Correction: Farmed Animal Watch
last week (#5-45) included the statement, "Foster
Farms is unique among the largest poultry companies
because it does not confine birds to cages." Although
it is true that Foster Farms markets itself
as being unique for this reason, in reality no "broiler"
chickens slaughtered for their flesh are raised in
cages. Thanks to two FAW readers for helping us clarify
this important point. For more on Foster Farms' claims
regarding animal welfare and other issues, visit http://www.vivausa.org/campaigns/chickens/fosterfarms.html.
EU Welfare Quality Project Conference Proceedings Available Online
The European Union-funded "Welfare Quality" project hosted a conference on farmed animal welfare in November 2005 and has made the full proceedings available online. The document includes 146 pages, most of it in the form of summary articles likely to be of interest to anyone involved in farmed animal welfare. The focus of the project's initial phase of research has been understanding consumer knowledge and opinions of animal welfare using focus groups and surveys spanning multiple European countries. Also included are articles on monitoring and measurement systems for improving farmed animal welfare along with articles about the Welfare Quality project itself.
Rather than summarize the wealth of important knowledge included in the conference proceedings in the limited space we have available, below are the main articles included in the proceedings:
-- European Consumers' Views about Farm Animal Welfare
-- Animal Friendliness and Food Consumption Practices
-- The Retail of Welfare-Friendly Products
-- Farmers' Engagement in Animal Welfare: The Case of Pig Producers
-- Developing a Monitoring System to Assess Welfare Quality in Cattle, Pigs, and Chickens
-- Developing Practical Species-Specific Measures to Improve Farm Animal Welfare
-- A Review of the Tools that are Being Developed to Facilitate the Implementation of Improved Animal Welfare Standards
A team of Welfare Quality project scientists developed a list of "ten areas of welfare concern" for farmed animals that may be of particular interest to FAW readers. The list is meant to provide a framework for assessing farmed animal welfare in a consistent and relatively holistic manner. See the full document link below for an expanded discussion of these areas of concern and specific parameters that have already been developed for farmed cows. The following list is excerpted verbatim from the full report.
1. Hunger, Thirst or Malnutrition
- This occurs when animals are denied a sufficient
and appropriate diet or a sufficient and accessible
water supply and can lead to dehydration, poor body
condition and death.
2. Physical Comfort and Security
- Animals can become uncomfortable and have problems
lying down, getting up and standing. This can occur
when they are kept in inappropriately designed housing
(e.g. insufficient space, poor ventilation, unsuitable
flooring and bedding) or when they are transported
in poorly designed or poorly ventilated vehicles.
3. Health: Injuries - Animals can
suffer physical injuries, such as mutilations, broken
bones, bruises or skin lesions, due to factors such
as; uneven or slippery flooring, enclosures with sharp
edges and environments that promote aggressive behaviours
4. Health: Disease - Animals can
suffer a range of diseases (e.g. mastitis and metabolic
disorders in cattle). Poor hygiene, irregular monitoring
and insufficient treatment speeds can amplify these
5. Pain (not related to injuries
or disease) - In addition to suffering pain from injuries
and disease, animals can experience intense or prolonged
pain due to inappropriate management, handling, slaughter,
or surgical procedures (e.g. castration, dehorning)
and as a result of intense aggressive encounters.
6. Normal / Natural Social Behaviours
- Animals can be denied the opportunity to express
natural, non-harmful, social behaviours, such as grooming
each other and huddling for warmth. Separating females
from their offspring and preventing sexual behaviour
can bring about specific examples of this problem.
7. Normal / Natural Other Behaviours
- Animals can be denied the possibility of expressing
other intuitively desirable natural behaviours, such
as exploration and play. The denial of these possibilities
might lead to abnormal and/or harmful behaviours such
as tongue rolling in cattle and feather pecking in
8. Human-Animal Relationship - Poor
relationships can be reflected in increased avoidance
distances and fearful or aggressive animal behaviours.
This can occur due to inappropriate handling techniques
(e.g. slapping, kicking and the use of electric prods),
or when farmers, animal transporters or slaughterhouse
staff are either insufficiently skilled or possess
unfavourable attitudes towards animals.
9. Negative Emotions (apart from
pain) - Animals can experience emotions such as fear,
distress, frustration or apathy, when they are kept
in inappropriate physical or social environments (e.g.
where there is over mixing, or not enough space to
avoid an aggressive partner). These emotions can be
reflected in behaviours such as panic, flight, social
withdrawal and aggression and in certain vocalisations
and behavioural disorders.
10. Positive Emotions - Poor management
routines and a lack of environmental stimulation may
prevent animals from expressing positive emotions.
Positive emotions are difficult to assess but may
be reflected in certain behaviours, such as play (especially
in young animals) and by certain vocalizations.
"Science and Society Improving Animal Welfare," Welfare Quality
1. Summary (HTML): http://www.welfarequality.net/everyone/31550
2. Full Document (PDF, 1.3 MB): http://tinyurl.com/aks9z
2. Upcoming Film Starring Pigs Spurs Debate about Humane Farming
The feature film release of Charlotte's Web scheduled for September 2006 stars a female pig rescued from slaughter and currently living on a farmed animal sanctuary in Australia. The pig, named Willy, tours with her new caretaker as she advocates banning gestation crates, saying, "In an intensive piggery there is row after row of pregnant females in tiny metal stalls, barely able to move." The caretaker is asking Australian pig farmers to use exclusively free-range and group housing systems, although one industry representative says only 3-5% of Australia is "suitable" for free-range pigs. The catalyst for this debate, Willy who plays "Wilbur" in the film, was purchased from Paramount Pictures, which based its upcoming film on the 1952 book written by EB White. Other pigs involved with the movie are also getting attention for farmed animal protection issues in Australia and the US. The New South Whales-based group Voiceless appeared with Daisy the pig on December 5 when the group released a new report on the treatment of farmed pigs in Australia (see below). According to voiceless, "90% of Christmas hams come from factory farms with the pigs living in cramped concrete-floor indoor cages." In the US, two pigs from the California sanctuary Animal Place were recorded by film sound crews and their grunts will also be used in Charlotte's Web.
1. "Film Career Saves Porker from Chop," Mercury News, 12/4/05
2. "Your Favourite Ham Suggests a Feast of Free-Range
Babe," Sidney Morning Herald, 12/5/05
3. "Porky Pair 'Hams it Up' at the Mike," Times-Herald,
Australian Group Releases Report on Country's Pig Farming Industry
The Australian animal protection group Voiceless has released an in-depth report on the country's pig farming industry, with a focus on the group's home state of New South Whales. The report is also endorsed by Animals Australia, Humane Society International (HSI), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Australia has a very concentrated pig farming industry; from 1970 to 2003, the number of farms dropped by 94% while the total number of pigs slaughtered increased by 130%. Australia was the world's 6th largest exporter of pig flesh in 2004, but the industry accounts for less than 0.1% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Voiceless report provides a comprehensive look at current pig farming practices such as the use of sow stalls, farrowing crates, and mutilations like tail docking and teeth clipping. According to the report, such methods lead to poor health, stress, and depression given that the pigs are unable to express their natural behaviors. Voiceless cites a Dutch journal article in which eleven pig experts reportedly gave sow stalls the "lowest rating" for pig housing systems. Nonetheless, up to 62% of sows in Australia spend at least part of their reproductive cycles in stalls. Finally, the report also describes alternatives to these confinement methods and mutilations, including free-range environments and group housing systems for families of pigs.
1. "From Paddocks to Prisons: Pigs in
New South Wales," Voiceless, Dec-2005
PDF file (523k):
2. Press Release: "Christmas Ham,
What a Sham," Voiceless, 12/5/05
Poultry Welfare: Avian Influenza, Chicken Housing, and Organic Eggs
Concerns about the possibility of a US outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza are creating a debate over animal welfare, chicken housing, and "biosecurity." An article in California's East Bay Express provides a comprehensive review of avian influenza's history and discusses implications of the disease for handling poultry raised for both eggs and meat consumption. According to the article, "If public health officials, or poultry industry spin doctors, succeed in pitting free-range ideals against human health, it's a safe bet which side is going to lose." The article's author believes that smaller, more humane farming operations are likely to be the first farms quarantined and "depopulated" (all birds culled) in the event of an outbreak.
The article highlights the Compassion Over Killing (COK) campaign to stop the egg industry's use of the misleading "Animal Care Certified" logo. It also mentions the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) recent campaign successes convincing retailers to discontinue sales of eggs from "battery" caged hens. Interestingly, however, criticism of modern egg production is not limited to activists, but also includes at least one company marketing organic eggs. Horizon Organic, one of the largest producers of organic milk and eggs, recently issued a press release criticizing conventional egg farms and touting organic eggs "without the guilt." According to the release, "A conventional egg is typically produced in a large-scale poultry farm that can house up to five hens in a small cage."
1. "Endangered Species: Free-Range Poultry May be the First Casualty in our War on Avian Flu," The East Bay Express, 11/30/05
2. Press Release: "Fresh or Foul? Organic Eggs Provide Nutrition and Taste without the Guilt," Market Wire, 12/1/05
5. Other Items of Interest
"Expert: Don't Force Cattle,"
A town meeting in Lyman, Wyoming recently hosted Tim Westfall, who teaches cow farmers what he calls "calm methods" of handling that may reduce the animals' anxiety and stress. Westfall's approach focuses on what he says is a difference between learned and heritable traits to teach handlers to use less aggressive means of controlling cows. He claims his methods are more humane for cows and also operationally and financially beneficial to farmers.
"Report on Animal By-Products," European Commission,
The European Union is considering changing regulations covering the use of animal by-products, as proposed in a recent report providing details on the topic. The report states, "Every year, more than 16 million tonnes of materials of animal origin not intended for human consumptionů are produced in the EU. Some of these materials are then transformed in a variety of products used in animal feed, cosmetics, medicinal products (pharmaceutical), medical devices (laboratory reagents) and other technical products (fertilisers, soil improver, oleo-chemical products, photographic paper coating)."
"Swiss Adopt Five-Year GMO Farming Ban," NY
Times / Reuters, 11/27/05
A majority of Swiss citizens (56%) voted to pass a five-year ban on the farming of genetically modified animals or plants. The decision makes Switzerland one of the most anti-GMO countries in Europe and positions the country to focus on higher quality agricultural products. The decision was supported by consumer and farmers' groups alike.
"Study: US Fisheries Discard 22% of Catch,"
The Washington Post, 12/1/05
A new report from the group Oceana says that commercial fishing operations in the US discard 22% of what they catch, not including protected species, mammals, or birds. The report notes that shrimp fishermen discard as "by-catch" four times as many fish as they keep for "processing." While not directly an animal farming issue, some commercially caught species of fish are used as feed for aquaculture operations and other agricultural purposes.