Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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June 11, 2007 -- Number 18, Volume 7

1. ESBENSHADE CLEARED OF CRUELTY CHARGES

On June 1st, the owner/CEO and the farm manager of Pennsylvania-based Esbenshade [egg] Farms were acquitted of the 35 animal cruelty charges pending against each of them (see: http://tinyurl.com/2s2459 ). The “potentially precedent-setting case,” initiated by Compassion Over Cruelty (COK), attracted national attention. COK’s general counsel Cheryl Leahy said: “If these animals had been dogs or cats, there’s little doubt this case would have resulted in a conviction. There is a clear double standard here, and that hypocrisy is troubling.”

Gregory Martin, a Lancaster County poultry extension educator who testified for the defense, said: “People need to recognize that with tens of thousands of animals, you’d expect to see some mortality…In most cases, it is under 5 percent over the life of the birds” (see: http://tinyurl.com/oaz95 ). Esbenshade, who has egg-laying operations at three locations with a total of 2.2 million hens, reportedly spent a large sum of money on the case. He warned that animal rights activists are increasingly going to infiltrate animal production industries. "They are really adamant," he said. PennAg Industries Association, a Harrisburg-based organization representing agribusiness interests across the state, wants third-party agricultural experts to be present during farm investigations by humane officers.


ESBENSHADE: 'IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN'
Lancaster Farming, Dave Lefever, June 7, 2007
http://www.lancasterfarming.com/node/621

PENNSYLVANIA COURT FINDS THAT ANIMAL ABUSE ON EGG FACTORY FARM IS LEGAL
Compassion Over Killing, June 4, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/29fxz6

 

2. 5.7 MILLION POUNDS OF BEEF RECALLED FOR E. COLI

A ground beef recall has been expanded for the third time in a week to now include 5.7 million pounds due to possible E. coli contamination. The initial recall was for 75,000 pounds, the second for another 370,000 pounds. David Goldman, acting administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the latest recall batch of 5.3 million pounds is well past its expiration date but may still be in consumers’ homes. The meat, sold in numerous supermarket chains under various brand names, has been blamed for an outbreak in Western states that caused 14 illnesses, from April 25th through May 18th.


MEAT SUPPLIER EXPANDS BEEF RECALL TO 5.7 MILLION POUNDS OF BEEF
San Jose Mercury News/The Associated Press, June 9, 2007
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_6104177

 

3. BUSH ADMINISTRATION FIGHTS TESTING FOR BSE

After the first U.S. case was BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. “mad cow disease”) was confirmed in 2003, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef requested permission to voluntarily test for the disease every animal it planned to process. Doing so would help the company bypass embargoes on U.S. beef and get its meat back into foreign markets. The USDA denied Creekstone’s request, stating: “…consensus [of international experts] is that 100 percent testing is not justified.”

Courtney Haden of the Birmingham Weekly writes: “The USDA proposed testing 220,000 cattle a year nationwide for $72 million, with tests that would take up to five months to implement. Creekstone’s plan was to test 300,000 cattle, its entire herd, on its own dime, using the same USDA tests but conducted by a private firm that could bring the job in for only $5.4 million, in about one month. They could test more cattle, more cheaply and more quickly. They had to be stopped. So much for that lofty Republican ideal of free-market initiative, or the notion that self-regulation trumps government regulation….[A] 2004 warning by the head of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, no tenderfoots when it comes to doling out big [Republican] campaign contributions, [said]: ‘If testing is allowed at Creekstone, we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too.’"

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the beef industry. Creekstone sued the USDA in 2006, and last March it was ruled that the government doesn’t have the authority to restrict the test and the company could begin testing as of June 1st. However, the USDA says it will appeal, delaying the testing until the court case plays out. Haden asks: “…why be totally sure there’s no life-threatening disease in the beef we eat when the USDA could get away with testing only .006 percent of the 35,000,000 cattle slaughtered in America each year?”


WHITE HOUSE RESISTS MOVE TO TEST ALL CATTLE FOR BSE
Capital Press/Associated Press, June 8, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/yuzsgl

HOW NOW, MAD COW?
Birmingham Weekly Mixed Media, Courtney Haden, June 7-14, 2007
http://www.bhamweekly.com/?article_id=276

 

4. E.U. RECONSIDERING FEED BAN

"I cannot think why we would ever want to start taking any kind of risk associated with feeding animal remains to animals, said Richard Haddock, a National Farmers' Union regional chairman and one of the region's largest beef producers. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an E.U. advisory group, has proposed relaxing the ban on using animal remains in farm feed as part of the E.U.’s long-term anti-BSE strategy. The Europe-wide ban of 2000 arose out of fear that the practice caused the spread of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. “mad cow disease”). The disease shut down Britain’s beef export trade, costing farmers billions. Some 183,000 cases of BSE in cattle have been confirmed, and 160 people in Britain have died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE. Another five are believed to be infected. (The U.K. Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee recently released a “disturbing” position statement on the possibility of transmitting vCJD through dentistry: http://tinyurl.com/35tywc )

The European Commission is now funding £1.15 million ($2.3 million) of research to determine whether feeding chicken remains to pigs and processed pig meat to poultry could be resumed without potential human health risks. "There is going to be a tremendous amount of work involved at the mills to separate out this feed from ruminant feed, and as it will only be going into the diet as a protein supplement it seems a little pointless. After all, there is still plenty of other protein around. The only benefit I can see from it is that it might cut back on greenhouse gas emissions because, since we have been prevented from burying dead farm animals, they all have to be burned,” said Alan Rose, a Somerset pig farmer. A National Farmers’ Union spokesperson stated: “…no change to the current rules should even be considered unless and until it can be demonstrated that it would represent no risk to either animal or human health.” Haddock added: "At a time when the authorities are talking about loading farmers with at least half the cost of disease control, it seems ridiculous to be adding to the potential risks." Supermarket chains Asda and Sainsbury’s have announced they will not sell meat from animals fed meat and bone meal.

RETURN OF THE BSE NIGHTMARE?
Western Daily Press, Chris Rundle, June 2, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/3dw7bg

SUPERMARKETS SAY THEY WILL NOT SELL CHICKEN FED ON PORK IF BAN IS LIFTED
The Times, Rajeev Syal, June 2, 2007
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article1873259.ece

 

5. FARM BILL THREATENS CRATE AND FOIE GRAS BANS, MORE

The bans on gestation crates in Florida and both gestation and veal crates in Arizona, as well as bans on foie gras in California and Chicago, could be nullified if legislation tucked into the Farm Bill passes, warns Farm Sanctuary. The legislation, part of small provision entitled Section 123, seeks to deny citizens the right to pass state or local laws concerning food safety or humane animal treatment. Farm Sanctuary has also criticized the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry for its Farm Bill amendment to subsidize the veal industry (see: http://tinyurl.com/yuxmja ). “The subcommittee's antiquated attitudes place the interests of big agribusiness over those of the public or of animal welfare,” the organization states (see also: http://tinyurl.com/27grqk and http://tinyurl.com/242t3a and http://tinyurl.com/2949h9 ).

Similarly, a May 28th New York Times editorial mentions House and Senate agriculture committees’ “cozy ties to big agriculture.” It states that, five years ago, “Their lack of enthusiasm helped scuttle the administration's efforts to reform….a farm subsidy program that lavishes huge amounts of money on relatively few producers, compromises the environment, penalizes third-world farmers and fouls up trade negotiations.” The Times urges “the full House and Senate should pay attention” to proposed subsidy reforms “even if the committees do not.”

FARM BILL STRIPS COMMUNITIES OF POWER TO MAKE LOCAL LAWS!
Farm Sanctuary, June 8, 2007
http://www.farmsanctuary.org/campaign/fed_section123.htm

FARM ANIMAL PROTECTION ISSUES SPOTLIGHTED IN D.C.
Farm Sanctuary, June 1, 2007
http://www.farmsanctuary.org/campaign/DC_may07.htm

AN EVEN BETTER FARM BILL
The New York Times, Editorial, May 28, 2007
http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/05/28/opinion/edfarm.php

 

6. BIG AG GOBBLES BENEFITS, EXACERBATES GLOBAL POVERTY

Journalist David Moberg uses the chicken industry as an example of how “big ag reaps the Farm Bill benefits.” Since passage of the 1996 Farm Bill, the industry has obtained $1.25 billion a year from grain subsidies, as determined by Tufts researchers. From 1997 to 2005, savings to Tyson Foods alone from not having to pay the full cost of producing the grain in its feed have been worth $2.59 billion. In determining the winners and losers of these subsidies, Moberg writes: “Consumers…get cheap chicken, even if much of it is contaminated with salmonella, antibiotics and other undesirable pollutants. As the world's biggest chicken producer, the United States is also the leading exporter of chicken…which is sold overseas at rock-bottom prices. Those dumped exports in turn decimate the chicken industry in many developing countries. Tally it up. Losers: farmers, farm laborers, food processing workers, rural communities, the environment, poor country peasants, many developing country agricultural industries, urban laborers in both developed and developing countries…and U.S. taxpayers. The winner: corporate agribusiness.” Moberg also examines the history of the Farm Bill and considers its future.

Rather than benefiting people suffering from poverty and hunger, as has been claimed by governments and development agencies, “factory farming” is in actuality a part of the poverty problem, contends a new report by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). For example, it notes, “Brazil has become the third largest poultry producer in the world almost entirely run by big corporations. As a result, in just one year over 20,000 families were forced to leave the countryside.” The report can be accessed at (PDF file): http://tinyurl.com/yra8t7.

In collaboration with WSPA and others, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has published a brochure detailing recent improvements in U.S. farmed animal welfare (PDF file: http://tinyurl.com/2tkhxe ).

FARMERS TAKE THE HEAT, BUT BIG AG REAPS THE FARM BILL BENEFITS
In These Times, David Moberg, June 4, 2007
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/060607P.shtml

WSPA REPORT SAYS FACTORY FARMING EXACERBATES GLOBAL POVERTY
PRNewswire-USNewswire, May 23, 2007
http://sev.prnewswire.com/environmental-services/20070523/DCW12523052007-1.html

 

7. MANURE POWER FUELS CONTROVERSY

Fibrominn, the first U.S. power plant that uses poultry litter as a fuel, began producing electricity in mid-May in Benson, Mn. The state is the largest producer of turkeys in the country, and as farms increased in size so did complaints about their odor and pollution. As regulations also increased, farmers looked for alternative ways to get rid of manure. Turkey manure is drier than cow or pig manure, which makes it burn more readily, as does the bedding materials it is mixed with. The Benson plant was built by Fibrowatt, which ran three such plants in Britain, with financial incentives from the state of Minnesota. Fibrowatt is also considering additional locations in Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Commissioners from six rural counties are asking the Minnesota Legislature to designate poultry manure as a renewable energy resource, making it eligible for state subsidies. The commissioners are also seeking state funding to make it more competitive -the electricity generated is currently 30% more expensive than that from conventional plants- and a 10-year commitment, totaling almost $50 million. Critics note that in addition to being expensive it is also comparatively inefficient, with the Benson plant producing a tenth of the energy generated by a medium-sized coal plant. Additionally, the plant is a major source of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrogen sulfide. Legislation regarding Fibrowatt is expected to again be presented in the next legislative session.

David Morris of the Institute of Local Self Reliance says that burning manure is the most costly and rigid way to deal with manure pollution. "If the state wanted to put $50 million or even $5 million on the table and ask bidders to come up with the most cost-effective technology, that would be the proper way to go about it," Morris asserts. He points to a research fund Maryland officials have set up to find manure disposal alternatives. FibroWatch, a website opposing Fibrowatt projects, is at: http://tinyurl.com/235332

In Texas, government researchers are looking into producing fuel from cattle manure:
http://tinyurl.com/2cwn49

A NEW LIGHT SHED ON TURKEY MANURE
Minnesota Public Radio, Kathryn Herzog, May 17, 1999
http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199905/17_herzogk_turkeys-m/

THE ENERGY CHALLENGE
From Turkey Waste, a New Fuel and a New Fight
The New York Times, Susan Saulny, June 6, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/06/science/earth/06manure.html

OF POOP POWER AND GAS EMISSIONS
Time, Sarah Dale, May 15, 2007
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1621243,00.html









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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.