Reveal Cattle Feed Contaminated by Animal Parts," Vancouver Sun, 12/16/04
"Canadian Cattle Feed Found to Have Animal Content," Meatingplace.com, 12/17/04
4. A.I. News: Thousands More Birds Culled in Asia; Japan has First Human Case
Avian Influenza continues to have a significant impact on countries in Southeast Asia, including Japan that on December 22 announced its first case of a human contracting the virus from birds. The Japanese man is a poultry worker who caught the virus while disinfecting a farm closed due to an outbreak of bird flu earlier this year. Japan's Health Ministry announced that the case represents one of five people who may have been infected with the disease. So far, 20 people have died of avian influenza in Vietnam and 12 have died in Thailand. In Vietnam, more than 4,000 chickens have either died or been culled in recent weeks because of a new avian influenza outbreak. In South Korea, more than 9,000 ducks will be killed after a mild form of avian influenza was found at a farm in the Kwangju province.
"Japan Has First Case of Bird Flu in Human," ABC News / Associated Press, 12/22/04
"Five People in Japan May Have Bird Flu Virus," Yahoo News / Reuters, 12/18/04
(Yahoo News website)
"Vietnam Confirms 4,000 Poultry Deaths in Recent Weeks," Meatingplace.com, 12/22/04
"South Korea Finds Suspected Milder Bird Flu Among Ducks," Planet Ark / Reuters, 12/23/04
Updates on Undercover Investigations from COK and PETA
Two separate undercover investigations by activist groups Compassion Over Killing (COK) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) continue to get media attention. Legal action from COK's investigation of a Purdue chicken slaughter facility in Maryland has stalled due to the plant's closure in early November. The Sheriff in charge of the investigation wrote, "I doubt that the taxpayers of Worcester County would want their criminal investigation teams to become involved now that the alleged violations have ceased with the plant closing." However, the Sheriff said he was willing to meet with COK to discuss the case further. In Iowa, PETA's undercover investigation of a kosher slaughterhouse resulted in a USDA investigation and heated debate on both sides of the issue. Results from the USDA investigation are expected by the end of December, according to a department spokesperson.
"Sheriff: Perdue Plant's Closure May Complicate Animal Cruelty Investigation," TheWBALChannel.com, 12/20/04
"PETA Footage Puts Kosher Slaughterhouse on Defensive," National Public Radio, 12/20/04 (AUDIO)
"Town Rallies Around Firm Called Inhumane," Chicago Tribune, 12/19/04
Other Items of Interest
An official statement from the US Food Safety
and Inspection Service (FSIS) warns veal producers
against the "widespread, illegal use of drug implants
in young calves that was discovered in 2004." FSIS
has established a public comment period on the issue
that is open until February 22, 2005.
"HACCP Reassessment for Slaughterers of Young Calves,"
Activist group United Poultry Concerns (UPC)
has released findings, including a video, from its
investigation of a live poultry market in the Bronx,
New York. UPC says that the video shows "filth, squalor,
and callous indifference to animal suffering," as
well as inhumane slaughter of chickens and other animals.
"Live Poultry Market Investigation in the Bronx Shows
Misery, Sickness, Filth," United Poultry Concerns,
OPINION: Dan Murphy, meat industry commentator,
criticizes animal rights activists, consumer advocates,
and scientists for a portrayal of factory farms that
he calls "propaganda." Murphy goes on to defend some
practices of industrial animal agriculture, with particularly
focus on the widespread use of antibiotics.
"Can industry kill the activists' golden goose?" Dan
Murphy, Meatingplace.com, 12/17/04
The New Zealand government has issued two
new animal welfare codes that allow the use of battery
cages to house egg-laying hens, but require larger
cages and ban forced molting unless "replacement birds
are not available." Moreover, beak trimming can only
be done within the first ten days of hatching. Animal
activists are reportedly unhappy with the new codes,
although the government has promised to review them
again in five years.
"Battery Hens to Stay," New Zealand Herald, 12/22/04
A farmer in Switzerland, shortly before he
died, had a change of heart and made plans for the
safe retirement of his animals, including two cows
named Maya and Toni. Custody of the cows is now in
the hands of the group Viva la Vacca - Italian for
"Long Live the Cow" - a nearby sanctuary.
"Swiss Farmer's Dying Wish: Save My Cows," The State
/ Associated Press, 12/2/04