Pennsylvania Egg Farm Investigation Leads to Animal Cruelty Charges
Washington, DC-based Compassion Over
Killing (COK) released results from a new undercover
investigation resulting in animal cruelty charges
against a Pennsylvania egg farm. A COK-affiliated
investigator worked for Esbenshade Farms from November
30 through December 9, 2005, videotaping the hens'
conditions and taking detailed notes. According to
one reporter, the video shows "hens impaled on loose
wires, hens unable to eat or drink because they were
entangled in the wire cages, and hens left to die
in aisles without food and water." The full video
is available on the COK website below. The farm's
owner and manager have each been charged with 35 counts
of animal cruelty in a case now supported by The Humane
Society of the United States (HSUS).
Esbenshade Farms, in Lancaster County, keeps almost 2.3 million hens for egg production, housing them in "battery" cages. Pennsylvania is the third largest egg-producing state in the US; as of November 2005 the state had an estimated 24.1 million hens, nearly all of whom are kept in cages. Despite accounting for only 2-5% of the national egg market, interest in cage-free eggs is growing significantly, with farmers and retailers citing 20-30% increases in sales. Both COK and HSUS are campaigning to persuade major retailers and individual consumers to choose only cage-free eggs for improved hen welfare.
1. "New COK Investigation Leads to Criminal Charges of Animal Cruelty," COK, 1/10/06
2. "Lancaster County Egg Farm Is Cited for Animal Cruelty," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/10/06
3. "Large Pa. Egg Farm Hit with Cruelty Charges," Philadelphia Inquirer / AP, 1/10/06
2. Farming Practices, Food Choices, and the Rise of Ethical Consumerism
Consumers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are increasingly considering the impact of their food choices on farmed animals, according to the UK-based Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA). The group was founded in 1989 and provides a broad perspective on ethical consumerism, but with some emphasis on farmed animals. The group encourages vegetarianism and veganism, and offers a buying guide with details on companies' involvement in factory farming. ECRA's director points to "free-range" chicken eggs as a model of ethical consumerism, noting that "free range eggs were a niche market when we started out, but are now mainstream." The group believes that ethical consumerism will continue to build and that humane treatment of animals will be one of its main pillars.
In the US, one example of ethical consumerism is the
move away from factory farmed animal flesh in favor
of smaller farmers who are perceived to treat animals
more humanely. According to a veterinarian at North
Carolina State University, "Consumers have recently
shown a surge of interest in purchasing pork and other
agricultural products that are not produced by corporations
or those using large-scale farming techniques." He
says the growth of meat sales through farmers' markets
and community supported agriculture will continue
as consumers seek more information about the products
they buy. He notes that the number of farmers' markets
in the US doubled from 1994 to 2004, although meat
and dairy products make up only a small part of that
1. "Food Challenge for 2006: Satisfying the Ethical Consumer," Food Production Daily, 1/5/06
2. Ethical Consumer Research Association (UK)
3. "Marketing 'Niche Pork'," The Pig Site / NC State University, 1/9/06
Avian Influenza: US to Test All Birds as More Deaths Reported Worldwide
In an effort to reassure US chicken consumers about their products, members of the industry's National Chicken Council (NCC) have announced they will test all domestic flocks for avian influenza. Tyson Foods, the largest slaughterer of animals in the world and purveyor of 26% of all domestically consumed (US) chicken flesh, is reportedly conducting 15,000 avian influenza tests per week. Pilgrims Pride Corporation, which controls 16% of the domestic market, and other companies are following suit by requiring contract "growers" to submit to testing. In total more than 90% of US chickens raised for their flesh will be tested. Ifany birds have the H5 or H7 types of avian influenza, the NCC says the entire flock "will be promptly and humanely destroyed on the farm and disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner." The NCC agreement also calls for a 2-mile quarantine of all other chicken flocks located near an outbreak. The US poultry industry is attempting to diffuse consumer concerns about the possibility of highly pathogenic avian influenza coming to the US. Recent reports indicate that Turkey now has 15 known human cases of the disease, plus other human cases in China and Indonesia, although scientists have been unable to confirm any human-to-human transmission.
1. "Chicken Companies Expand Bird Flu Tests," dnronline.com, 1/7/06
2. Press Release: "Testing Program Launched to Ensure Chicken Products are Free of Avian Influenza," National Chicken Council, 1/5/06
3. "New Human Bird Flu Cases Reported in Turkey, China, Indonesia," Meatingplace.com, 1/10/06
Report Criticizes Food Industry's Marketing Influence Over Children
The US-based Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently issued a lengthy report on the state of food and beverage marketing to children, and it is mostly critical of the food industry. A committee of scientists reviewed hundreds of studies and marketing campaigns, concluding that "television advertising influences the food and beverage preferences and purchase requests of children ages 2 through 11 years old and affects their consumption habits." The committee noted a high association between children viewing food-related advertisements and obesity rates. In response, they recommended that governments and schools implement higher nutritional standards for federally funded lunch programs. The committee also suggests that marketing to children should be self-regulated by expanding the industry-based "Children's Advertising Review Unit." Finally, the report calls for designating a federal agency to monitor the government's progress in "promoting more healthful diets." Several food industry groups have criticized the IOM report and claimed the recommendations could violate the US first amendment if marketing restrictions are too severe. The report and any ensuing legislation could have implications for advertising unhealthy animal-based products to children.
1. "Food Marketing Aimed at Kids Influences Poor Nutritional Choices," IOM, 12/6/05
2. "Top Researchers Slam Food Marketers," Informed Eating, Jan-2006
3. "Food Marketing Influences Poor Nutrition Choices," Promo Magazine, 12/7/05
Farmed Animal Statistics: Europeans' Views of Farmed Animal Welfare
The European Commission has been taking
significant measures recently to gather public opinion
on the treatment and welfare for farmed animals in
the European Union (EU). In June 2005 we covered the
release of the "Eurobarometer" survey conducted with
a representative sample of 25,000 EU citizens. See
#5-23 for a summary of those results and a link
to the full report. More recently, the EU sought consumer
opinions and knowledge of farmed animal welfare using
an internet survey. The results will be used to inform
the European Commission's consideration of upcoming
farmed animal protection initiatives and an overall
"community action plan." The survey had more than
44,000 respondents, but they cannot be considered
representative of the EU population given the lack
of survey and sample control. Nonetheless, the findings
summarized below may provide some interest insights
for farmed animal advocates.
For detailed responses to each question including complete data for each of the ranked items below, refer to the full document link at the end of this section. The questions provided below are a subset from the full document, with the questions themselves provided verbatim, but the responses summarized.
Do you believe that the level of welfare/protection of animals farmed within the EU is...
-- 63% "very poor" or "poor"
-- 18% "moderate"
-- 15% "good or "very good"
Do you believe that more needs to be done to improve the level of welfare/protection of animals farmed within the EU?
-- 78% "yes, certainly"
-- 10% "yes, probably"
-- 10% "no, probably/certainly not"
For each of the following animals farmed within the EU do you believe that more needs to be done to improve their current level of welfare/protection? (Ranked by percent of respondents who said "yes, certainly," with that response shown in parentheses)
1. Laying hens (76% "yes, certainly")
2. Broiler chickens (76%)
3. Pigs (72%)
4. Fur animals (71%)
5. Calves (66%)
6. Beef cattle (65%)
7. Turkeys (63%)
8. Geese (58%)
9. Dairy cows (58%)
10. Ducks (56%)
11. Rabbits (53%)
12. Sheep (50%)
13. Horses (49%)
14. Goats (47%)
15. Farmed fish (46%)
Do you believe that food retailers currently provide sufficient information on the animal welfare conditions under which their products are sourced?
-- 59% "no, certainly not"
-- 29% "no, probably not"
-- 10% "yes, probably/certainly"
Would you like food products to be labelled more clearly to indicate the animal welfare conditions under which these products are sourced?
-- 78% "yes, certainly"
-- 11% "yes, probably"
-- 9% "no, probably/certainly not"
Do you believe that the EU should do more to promote a greater awareness of animal welfare/protection internationally?
-- 80% "yes, certainly"
-- 10% "yes, probably"
-- 8% "no, probably/certainly not"
"Do you believe that imported foods should be produced under conditions of animal welfare/protection at least as high as those applied in your country?"
-- 87% "yes, certainly"
-- 8% "yes, probably"
-- 2% "no, probably/certainly not"
Do you believe that consumers currently receive enough information on the conditions of welfare/protection under which animals are farmed within the EU?
-- 61% "no, certainly not"
-- 29% "no, probably not"
-- 9% "yes, probably/certainly"
Do you believe that a better knowledge of farming practices could influence your decisions when purchasing food?
-- 67% "yes, certainly"
-- 22% "yes, probably"
-- 9% "no, probably/certainly not"
For farm animal production systems in the EU please classify for each of the following factors whether in terms of animal welfare/ protection you believe it is important or not that... (Ranked by percent of respondents who said "very important," with that response shown in parentheses)
1. The animals should have sufficient space to move around (84% "very important")
2. The animals should be transported in a humane way (83%)
3. The animals should be slaughtered in a humane way (81%)
4. The animals should have exposure to natural light (76%)
5. The animals should have access to the outside (76%)
6. The animals' movement should not be restricted by chains or tethers (75%)
7. The animals should be able to display natural behaviour (75%)
8. The animals should have contact with other animals (66%)
1. New Report: "Response Statistics: Welfare and Protection of Farmed Animals," European Union, 12/20/05
PDF File (110k): http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/animal/welfare/sum_response_stats_en.pdf
2. Older Report: "Consumer Attitudes to Animal Welfare," Eurobarometer Survey, 6/8/05
PDF File (680k): http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/animal/welfare/euro_barometer25_en.pdf
3. Data and Reports: "European Union: Animal Health and Welfare," Updated regularly
6. Other Items of Interest
Say U.S. Govt BSE Defense Not Working," Cattle Network,
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been frequently criticized for inadequate protocols related to cow feed and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Now the FDA is receiving similar criticism from a new report collaboratively written by seven scientists and experts, a pharmaceutical company, and McDonalds Corp. The group calls the FDA's recent rule changes insufficient and says the agency should require stricter protocols including banning the use of poultry litter in cow feed.
"Unknown Infection in Azerbaijan Kills at
Least 500 Poultry a Day," Baku Today, 1/5/06
In the Masally region of Azerbaijan, an estimated 500-1,000 chickens have been dying every day for about 2-3 weeks, the result of an unknown disease. Infected hens are reportedly laying eggs without shells before fully succumbing to the disease. The country's veterinary ministry has been notified and is investigating the outbreak, but avian influenza so far is not believed to be the cause.
"Farm Bureau Joins Fight to Prevent CAFO Regulation
through Zoning," Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Originally
published on 10/10/05
In Ohio (US), Ross Township is arguing to change the state's definition of agriculture to classify Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as "agribusinesses" under local zoning laws. The Township's trustees attempted to require a "conditional use permit" for a planned dairy farm (a CAFO) that would house 2,100 cows. The permit could set a precedent for local zoning of concentrated animal farms, and is being fought by both the dairy farm and the Ohio Farm Bureau.