Mortality of U.S. Calves Increased in Past Five Years; Morbidity Possibly Related
Data from the US National Animal and Health Monitoring Service show that the mortality of calves on feedlots has increased from 1.4% in 1997 to 1.8% in 2003, an increase of 28.6% (based on rounded numbers). According to Dan Thompson with Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, "I think a lot of producers would be amazed to know 5-10% of the cattle they ship wind up dead before leaving the feedlot." Reasons for the increase in mortality are unclear, but Thompson cites respiratory disease, lower weights when coming to the feedlot, and a lack of qualified animal handlers as key suspects. The distance calves are transported is also a major factor; according to Thompson, while an 8-hour trip used to be considered a long haul, "now it's 20 hours."
Thompson also describes calf mortality in direct terms: "At 60 days into the season, we see our death loss increase and we blame it on the drugs not working, the weather breaking or a new bug. We quit buying calves but the death loss is going to continue for another 60 days. It's the normal temporal pattern for death loss." Thompson notes that increased death is also a likely indicator of increased sickness among calves, but the "beef" industry does not formally track morbidity data. Thompson feels it is ironic that mortality rates are increasing despite what he views as greater attention to farmed animal welfare. "It's always bothered me that the death of a calf in our industry is often viewed as a statistic on a piece of paper or as an economic driver of how we buy cattle. We assume we're going to have a high percentage of sickness and death loss and price them accordingly… That's an economic and animal welfare tragedy."
1. "More Than Money," Beef Stocker Trends, 9/1/05
2. "Doctoring Reality Rather Than Perception," Beef Stocker Trends, 8/22/05
2. Groups Launch Arizona Ballot Initiative to Protect Gestating Pigs, Veal Calves
A coalition of animal protection groups named Arizonans for Humane Farms (AHF) is launching a ballot initiative in Arizona to ban the intensive confinement of gestating pigs and calves raised for veal. The coalition needs to collect more than 120,000 signatures from Arizona voters by next July to qualify for the November 2006 ballot. If approved by voters, the initiative would give calf and pig farmers until 2013 to comply with new rules restricting the confinement of pigs and calves. Specifically, the AHV initiative as written would require that farmers provide animals "sufficient space to turn around, lie down, and fully extend their limbs, when tethered, or confined in crates, cages, or other enclosures." The initiative allows some exceptions, including confinement of animals "for veterinary purposes and during the pig's prebirthing period." The full text of the initiative can be found on the AHV website listed below. The measure would be entitled the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act and is supported by Animal Defense League of Arizona, the Arizona Humane Society, the Arizona SPCA, Farm Sanctuary, and The HSUS.
1. "Arizonans for Humane Farms," Coalition website, September 2005
2. "Petition Drive Would Enlarge Small Pens of Farm Animals," Capitol Media Services, 9/8/05
3. "2006 Initiatives and Referendums," Arizona Secretary of State, 9/7/05
3. Undercover Investigation and Rescue of 39 Chickens at Foster Farms Facility
California's East Bay Animal Advocates (EBAA) have completed an investigation and rescue at the primary facility for Foster Poultry Farms, the largest slaughterer of chickens in the western U.S. Results from the investigation include graphic photos of dead and dying birds and a detailed discussion of the welfare of chickens raised for their flesh. According to EBAA, Foster Poultry Farms raises an estimated 1.7 million chickens in sheds holding 20,000 birds each at its facility in Merced County, California. The company is privately held and therefore does not have to disclose financial or operational data, but 2003 revenue is estimated at $1.5 billion, making it one of the top U.S. meat producers. The online report cites a host of health- and welfare-related issues with raising chickens too quickly and in industrial farms. EBAA also quotes Dr. Casey Ritz of the US Poultry and Egg Association (but does not provide a specific source): "Broilers that are dead-on-arrival at processing plants are a common occurrence throughout the poultry industry." The latest EBAA undercover investigation builds upon the group's earlier work, including investigations of a "free-range" turkey farm and dairy farms in California.
1. "Investigative Findings of Foster
Farms Exposed," East Bay Animal Advocates, 9/9/05
2. "Foster Poultry Farms Company Profile," Yahoo News, 2005
Scientists Seek to Rapidly Advance Farming Animals for Organ Transplants
Researchers in the UK announced that scientific gains have been made in raising genetically modified pigs for the purpose of human organ transplants. The number of humans needing transplants outnumbers the available human organ donors by five to one, which has in part prompted a growth in research on pigs. Dr. Anthony Warrens of London's Imperial College, a xenotransplatation researcher and proponent, said that "one of the attractions of the pig is the widespread acceptance that it is regarded as ethically proper to rear and then kill large numbers of pigs for food." Such an attitude could lead to the broader farming of genetically engineered pigs and other animals used as organ factories. There are an estimated 6,000 humans awaiting kidney transplants and others seeking lung or heart transplants who could be candidates, according to Warrens. However, xenotransplantation is still subject to many risks, including the potential transmission of viruses or pathogens from "donor" animals to the human recipients. The practice also continues to face criticism from "religious and vegetarian groups," according to Warrens, some of whom are also raising ethical concerns on behalf of the animals.
1. "Animal Organs 'Will Soon be Used for Transplants,'" News.Telegraph.UK, 9/10/05
2. "Optimism on Using Animal Organs for Human Transplants," Today On-line, 9/10/05
5. Farmed Animal Statistics: Millions of Wildlife Killed Annually for U.S. Farmers
The U.S. government killed more than 2.7 million wild animals in 2004, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), many at the request of farmers and ranchers. The number is an increase of more than a million animals killed by the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services compared to 2003. More than 2.3 million of the animals killed in 2004 (85%) were starlings considered "nuisances" because they eat and could contaminate food provided for cows on feedlots. Other animals such as coyotes and foxes (more than 80,000 killed in 2004, combined) were killed primary at the request of ranchers concerned with predation on cows and sheep.
According to the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), more than 90% of the animals killed by Wildlife Services involved poisons, including strychnine and cyanide. A PEER statement said, "Widespread application of poison often kills "non-target" species, as well. For example, poisons used to eradicate starlings in cattle feedlots also killed owls, hawks, magpies, raccoons and domestic cats. Other methods employed by Wildlife Services include aerial gunning, 'denning' (killing animals in their dens), and traps." PEER and other groups also warn that such widespread killing can lead to serious ecological problems currently unforeseen by the USDA.
The table below shows the number of animals killed by Wildlife Services in 2004, ranked according to the most animals killed by species. A specific number of farming-related deaths is not known, but it can be said that the vast majority of deaths are related to feedlots and ranching. The source for all data in the following table is provided by the first link below.
|Animals Killed by Wildlife Services
|Pigeons and doves
|Crows, ravens, and blackbirds
|Geese and swans
|Marmots and Woodchucks
According to a Wildlife Services publication,
predation costs farmers about $71 million each year.
In 1999, 273,000 sheep and lambs were killed by predators
and the following year (2000), 147,000 cows and calves
were killed by predators. Wildlife Services says that
U.S. farmers spent $185 million in 2000 on non-lethal
predator control measures and that 75% of the agency’s
research budget is devoted to non-lethal methods.
Despite these purported efforts, the number of wild
animals killed last year was more than 57% higher
than in 2003.
1. "Number of Animals Killed and Methods Used by the WS Program, FY2004," Wildlife Services, 2004
PDF File (76k): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/tables/TABLE%2010Killed,%20FY%202004.pdf
2. "Federal Government Kills More Than 2.7 Million
Wildlife in '04," Public Employees for Environmental
3. Brochure: "USDA Wildlife Services Protects Livestock,"
USDA / APHIS, 2004
PDF File (76k): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/introreports/livestock.pdf
Upcoming Farmed Animal and Related Events
For a complete list of upcoming events
and details on those below, please visit http://www.farmedanimal.net/events.htm.
Future Trends in Animal Agriculture Symposium
September 21 -- Washington, DC
Livestock and Poultry Welfare Symposium
September 22 -- Novato, California
The Association of Sanctuaries Conference
September 22-24 -- Denver, Colorado
Food Safety Institute of the Americas public meeting
September 29-30 -- Miami, Florida
World Farm Animals Day
October 2 -- Celebrated globally
The Power of One: 2005 Compassionate Living Festival
October 7-9 -- Raleigh, North Carolina
7. Other Items of Interest
"RSPCA Campaign Targets
Live Export, Egg and Pork Industries," ABC.net.AU,
AUSTRALIA: The Australian Royal SPCA has launched a new campaign called "fair go for farm animals," including a focus on the welfare of mother pigs, hens, and animals subjected to live transport. The RSPCA campaign website includes a fact sheet about these issues and a petition calling for a ban on confining sow stalls, battery cages for egg-laying hens, and the entire practice of live exports.
"Aldermen Weigh Foie Gras Ban," Chicago Tribune,
A proposal to ban the sale of foie gras in Chicago was discussed among the city's Board of Aldermen on September 13 and will face a vote in coming months. (Foie gras is pate made from the bloated livers of force-fed geese and ducks.) The proposal was submitted by one the city's Aldermen who, when asked his purpose, said that "Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures."
"Japan to Cull 1.5M Chickens with Bird Flu,"
A low-pathogenic variant of avian influenza broke out in Japan recently, impacting 30 farms with more than 4 millions hens and leading authorities to "destroy" more than 500,000 birds. An additional one million hens are slated for slaughter to prevent spread of the disease to other animals and farms.