Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

March 7, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #8 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. Outdoor Access Standard Challenged
2. New Law Trumps Organic Feed Requirement
3. Organic Standards Forum &  Price Index
4. Federal Slaughter Inspection Improvements
5. Hoop Barns for Pigs
6. State Legislation Threatens Activists & Investigations
7. Activists = Terrorists?
8. Egg Operation Investigation Publicized
9. National Animal Abuse Registry

 

1. OUTDOOR ACCESS STANDARD CHALLENGED
The National Organic Standards require that animals used for organic food production have access to the outdoors. The wording, however, is intentionally ambiguous to allow for climate and ecological variations. Last autumn, Massachusetts Independent Certifiers (MIF) withheld its stamp of approval for Country Hen, noting that the chickens did not have "adequate access to exercise areas, fresh air and direct sunlight," and that the "applicant was too restrictive in determining the hours and days the poultry would be allowed outside." The owner complained to the USDA, claiming he planned to build porches off the barn to meet the outdoor requirement. The USDA subsequently overruled the decision without consulting the certifier. A spokesperson for Consumers Union criticized: "It's two 30-foot-square balconies to provide access for 6,000 chickens and they're not even built....In the consumer's eye, the USDA is supposed to be the guard and the protector of the national organics program. But USDA has wasted no time in undermining the integrity of the rule." MIF, which claims the USDA is required to discuss decertification with the certifier prior to reversing a report, is expected to file a complaint against it. In New Hampshire, the state Department of Agriculture, which certifies organic production, has told egg farmers that if they have "good reason" for not providing outdoor access to chickens, it will be acceptable. 
 
"USDA Enters Debate on Organic Label Law," The New York Times, Marian Burros, 2/26/03.
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/5319902.htm
"Farms Raise Heck Over Raising Hens," Gannett News Service, Elizabeth Weise, March 1, 2003
http://news.statesmanjournal.com/article.cfm?i=57550
"Organic Chicken May Not Be All It's Cut Out to Be," USA Today, February 26, 2003.
http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/333/8015/361624.html
 

2. NEW LAW TRUMPS ORGANIC FEED REQUIREMENT
National organic standards have been weakened by a new federal law that allows the organic label to be used on meat, eggs and dairy products obtained from animals who hadn't been given organic feed. The law resulted from a rider included at the last minute in the $397 billion U.S. Omnibus Appropriations bill passed in late February. Congressman Nathan Deal (R, Ga.) sponsored the rider on behalf of poultry producer Fieldale Farms. The company has been trying to get an exemption to the organic feed requirement since last summer (see issue #73 and http://www.hsus.org/ace/14362 ), and contributed $4,000 toward Deal's election. Organic regulations allow fruits and vegetables to be grown from non-organic seed if organic seed is not commercially available. Fieldale contended that organic farmers should be allowed to give animals non-organic feed if organic feed is difficult to obtain. Under Deal's amendment, if the USDA determines organic feed can only be obtained at more than twice the price of conventional feed, the department cannot enforce the organic feed regulation.
 
Organic farmers, legislators, the administration, and major food companies, like Tyson Foods, that are investing millions of dollars in organic production, have spoken out against the new law. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said she is in support of efforts to maintain the organic standards which were implemented in late 2002 after a dozen years of deliberations (see issue #88). Legislation has been introduced that would kill the Deal provision, and the creation of a joint House/Senate caucus has been announced to maintain the integrity of national organic standards. Mr. Deal defended his action by explaining that it only delays the implementation of the organic rules until a study of the organic grain supply is completed. (The USDA is currently conducting such a study.) If the Deal law remains in place, it will expire on October 31st. If the law is not defeated, it is possible that Congress could extend it into the next fiscal year.
 
"Reaction to Organic Meat Bill Baffles Rep. Deal," Gainesville Times, Debbie Gilbert, 2/28/03.
http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/news/stories/20030228/localnews/1077608.html
"Weakening of Organic Standards is Considered," The New York Times, Marian Burros, 2/14/03
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/14/politics/14ORGA.html
"Both Parties Join to Restore Organic Standards," The New York Times, Elizabeth Becker, 2/27/03. http://www.startribune.com/stories/587/3721698.html
"Organic Advocates Try to Pull Wrench from Livestock Feed Rules," Farm Progress, Ed Maixner, February 27, 2003. http://www.directag.com/directag/news/article.jhtml?article_id=1009504
 

3. ORGANIC STANDARDS FORUM &  PRICE INDEX
The first of two satellite broadcast discussions about the requirements of the USDA's national organic standards will air on March 21st from 10-12 a.m. (PST). A panel of experts will discuss the growth of the organic food industry, the certification process, and controversy over the standards. Viewers will be able to submit questions by toll-free phone, fax or e-mail. For program details and registration information, visit: http://ext.wsu.edu/noas
 
The New Farm has designed an index for comparing organic food prices. The magazine was unable to identify wholesale markets for organic poultry, pork or beef. The production and distribution of organic poultry was found to be nationally dominated by one company, which would not release pricing information. Instead of organic pork and beef, the alternative market primarily consists of meat labeled as "natural" or "raised with care." The products are free of antibiotics and added hormones but organic feed was not used in their production. See: http://www.newfarm.org/opx/index.shtml      
 
"Coming Soon: National Forum on Organic Standards & Certification," The New Farm, 2/20/03.
http://www.newfarm.org/certification/022003/NOAS_satellite.shtml
 

4. FEDERAL SLAUGHTER INSPECTION IMPROVEMENTS
The 2003 Federal Appropriations Bill (see item #2) included a measure for the USDA to allocate $5 million toward improving enforcement of the "Humane Slaughter Act." The money is to be used to hire at least 50 inspectors who will work exclusively on enforcement of this law. The 17 Veterinary Medical Specialists hired last year (see issues 3953) will be limited to enforcing the law rather than the diverse activities they have been overseeing. According to an HSUS press release: "Although a USDA directive instructs slaughterhouse inspectors to stop the production line when a humane slaughter violation is observed, this rarely occurs. Inspectors are not routinely tasked with checking for or reporting violations of this law, and some slaughter plants have even installed barriers that make it impossible for inspectors to see live animals." The release also says that inspectors are stationed far away from where animals are killed. HSUS's Wayne Pacelle explains: "USDA has consistently failed to enforce this important -and very basic- law. Animals are being hung on hooks, skinned, dismembered, disemboweled, and boiled while they are still alive and conscious."
 
"Federal Appropriations Bill Includes Millions to Hire Humane Slaughter Inspectors, Advance Animal Welfare," The Humane Society of the United States, February 26, 2003.
http://www.hsus.org/ace/18475
 

5. HOOP BARNS FOR PIGS
The 2003 Federal Appropriations Bill (see items #2 &  3) includes a $210,000 provision for continued research and promotion of hoop barns as alternatives to intensive confinement structures. An article in the current issue of The New Farm tells of two brothers who use hoop structures to raise pigs. The Wilsons' facilities meet the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)'s On-Farm Husbandry Criteria for Pigs ( http://www.awionline.org/farm ), which are outlined in this detailed article. "The Wilson brothers' hogs are more fun to be with, easier to handle, get a premium price...and smell a darn sight better, too," the article notes. Regarding intensive confinement, one brother explains: "We decided to give it a try...It was a miserable place to work with pigs." For additional information on hoop structures, see: http://www.pfi.iastate.edu/E-HUT%20Farrowing%20Pix.htm For an account of a Danish system that has been successfully adopted in Europe, see "Open Hog Barns Work in Europe" at: http://www.producer.com/articles/20030130/livestock/20030130ls02.html In Maryland, a pending bill aims to ban gestation crates. See: http://www.hsus.org/ace/18491
 
Iowa State University recently announced the availability of its 2002 Swine Research Report, which includes comparisons of gestation crates and hoop structures. Articles on teaching, nutrition, breeding/physiology, management/economics and food safety are also contained in the report, on-line at: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/ipic/reports/02swinereports/swine02.html To purchase a $10 CD-ROM of the report, call: 515-294-2240.
 
Waterkeeper Alliance, a water protection advocacy organization, is sponsoring the third annual "Sustainable Hog Farming Summit," to be held in Gettysburg, Pa., June 6-7th. The event will include academic research, legal updates and grassroots group reports from around the country with particular focus on Pennsylvania. Co-sponsors include AWI and the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE: http://www.factoryfarm.org ). See events at: http://www.keeper.org    
 
"Federal Appropriations Bill Includes Millions to Hire Humane Slaughter Inspectors, Advance Animal Welfare," The Humane Society of the United States, February 26, 2003.
http://www.hsus.org/ace/18475
"Humane Hogs," The New Farm, Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, January 2003.
http://www.newfarm.org/features/0103/wilson_hogs/index.shtml
 

6. STATE LEGISLATION THREATENS ACTIVISTS &  INVESTIGATIONS
The 2003 Federal Appropriations Bill (see items #2-4) allows continued public access to inspection reports and other information about facilities' compliance with animal welfare standards. A provision had initially been included in the House's version of the bill that would have prohibited release of information if it "might be used by individuals or terrorist organizations for the purpose of targeting biomedical or agricultural research facilities or personnel employed in biomedical or agricultural research." Worded as such, the law could have been used against an investigative reporter attempting to reveal violations of law or by an activist conducting a letter-writing campaign.
 
The "Animal Rights and Ecological Terrorism Act," has been introduced in the Texas House of Representatives. H.B. 433 seeks to add a new class of crime to the Texas Criminal Code. Drafted from legislation crafted by the U.S. Sportsman's Alliance, among other things the bill would criminalize political and social protests, demonstrations, and debate by animal or environmental advocates. [A similar bill, H.B. 4884, has reportedly been introduced in New York.] Any Texan who donated money to an animal or environmental (only) organization that engaged in non-violent civil disobedience could be held criminally liable. The bill would create a state-run web site on which certain animal welfare and environmental advocates would be identified, photographed, and labeled "terrorists." It would also bar investigators from legally entering an animal facility "to take photographs or make a video recording with the intent to defame the facility or the facility's owner." It is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., and the Texas Sierra Club. See: http://www.humaneusa.org/article.asp?article_key=20        
 
In Missouri, a bill in the state House of Representatives seeks to make it a felony to photograph or videotape an animal facility without the written consent of the facility (see issue #66). Missouri already has laws in place against unlawful entry and destruction of property. This bill would prohibit journalists and others from conducting undercover investigations.
 
"Federal Appropriations Bill Includes Millions to Hire Humane Slaughter Inspectors, Advance Animal Welfare," The Humane Society of the United States, February 26, 2003.
http://www.hsus.org/ace/18475
"Missouri: Prevent a Ban on Investigating Animal Cruelty," The Humane Society of the U.S.
http://www.hsus.org/ace/18385
 

7. ACTIVISTS = TERRORISTS?
"Revolutionary Environmentalism: A Dialogue Between Activists and Academics," was the title of a mid-February conference at California State University, Fresno (CSUF) which had members of the agriculture community issuing notice. Conference participants included individuals associated with the ALF and ELF, including a convicted arsonist. The conference, sponsored by the political science department, was open to professors and students, and an evening session open to the public was attended by an estimated 600 people. University President John Welty explained, "This has been and will be a topic of discussion in most places in the world. It is better to understand the individuals advocating these positions."
 
The conference was a hot topic at a Western United Dairymen board of directors meeting, and a local rancher complained that two of the conference participants were previously seen photographing his feedlot. In explaining why he thought it was necessary for the school to safeguard its farmed animal units, the dean of the CSUF School of Agriculture, who was not involved in the conference, stated: "....we do a lot of work for industry on animal health, breeding programs and safety of food. Also, we do a lot of grant and contract work with private entities. Will people support us in the future if [the university] is hosting these people? We had not been on the radar screen before. Now we are." Some students also objected to the conference, one stating: "Having the radical environmentalists here is condoning their actions and lending them legitimacy." Steve Best, a conference speaker and chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Texas, El Paso, praised CSUF for holding the conference, explaining: "Throughout history, property destruction and civil protest has been part of our heritage. If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with the Boston Tea Party."
 
Dr. Best has published an in-depth article examining the Patriot Act and other federal measures enacted in the campaign against terrorism that target animal and environmental protection activists. "Neo-McCarthyism and the New Surveillance Culture," which notes that the FBI has identified the ELF as "the largest and most active U.S.-based terrorist group," is on-line at: http://www.impactpress.com/articles/febmar03/best2303.html At the Governor's Emergency Management Conference, Minnesota law enforcement agents recently received a similar warning that the ALF and ELF are the most dangerous groups with a national base. The speaker explained: "We are not calling any of them terrorists. We call them domestic identified groups that may affect our communities."        
 
"Meeting on Environment Stirs Debate," The Fresno Bee, Dennis Pollock, February 18, 2003.
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/5920571p-6882734c.html
"Security Tight as Meeting on Ecology Opens," The Los Angeles Times, Stuart Silverstein and Don A. Wright, February 14, 2003. (The article is no longer available on-line.)
"Expert Identifies Extreme Groups in State," Star Tribune, Randy Furst & Mike Kaszuba 3/05/03
http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/3734278.html
 

8. EGG OPERATION INVESTIGATION PUBLICIZED
An Ohio egg operation is the latest subject of a covert investigation by animal rights activists. After their request for a tour was turned down, members of Mercy for Animals (MFA) spent about five hours during two nights in December documenting conditions at Weaver Brothers Egg Farm, in Versailles. The activists say they found hens with eye and sinus infections and wing damage, and birds trapped without access to food or water. One ailing hen was reportedly found alive in a trash can full of dead birds. An NBC news affiliate aired the footage and has a video clip of it on its web site at: http://www.nbc4columbus.com/news/2016166/detail.html Tim Weaver, the president of Weaver Bros., contends that no one cares more about the health and safety of the company's 1.7 million hens than he does. When asked about the dead birds in the video, he replied: "It's like a city. Some people die every day. Every morning, you walk up and down and check for ventilation, and you check for the health and welfare of the chicks."
 
Seven large-scale egg operations in Ohio, Maryland and Minnesota have been investigated by MFA and other animal rights organizations in the past two years (see issues #74, 96 & N.7, V.2). United Egg Producers, the egg industry trade group, said the activists could startle the birds and cause them to injure themselves. MFA's Nathan Runkle denies the allegation, countering: "We find it offensive that someone who profits off the exploitation of egg-laying hens would point a finger at activists who are exposing the inherent cruelty of the investigation [sic] and rescuing hens who are in dire need of veterinary care." The state department of agriculture accuses the group of posing a biosecurity hazard to egg operations. Runkle explains biosecurity precautions the activists took prior to entering the facilities. He countered that citizens should be aware that the precautions are necessary because "These hens are living under such stressful conditions that they suffer from severely compromised immune systems." He said such precautions are not needed with hens who are "not suffering from such filthy conditions and confinement."
 
Mr. Weaver said he is not certain it was his facility that was visited, and if it was he hasn't decided whether or not to press charges. According to a veterinarian for the state department of agriculture, Ohio anti-cruelty laws apply to farmed animals held for slaughter and do not cover chickens on egg farms. Runkle says he is willing to risk prosecution to educate consumers about animal cruelty in the egg industry. MFA has reportedly turned evidence over to prosecutors and plans to ask them to file cruelty charges against Weaver Bros.
 
"Hen House Tapes Point to Cruelty," Toledo Blade, James Drew, March 2, 2003.
http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73128071870841&Avis=TO&Dato=20030302&Kategori=NEWS17&Lopenr=103020106&Ref=AR       
Mercy For Animals
http://www.mercyforanimals.org
 

9. NATIONAL ANIMAL ABUSE REGISTRY
Inhumane.org and Pet-Abuse.com have joined efforts to produce a registry of animal abuse cases. The more than 800 cases entered to date include information from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, and Spain. (Information is also available in Spanish.) While the site focuses on companion animals, it also includes farmed animal abuse cases. The database is searchable by location, date, or type of abuse. Abusers names, addresses and case information are available. The database can be accessed on-line at: http://www.pet-abuse.com/database (see also: http://www.pet-abuse.com ). The links have recently also been added to the Farmed Animal Watch Legislation page at: http://www.farmedanimal.net/Legislation.htm