US Food and Drug Administration Bans Poultry Antibiotic Citing Human Risks
On July 28 the US Food and Drug Administration
announced a final decision to ban use of the antibiotic
"Baytril" to treat infections of farmed chickens and
turkeys. This represents the first time the FDA has
banned the use of a farmed animal drug due to concerns
about human antibiotic resistance. Baytril is one
of a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones
(FQs) and has been shown to cause bacterial resistance
in both poultry and humans (see FAW
5-11, #4). In banning Baytril, which is Bayer
Corp.'s commercial name for the drug enrofloxacin,
the FDA cited human health concerns relating especially
to campylobacter resistance. Since enroflaxacin was
introduced to poultry flocks in the mid 1990s, campylobacter
infections have increased significantly. FDA Commissioner
Lester Crawford stated, "The use of enrofloxacin under
its approved conditions of use in poultry… results
in selection for fluoroquinolone-resistant campylobacter
in treated flocks. Fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter
persist and spread through transport, slaughter, and
processing in the same manner as fluoroquinolone-susceptible
campylobacter." Crawford's ruling overturns a previous
FDA ruling that allowed enroflaxacin to be used to
treat chickens and turkeys. Since then, the drug has
been used regularly to treat poultry afflicted with
campylobacter, E. coli, and other bacterial infections.
The Bayer Corp. now has less than 60 days to appeal
the decision, otherwise the FDA commissioner's order
will go into effect on September 12, 2005. However,
the drug will still be allowed for use with farmed
cows as well as dogs and cats.
1. "FDA Announces Final Decision about Veterinary Medicine," FDA, 7/28/05
2. FULL TEXT: FDA's Final Decision, 7/28/05
3. "FDA Bans Use of Baytril in Poultry," Myrtle Beach
Online / Associated Press, 7/28/05
Ag. Companies Indicted on Conspiracy Charges for Hiring
Four US agricultural companies, including the Swift Beef Company, and one nonprofit have been charged under the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for allegedly conspiring to hire illegal immigrant workers. The suit was filed in Canyon County, Idaho by its commissioner to collect monetary damages he says are related to the influx of illegal immigrants. According to the lawsuit, the four companies illegally worked with recruiting companies and the Idaho Migrant Council (a nonprofit) to "knowingly hire hundreds of illegal immigrants." Company officials have denied involvement in any conspiracy, but the case is noteworthy because it represents the first time RICO has been used to bring charges related to the hiring of illegal immigrants. An unrelated situation in Arkansas resulted in charges against 119 immigrant workers who allegedly used fake identification to get their jobs. Many workers had been hired through the Arkansas employment security department. In total, as of 2003 there were an estimated 7 million illegal immigrants in the US, many of whom work in animal agriculture.
"County Files RICO Suit Over Hiring of Illegal Immigrants," Law Journal / Associated Press, 7/29/2005
2. "Immigration Officials Raid Poultry Plant, Arrest 119 Workers," Meatingplace.com, 7/29/05
3. "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000," US Citizenship and Immigration Service, Jan-2003
PDF file (476kb): http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/statistics/publications/Ill_Report_1211.pdf
Pig-Related Disease in China Kills More People, Officials Say it is Under Control
An outbreak of streptococcus bacteria among farmed pigs in China has caused at least 181 people to become ill with the disease; 34 people have died. However, Chinese health officials say that fewer people are dying from the disease due to earlier detection and greater medical response experience, and that the disease is "under control." According to an official with the World Health Organization (WHO), streptococcus can be spread through direct contact with pigs or by consuming the flesh of a sick pig. However, the WHO and other officials say they "still cannot come up with a good explanation with why we are seeing such a high numbers" of illnesses from the disease. In response to the outbreak, China says it has sent 50,000 health workers to 1.4 million farms to register individual pigs and issued more than 2 million educational posters about the disease. Doctors have been treating human patients with heavy doses of antibiotics and on August 2 350,000 doses of vaccine for pigs were flown into the affected region, with 10 million more doses expected. Government officials have also warned citizens against consuming pig flesh and slaughtering sick pigs in the Sichuan region, which is home to about 14% of the country's farmed pigs.
1. "31 Die in China from Pig-Borne Disease," Yahoo! News / AP, 7/29/05
2. "China Delivers Vaccine for Pig-borne Disease,"
3. "China Educates Farmers on Pig-Borne Disease,"
PlanetArk / Reuters, 8/1/05
4. "Nation Confident of Controlling Pig Disease,"
China Daily, 8/1/05
Atkins Nutritionals Files for Bankruptcy as Meatless
Foods Continue Growth
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., the company that made famous the Atkins Diet and spurred growth of the "low carbohydrate, high protein" fad, has filed for bankruptcy and will undergo major restructuring. The company will narrow its focus to only diet-related bars and shakes, and has already laid off 40% of its workforce. Analysts are blaming a variety of factors, including fierce competition among low-carb food producers and poor company management. Also blamed is the death of company founder Dr. Robert Atkins, who according to the coroner's report was both overweight and suffering from cardiac problems. Despite the impending bankruptcy, a lawsuit filed by a former Atkins dieter with the help of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will continue. The suit claims that the plaintiff followed the Atkins diet for two and a half years and developed heart disease as a result. The national low-carb diet craze peaked in February 2004 with 9.1% of US adults saying they followed such a diet, but that number dropped to 2.2% by July 2005. Unlike the low-carb fad, purchases of "meatless" products have increased slowly and steadily over the years. According to the US trade association, the Food Marketing Institute, meatless foods are "a clearly defined market segment that can't be ignored." About 94 new vegetarian products were introduced to the market in 2003, up from 21 products in 2001.
1. "Atkins Gets Itself in a Stew," Businessweek, 8/2/05
2. "Atkins Lawsuit Will Proceed, Doctors Say," PCRM, 8/1/02
3. "Meatless Products Gain Space on Shelves," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/31/05
Migratory Birds Carry Avian Influenza to Russia, have Potential to Reach Europe
An outbreak of the highly virulent H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Russia has been linked to migratory birds identified as the source of similar outbreaks in two Chinese provinces, according to the publication Recombinomics. In China, more than 6,000 birds have died, including mostly migratory geese who are typically resistant to avian influenza. Sequencing of the isolated influenza strains has revealed that they include several strains that could infect humans. Furthermore, some reports indicate that as many as 700 people in China have died of avian influenza despite official government reports to the contrary. According to global health officials, the disease has killed 57 people in all of Southeast Asia. The most recent outbreak began in Novosibirsk, Russia and has spread to several other regions, indicating a migration of the disease westward, with the potential to reach Europe. So far an estimated 2,707 birds have died of the disease in Novosibirsk, with another 65,000 birds ordered to be slaughtered as a precautionary measure.
1. "The Export of a H5N1 Bird Flu Pandemic by China," Recombinomics Commentary, 7/31/05
2. "Russia Plans Bird Flu Slaughter," BBC News, 8/1/05
NEW SECTION: Farmed Animal Statistics: Resources and Reports
This week we are introducing a new section
to Farmed Animal Watch with a focus on providing
timely statistical data on a range of farmed animal
and related issues. Each week we will include numerical
summaries and references to more data on the number
of animals bred, raised, and slaughtered on farms
in the US and globally. If you would like to see coverage
of specific issues in future editions, please write
to us at email@example.com
with your suggestion. In this first installment, we
have provided below several general statistical references
gleaned from past editions of Farmed Animal Watch.
1. United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) Statistical Database
2. European Union's Eurostat Database - Agriculture
3. USDA / National Agriculture Statistics Service: Agricultural Statistics Database
4. USDA / National Agriculture Statistics Service:
5. USDA 2002-2003 Statistical Highlights of US Agriculture
Other Items of Interest
"Monsanto Files Patent for New
Invention: The pig," Greenpeace, 8/2/05
According to the environmental group Greenpeace, Monsanto Corporation has filed patent applications that would give the company control over breeding and selection processes used for farming pigs, and the pigs themselves. According to one patent analyst, "Monsanto isn't just seeking a patent for the method, they are seeking a patent on the actual pigs which are bred from this method. It's an astoundingly broad and dangerous claim." The patent application includes language covering individual pigs and even entire herds bred through certain processes.
ADVERTISEMENT: "Please Help These Chickens,"
New York Times, 7/28/05
On July 28 the New York Times newspaper ran a paid advertisement criticizing the US Department of Agriculture's seemingly arbitrary definition of the term "animal." According to the ad's copy, the USDA has classified rabbits as "poultry" to avoid required protections for the species under the federal Humane Slaughter Act. The ad was placed by the Humane Farming Association with the support of Animal Rights International and the Animal Welfare Institute.
PDF file (60k): http://www.hfa.org/about/rabbits.pdf
"Moark Hearing Set for Aug. 22," Neosho Daily
An egg company employee and two contractors will face
misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty for disposing
of still-living "spent hens" in dumpsters (also see
5-27, #3). The charges are based on video footage
taken by a citizen and an admission from the company
that at least 200 hens were disposed of without being
EDITORIAL: "Presenting Farming's Future,"
A Virginia newspaper editorial describes a local farm using innovative approaches, including combining the use of mobile chicken houses to control flies from cow waste. The farmer also employs a "shademobile" designed to give cows some shelter from the sun. The farm recently hosted a meeting of farmers from 40 states to provide an example of sustainable farming.
"Rare 'Sexing' Skill Valued Highly in the
Poultry World," St. Louis Post, 7/29/05
Article describes the role of "sexers" in chicken breeding, who are workers that manually determine the gender - and therefore the fate - of a newly born chick. In Missouri, one team of seven sexers can "sort" as many as 55,000 baby birds in one 8-hour shift (they are paid by the chick), and they claim a 98% accuracy rate. Despite such accuracy, handling and sorting that many chicks has obvious welfare implications not discussed in the article.