Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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May 4, 2006 -- Number 15, Volume 6


1. BSE UPDATE

Between four and seven cattle are infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) out of the 42 million animals who comprise the U.S. adult cattle population, estimates the USDA. So far, three cows in the U.S. have officially been confirmed to have the disease. The data used by the USDA does not include the first one, however, who was born in Canada. Including that case would increase the estimate of infected cattle to between five and eleven. After the USDA’s analysis is peer-reviewed by outside experts, the agency plans to use the analysis and international standards to design an ongoing surveillance program.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is calling for a reduction in testing levels – currently at around one percent of the 35 million cattle slaughtered last year in this country. He argues that the testing is supposed to show the disease’s prevalence, not protect against BSE entering the food supply. Others are questioning the validity of the testing methods.

After seven weeks of searching, the government has announced it has given up trying to find the origins of the third U.S. case of BSE, an Alabama cow who was nonambulatory (a “downer”). They were attempting to find out if any cattle associated with her might have also been infected. They were able to track down two of her calves. One had died at a stockyard last year and was sent to a landfill. The other, born this year, is currently under observation. The infected cow is thought to have been born prior to a restriction on the use of cattle tissue in ruminant feed instituted nine years ago. Her body was not put into the food supply. Public interest groups and lawmakers are calling for safeguards that are more stringent, as well as the quick adoption of an animal-tracking system, now voluntary and not expected to be fully operational until 2009.

On April 16, Canada’s fifth native-born BSE case was confirmed. Fifteen of the animal’s herdmates had been exported to the U.S., one of whom has been located. Herdmates of other infected cattle have previously been exported to the U.S. in 2003 and 2005.

Meanwhile, a decade-old beef export ban imposed on Britain by the European Union (EU) has just been lifted. The EU agreed to lift the ban because veterinarians have concluded that Britain has met requirements to contain the spread of the disease. So far, BSE has infected over 180,000 cows worldwide, and it is blamed for more than 150 human deaths.


Several Mad Cow Cases Undetected in U.S.
Associated Press, April 28, 2006
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/2006/04/28/1555802-ap.html

Prevalence of BSE in U.S. ‘Extraordinarily Low,’ Johanns Says
American Meat Institute, April 28, 2006
http://www.meatami.com/SubscriptionRedir.cfm?News=1&ID=2912

U.S. Authorities Give Up Investigation of Mad Cow Case in Alabama
Associated Press, May 3, 2006
http://www.cbc.ca/cp/business/060503/b0503116.html

15 Herdmates in Mad Cow Case Exported to U.S.
Reuters, Marcy Nicholson with Christopher Doering, April 28, 2006
http://www.metronews.ca/reuters_national.asp?id=144320

EU Lifts Ban on British Beef Wednesday
Associated Press, May 2, 2006
http://cbs4.com/topstories/topstories_story_122071548.html



2. EXECUTIVES, ACTIVISTS ON TRIAL

Videotaped evidence filmed at a Pennsylvania farm has been ruled permissible in a trial against Esbenshade Farms chief executive and its farm manager. Each faces 35 counts of animal cruelty, with potential fines of up to $750 and 90 days in jail per violation. Defense attorneys had argued that John Brothers, the activist who made the tape, had violated constitutional search-and-seizure rules since he filmed without permission after misrepresenting himself on an employment application. Brothers had omitted the fact that, prior to working for Esbenshade for a few weeks last autumn, he had worked for Compassion Over Killing (COK). He returned to COK afterward, but testified that he had independently sought employment at Esbenshade and made the tape. The defense is also trying to establish that the investigation was conducted by the state, with the humane society police officer who filed charges doing so in collaboration with COK. Officer Johnna Seeton denies this. The defense also asserts that the animal cruelty statute cannot be enforced against “normal agricultural operations,” such as Esbenshade. Brothers reportedly documented ill and injured birds crowded in cages, hens impaled on wire, and mounds of dead birds. Documentation, including video, can be seen on the COK website.

Felony charges against two Philadelphia animal-rights advocates for allegedly trespassing at Lancaster County’s Kreider Farms in November 2004 were dropped and reduced, respectively. Felony charges against Lisa Levinson were dropped because she is only a spokesperson for the animal-rights group Hugs for Puppies, and she did not trespass on the property. Felony charges against Christopher Price were reduced to a summary trespassing offense. Price, who videotaped conditions inside three chicken houses, pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $582 in fines and court costs. Referring to the aforementioned Esbenshade case, he said he might consider new tactics in the future. The group’s documentation is available on its website. Kreider Farms offers an online virtual tour (click on “Chicken Cam”).

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell signed House Bill 213 into law on April 14. The bill, to become effective 60 days from its passage, amends the state's crimes code to include the offense of “ecoterrorism.” Passed overwhelmingly in both House and Senate, it makes obstruction of commercial activity involving animals or plants a felony. Specified offenses (such as agricultural vandalism, crop destruction, criminal trespass or theft) are already crimes in Pennsylvania, but this legislation is said to be aimed at deterring politically motivated property destruction with the intent of intimidation. If the specified offense is already classified as a first-degree felony, a person convicted under the new statute could be sentenced to up to 40 years of imprisonment and may face a fine of up to $100,000. Additionally, restitution could be ordered in an amount up to triple the value of the damages incurred. The Governor stated that under the new measure, a person exercising their right of freedom of petition or freedom of speech on public property or with the permission of the landowner and who is peaceably demonstrating or exercising those rights is to be immune from prosecution or civil liability for ecoterrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, opposed the bill on First Amendment grounds. The Animal Agriculture Alliance is urging that it be used as a model in states without similar measures.

Today, Compassionate Consumers president Adam Durand was found not guilty of criminal burglary, a felony charge that could have resulted in a 7-year prison term. Durand was on trial in New York on charges of burglary, petit larceny, criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Previously, two fellow Compassionate Consumers activists pled guilty to reduced charges of trespassing and petit larceny, both misdemeanors. The three were arrested last year after releasing a documentary they made during clandestine visits to a laying hen facility owned by Wegmans Food Markets. The film shows dead hens caged with live ones, birds with their heads caught in cage wires, and chickens who had fallen into manure pits. Eleven ailing hens, said to be worth $2.80 each, were taken by the activists. The company pressed charges against them after the district attorney said he found no evidence of cruel treatment by the chain. Wegmans states that it follows standard industry practice and participates in voluntary industry efforts regarding animal care. The production manager testified that one person tends to 80,000 chickens. Testimony details can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/l7m2m



Video Evidence OK’d for Animal Cruelty Case
Intelligencer Journal, Susan E. Lindt, April 19, 2006
http://local.lancasteronline.com/4/22079

Felony Charges KO’D in Kneider Farms Case
Intelligencer Journal, Susan E. Lindt, April 28, 2006
http://local.lancasteronline.com/4/22322

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Ecoterrorism Bill into Law
PR Newswire, April 14, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/jby83

New Law May Echo Over Many Protests
Pittsburgh City Paper, Melissa Meinzer, April 20, 2006
http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/scripts/printIt.cfm?ref=6053

Animal-Rights Activist Who Filmed Egg Farm Acquitted of Burglary
The Associated Press, May 4, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/fdlaf

Animal-Rights Activist Denies Breaking into Egg Farm or Intent to Remove Chickens
Associated Press, Ben Dobbin, May 3, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/q9pht



3. TURKEYS BRUTALIZED BY WORKERS

Workers at the UK food processing company Bernard Matthews were recently caught on tape abusing turkeys in a manner so graphic that BBC News would only show part of the footage. Two staff members were recorded playing “bat and ball” with live turkeys at one of the 20 turkey sheds at Beck Farm in Norfolk. In the video, several turkeys fly through the air before they are hit in the head and neck with the 5-foot wooden pole. When the birds land, the worker laughs, hits them again, and kicks them as they try to escape. The secretly filmed footage was released to the media by the Hillside Animal Sanctuary. Six workers have been suspended, and the RSPCA is studying the evidence before deciding whether to prosecute Bernard Matthews, which is the UK’s eighth largest grocery company. Six years ago, turkeys with festering wounds along with dead turkeys were found by undercover investigators at a Bernard Matthews farm. The company responded: "We answer to the highest levels of officialdom who inspect everything we do.” An independent vet later inspected the site and reported there was no “significant” welfare or husbandry problem.


Turkey Ball Game Staff Suspended
BBC News, April 24, 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/4940366.stm

Exclusive: The Bird Batterer
Mirror, Jeremy Armstrong, April 24, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/m38ls



4. NEW U.S. TURKEY SLAUGHTERPLANT

The entire operation of Dakota Provisions, a new $45 million turkey slaughter plant in Huron, S.D, can be remotely observed by cameras by both an external audit company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The first turkey plant to be built from scratch in the U.S. in two decades, it employs 425 workers and processes about 14,000 birds a day, with production expected to double by 2008. Trucks arriving with turkeys are washed down prior to entering the plant. The birds are stunned with carbon dioxide before having their throats cut.


A Glimpse Inside the Turkey Plant: Huron Operation Emphasizes Sanitation
American News, Russ Keen, May 2, 2006
http://www.aberdeennews.com/mld/aberdeennews/news/14478800.htm


5. IMMIGRATION RALLIES SHUT MEAT PLANTS

Major U.S. meat companies announced they would be closed on May 1 as tens of thousands of workers around the country rallied for immigration reform. Tyson Foods shut nine beef plants and four pork plants, and Cargill and Perdue Farms closed some facilities. However, supplies of pig, cattle and chicken meat are already large as the spread of bird flu, a temporary chicken import ban by Russia, and a fifth case of mad cow disease in Canada have impacted sales. Production was also ramped up over the weekend to make up for Monday’s loss in output. Of the 11.5 to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, an estimated 40% work in agriculture, and 25-75% of U.S. farm laborers are “fraudulently documented.”

Cities Brace for Immigration Rallies
The Los Angeles Times, Michael Muskal, May 1, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/jz9ee


6. WORLD MEAT CONGRESS PROTESTED

Over 100 activists attempted to disrupt the World Meat Congress in Brisbane, Australia, where more than 600 delegates gathered to discuss the future of the industry. While animal welfare was a major forum topic, protestors said the federal government is sanctioning animal cruelty with “ridiculous” animal welfare standards and a lack of enforcement or prosecution by the RSPCA. At the conference, Dr. David Bayvel of the World Organization for Animal Health said that while 50-60% of surveyed consumers say they would pay more for products with improved animal welfare, only 5-6% actually does so.

In nearby Ipswich, four activists chained themselves to equipment on the killing room floor of a slaughter plant. Seven more chained themselves to equipment in the area where animals are stunned before being killed. They called police when a worker hazardously began grinding off the chains. No charges have been made. Elsewhere, an activist exhibited herself as a plastic-wrapped package of meat to “challenge people to think about what they’re eating.”
A photo and video of the demonstration are available online


Activists Protest Against Meat
Melbourne Herald Sun, April 29, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/qf58k





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Compiled and edited by Cat Carroll and Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.