Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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August 15, 2007 -- Number 23, Volume 7

1. AVA BOARD UNANIMOUSLY VOTES TO PHASE OUT VEAL CRATES

The Board of Directors for the American Veal Association (AVA) has voted unanimously that the veal industry should convert to group housing for calves by 2017. In a May 9th resolution, the AVA noted, among other points, that the “industry must always be aware and mindful of consumer concerns,” that “group housing…was imposed legislatively” in Europe over a decade ago, and that such a conversion “will promote industry stability and growth” (see: http://tinyurl.com/284obl and see: http://tinyurl.com/2f3hyx ).

The Humane Society of the U.S. commended the news but remarked that the “ten-year phaseout is a long time, especially considering that the nation's largest veal producers have already committed to a two-year phaseout” [see: http://tinyurl.com/yu8v3d and http://tinyurl.com/33vwo9]. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk commented: "No veal for any meal is what we're working toward, but this is certainly a major step forward." The organization celebrated the announcement as part of a record year of “progress toward ending intensive confinement,” (see: http://tinyurl.com/2m65jg ).

Minutes taken in February at the 2007 Cattle Industry Annual Convention note that the “AVA is in the process of installing a Web camera in a veal-production facility to dispel images activists are circulating of group housing and other animal welfare issues.” They also state that the group is meeting with “other industry groups and associations to educate them about veal production.” Additionally, they note that the AVA has partnered with “the Center for Consumer Freedom…[to allow] AVA to focus on relationship/coalition building and media outreach while CCF pursues more radical, proactive tactics” (see: http://www.consumerfreedom.com and: http://tinyurl.com/ar9g4 ).


Veal Industry Converts to Group Housing
American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Harry Snelson, August 1, 2007
http://www.aasv.org/news/story.php?id=2516

 

2. CALIFORNIA INITIATIVE AGAINST CONFINEMENT

A California ballot initiative that seeks to “prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs,” with some exceptions, has been initiated by The Humane Society of the U.S.  The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Note PDF http://tinyurl.com/2wu7m9 ) would ban battery cages, gestation crates, and crates for calves used for veal, effective 2015. Supporters of the Act have 150 days as of October 1st to gather 433,000 qualifying signatures in order to put it before the citizens for a vote. According to Christine Morrissey, director of East Bay Animal Advocates, which is assisting in the effort, there are some 20 million laying hens and 15,000 to 20,000 female pigs used for breeding purposes in California.

Morrissey said the Act would cause production costs to increase. John McGlone, professor of animal science at Texas Tech University, said consumers may be willing to cover the increased costs of changing some production practices. He goes on, however, to discuss the lack of economically viable alternatives and other problems, which he says is a significant drawback to such changes. (A rebuttal to McGlone’s argument was published as a group letter-to-the-editor of The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and is available on-line for a fee: http://tinyurl.com/3av97a  See also: http://tinyurl.com/29gsvw ). Better-managed animal-handling practices need not be costly, and there are long-term savings to producers and packers, contends Janet Riley with the American Meat Institute.  


“Humane" Livestock Production Costs Hard to Gauge
CNN Money, Lester Aldrich, August 9, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2cg6bn

Putting a Price on Welfare
Meat & Poultry, Steve Bjerklie, August 10, 2007
http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/beyond_stories.asp?ArticleID=87347

 

3. CAGE-FREE CONTROVERSY: HSUS PRESSURES WENDY'S

The cage-free egg is now the culinary world’s “have-to-have-it product,” proclaims a New York Times article. In 2005, The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) began a campaign against battery cages, targeting companies that purchase large numbers of eggs. In the past few years in the U.S., the number of hens not kept in cages has risen from 2% to 5%. And though the cost is 60 cents more per dozen wholesale, the supply of these eggs is not keeping up with demand. However, some within the egg industry say that converting egg-production facilities is costly and time consuming. They wonder if the spike in demand is just a fad, and they question whether hens are better off in cageless systems. The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, which grants approval for use of the “cage-free” term on labels, doesn’t actually inspect the facilities, and most chickens in them are not allowed outside during their 12 to 18 month life. “While cage-free certainly does not mean cruelty-free, it’s a significant step in the right direction,” said Paul Shapiro, director of HSUS’s Factory Farming Campaign.

In March, Burger King pledged to make 5% of their egg purchases cage-free (see: http://tinyurl.com/yto9j4 ). A company representative recently said that the increased cost of the eggs was “not substantial,” and that it hoped to increase the percentage as supplies become available. HSUS has now launched a national campaign to pressure Wendy’s into following Burger King’s lead. “Wendy's is very committed to the humane treatment of animals, but we're just not able to do everything at once,” said company spokesperson Bob Bertini (see: http://tinyurl.com/yu92by ). He said it is instead working on guidelines that address other welfare issues. United Egg Producers Scientific Advisory Committee on Animal Welfare contends there are pluses and minuses with cage and cageless systems. Keeping thousands of uncaged hens in close confinement can lead to harmful pecking behaviors, notes Committee Chair Jeff Armstrong. “Cage farming is humane and ethical,” he asserts. Cage-free systems aren't perfect but hens’ lives are dramatically improved when they can walk around, said HSUS’s Shapiro.


Suddenly, the Hunt Is On for Cage-Free Eggs
The New York Times, Kim Severson, August 12, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/us/12eggs.html

Humane Society urges Wendy's to use Cage-Free Eggs
Associated Press, Emily Zeugner, August 13, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2ra8at

 

4. WALL STREET JOURNAL COVER ARTICLE ON PIGLET CASTRATION

"Sometimes they get depressed," said Norwegian researcher Bente Fredriksen, describing the reaction of piglets to castration. Studies have found the piglets suckle less and spend more time apart from their siblings. The procedure is banned in Norway as of 2009 [see item #4: http://tinyurl.com/2935wj ]. However, meat from intact male pigs has a taste, “boar taint,” that may be noticeable to up to three quarters of consumers. Europe is in the midst of a debate on the matter. Anesthesia during castration will be mandatory in Switzerland as of 2009, and major supermarkets in Holland have said that in 2009 they will stop selling meat from piglets castrated without anesthesia. In Britain, farmers have voluntarily been leaving male pigs intact for decades, instead slaughtering them before they are old enough to develop the condition.

Pushing to keep the Norwegian ban on schedule, animal-welfare advocates are suggesting such options as immuno-castration vaccine. It is already used in Australia, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere. While more expensive ($5) than castration with anesthesia ($1.70), it is said to save on feed costs and produce leaner meat. Fredriksen and his colleagues are searching for alternatives to castration, including genetic ways to produce taint-free boars or to lower the ratio of male pigs. In the U.S., where some 50 million piglets are castrated annually, the industry is warily watching what transpires abroad.  

These Little Pigs Get Special Care From Norwegians
The Wall Street Journal, Joellen Perry and Mary Jacoby, August 6, 2007
http://www.meatintelligence.com/news/articles/55245.shtml

 

5. FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE RESURFACES IN BRITAIN

More than 570 animals were killed in Britain this month when foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease affecting cattle, pigs, sheep and other cloven-hooved animals, was confirmed in Surrey on August 3rd. A national ban on moving these animals has been put in place, and the European Union (E.U.) and other countries have banned British meat and dairy exports.

A February 2001 FMD epidemic lasted 11 months and resulted in the slaughter of 6.5 million to 10 million animals. (One slaughterman gives his account at: http://tinyurl.com/223zyc ). British meat exports were banned until February 2002, resulting in an estimated loss of $16 billion to the British economy.

The strain of the disease in the current outbreak is one that hasn’t circulated in the country since 1967. An investigation has determined the likely source to be nearby laboratories of U.S.-based Merial company and the state-run Institute for Animal Health. The former had been producing large-scale amounts of vaccine using the same strain, and the latter had been conducting experiments with it.

Two cases of FMD have been confirmed so far, and additional suspect ones are being investigated. The RSPCA has set up a farmed animal welfare hotline to aid those experiencing difficulties because of the movement ban (see: http://tinyurl.com/3a6hc6 ). Compassion in World Farming is urging the government to commence a “vaccinate to live” program. Government guidelines suggest it should be prepared to begin emergency vaccination five days after a confirmed outbreak, and 30,000 doses have been ordered. Opponents of vaccination fear it will extend the E.U. trade ban from three to six months.

Britain Probes Two New Suspected Foot-and-Mouth cases
Reuters, Kate Kelland, August 14, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/yu97y6

Return of the Cattle Plague
The Independent, Ian Griggs and David Connett, August 5, 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2836176.ece

Britain Responds to Disease Outbreak
The New York Times, Jane Perlez, August 4, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2vdg9f

Two More Cases of Foot-and-Mouth Disease are Feared
The Independent, Colin Brown, August 15, 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2864193.ece

Lab Bosses 'In Denial' Over Rrole in Foot and Mouth Scare
The Scotsman, Brian Brady, August 12, 2007
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1267792007#comments

Compassionate Approach is ‘Vaccinate to Live’
The Herald, Rog Wood, August 9, 2007
http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/farming/display.var.1604985.0.0.php

 

6. NYT ON INTERACTIVE MAP OF “FACTORY FARMS”

“Wherever it appears, factory farming has two notable effects. It threatens the environment…[a]nd it threatens local political control. Residents who want a say over whether and where factory farms, whose stench can be overwhelming, can be built find their voices drowned out by the industry’s cash and lobbying clout,” states a New York Times editorial entitled: A Factory Farm Near You.  The consumer interest group Food and Water Watch has produced an interactive map that enables users to tracks the proliferation of these facilities by state and county, number and type of operation, and by the number of animals in them: www.factoryfarmmap.org. The Times hopes it will be enhanced to additionally allow users to track changes over time. The editorial concludes that the map “raises two of the fundamental questions facing American agriculture. Do we pursue the logic of industrialism to its limits in a biological landscape? And how badly will doing so harm the landscape, the people who live in it and the democracy with which they govern themselves?”

A Factory Farm Near You
The New York Times, Editorial, July 31, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2r45b5

 

7. HUMANE SPOT

The Humane Research Council (HRC) has debuted a new website billed as “the world’s most comprehensive research resource for animal advocates.” Among its features are: a database of more than 400 records with abstracts and full reports, “spotlights” to keep viewers current on selected topics, and links to external resources such as websites, journals, articles, etc.  In addition, HRC is making available Humane Thinking, “a weekly blog where our experts provide their thoughts on the latest research and trends in the movement, and what they mean for animal protection: www.humanespot.org.

 

8. CANADA: FARM ANIMAL CARE & WELFARE CONFERENCE

Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council will be holding the National Farm Animal Care and Welfare Conference in Ottawa, September 20 to 21st.  The announcement, agenda and other information can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2c9lnj

 





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Compiled and edited by 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.