Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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DECEMBER 14, 2007 -- Number 34, Volume 7

1. CHANGES TO WIC PROGRAM

Tofu and soy beverages, along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been added to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food program for low-income women and their children, while the amounts of milk, cheese, and eggs it permits have been reduced. It’s the first time in 30 years that the guidelines for WIC (the Women, Infants and Children program) have been revised, “to better meet the nutritional needs” of the 8.5 million people it serves, a USDA spokesperson said. The changes were based on suggestions made by the Institute of Medicine. After proposing them last year, the USDA received more than 46,000 public comments about the changes, most in favor of them. As revised, annual sales of milk and cheese through the program will be reduced about $400 million to some $960 million. Egg sales will be nearly halved, from $120 million to $67 million. The changes will come into effect February 2008, after which state agencies will have 18 months to implement them. An interim final rule comment period ends on February 1, 2010. The USDA will then issue a final rule after review and analysis of the public comments (see: http://tinyurl.com/ypelks ).


WIC FOOD PROGRAM RECEIVES OVERHAUL
Fox News (Associated Press), Frederic J. Frommer, December 6, 2007
http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Dec06/0,4670,DietWICFoods,00.html

 

2. FOOD ADS IN SCHOOLS

About 67% of all schools nationwide allow for advertising by companies that sell "foods of minimal nutritional value," according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which also found that “food high in fat and sugar conduct the majority of the marketing that is found in schools.” In Seminole County, Florida, students at the 37 elementary schools receive their report cards in envelopes bearing the image of Ronald McDonald. Those with high grades or good attendance records are eligible for a free “Happy Meal.” The company also has a program whereby Ronald McDonald visits schools to teach children about fitness. School boards defend the programs as providing needed funding. Critics point to the 20 million overweight children in the U.S. Responding to criticism about the “food prize,” McDonald’s released a statement explaining: “McDonald's provides parents with Happy Meal choices including chicken McNuggets made with white meat, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Apple Dippers, apple juice and low-fat milk, so they can choose the Happy Meal that is appropriate for their child."


JUNK FOOD COMPANIES MARKET TO KIDS AT SCHOOL
ABC News, Russell Goldman, December 10, 2007
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3971058&page=1

 

3. PETA ACCUSES SMITHFIELD PIG SUPPLIER OF TORTURE

Eyes gouged out of pigs; injured pigs dragged by their ears, snouts and legs; pigs hit and jabbed with 2-foot metal rods; tails and testicles amputated without pain relief from screaming piglets in the presence of their mothers. These are among the abuses a PETA investigator claims to have documented at a 2,200-pig Murphy Family Ventures (MFV) farm in Garland, N.C. (footage at: http://tinyurl.com/ywtpwm ). The company supplies pigs to Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pig meat producer (see: http://tinyurl.com/2bqbp5 ). The investigator worked at the facility from September 13th until November 2nd, after PETA reportedly received a tip from a former MFV employee who told of similar abuses at another of the company’s farms. He said he quit out of fear that his co-workers were becoming suspicious of him since he was the only person there who was not abusing the pigs. The investigator had been instructed to do so, and the PETA footage includes a worker vulgarly describing how he viciously assaults pigs.

PETA contends the actions violate state anti-cruelty laws and it wants criminal charges brought against the filmed workers. The organization has turned its evidence over to the Sampson County District Attorney. He stated that he will announce whether charges will be filed after the allegations are investigated. PETA is also demanding that Smithfield install surveillance cameras at farms and slaughterplants and conduct internal investigations. Smithfield's subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC, and MFV, which it contracts with, have both said they are investigating the accusations and will require strict compliance with Murphy-Brown's animal welfare policies.


NORTH CAROLINA AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE ALLEGED PIG ABUSE BY SUPPLIER FOR LARGEST U.S. PORK PRODUCER
Fox News, Catherine Donaldson-Evans, December 12, 2007
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,316624,00.html

SHOCKING INVESTIGATION UNVEILS TORTURE OF MOTHER PIGS AND PIGLETS
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, December 11, 2007
http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/smithfield_investigation

 

4. ANTI-ANIMAL-CRUELTY INITIATIVES

Animal cruelty crime statistics are not included in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s annual crime report. This makes it difficult for law enforcement, policymakers and others to analyze patterns of animal cruelty crimes, said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D – N.J.). On December 10th, he introduced the Tracking Animal Cruelty Crimes Act, which directs the attorney general, in consultation with the FBI, to add animal cruelty crimes to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, National Incident Based Reporting System and Law Enforcement National Data-Exchange Program. Menendez said policies need to be established that help law enforcement prevent offenders from committing additional violent crimes. The bill includes a 12-month period for implementation from the date of enactment. See also: http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/about/services.php.

Also this week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) announced plans for its Anti-Cruelty Institute, the first of its kind in the nation. The facility, to open in New York in 2010, will be dedicated to training veterinarians and law enforcement officials to recognize and respond to animal cruelty. It will include a forensic laboratory and veterinary hospital (see: http://tinyurl.com/2xmsxp ). The ASPCA also debuted the nation’s first mobile high-tech, animal crime scene investigation (CSI) unit (see article for photo and video tour). The vehicle contains microscopes, cameras, evidence collection kits, blood spatter technology, a digital X-ray unit, a surgical suite and ultraviolet lights for fiber detection. Veterinarian Melinda Merck will travel around the country in it (primarily investigating crime scenes involving animal fighting and puppy mills). The $220,000 unit was financed by a private donor. (Dr. Merck and another ASPCA official were consulted for the December 13th episode of the television program CSI, which examines dogfighting: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/csi/ ).

MENENDEZ PROPOSES FEDERAL TRACKING OF ANIMAL CRUELTY CASES
The Press of Atlantic City, Donna Weaver, December 11, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2cdqf9

ASPCA ROLLS OUT ONE OF A KIND ANIMAL CSI UNIT
CBS 2 HD News, Scott Rapoport, December 11, 2007
http://wcbstv.com/watercooler/aspca.csi.cruelty.2.608344.html

 

5. FATIGUE CAUSES TRUCKING ACCIDENTS

It is not uncommon for trucks hauling farmed animals to have accidents (see: http://tinyurl.com/3ycxtw ). Fatigue has been found to be the main cause of most these accidents. Industry consultant Jennifer Woods reviewed data on 415 such accidents in the U.S. and Canada. She found that tired drivers hauling animals between midnight and 9 a.m. were involved in 59% of the crashes. Also implicating fatigue was the fact that in 70% of the cases, the trailer tipped over on its right side. (Vehicles tend to drift to the right when the driver falls asleep, and they tend to roll over when they hit the soft shoulder of a road.) Furthermore, 80% of the accidents involved a single vehicle, and 85% of them were attributable to driver error. Fewer accidents occurred when trucks traveled routine routes and shorter distances.

Truck drivers are legally allowed to spend as much as 11 hours a day behind the wheel, with a 34-hour minimum break between one work week and the next. On December 11th, the U.S. Transportation Department sided with the trucking industry by upholding the one-hour increase in daily driving time put in place in 2004. Consumer, safety and labor groups, including the Teamsters, argue that the amount of time truck drivers are allowed to work can cause fatigue and result in crashes. (Nearly 5,000 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes involving large trucks in 2006, which is down more than 4% from 2005.) The rule revision will not be made final until the transportation agency completes a 60-day comment period. The advocacy groups say they plan to challenge it.

FATIGUE FACTORS INTO LIVESTOCK TRUCK ACCIDENTS
Meat & Poultry, Temple Grandin, September 1, 2007
http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/headline_stories.asp?ArticleID=88364

U.S. REDRAFTS TRUCK SAFETY RULES IN RESPONSE TO COURT
Reuters, John Crawley with Carol Bishopric, December 11, 2007
http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN1152197020071212?sp=true

 

6. U.S. AG REFORMS SAVED "FACTORY FARMS" $3.9 BILLION

U.S. agricultural policy reforms of 1996 led to the overproduction of crops, including corn and soybeans used for animal feed. Between 1997 and 2005, industrial animal farms, the main purchasers of corn and soy, were able to save an estimated $3.9 billion per year by obtaining them at below-cost prices. By doing so, these cattle, chicken and pig operations saved an estimated $35 billion over the 9-year period. According to “Feeding at the Trough,” a new report by the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University, this gave these “factory farms” a competitive advantage over diversified farms that grew their own crops. They also benefited from externalizing the costs of pollution from the large manure concentrations they generated. The researchers estimate that full-cost feed and stricter environmental regulations could have increased the operating costs of intensive pig operations by 17.4% to 25.7%, essentially eliminating the cost advantage they had over smaller, diversified pig farms.

FEEDING AT THE TROUGH (FEEDING THE FACTORY FARM PROJECT)
GDAE Policy Brief No. 07-03, Elanor Starmer & Timothy A. Wise, December 2007
http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/BroilerGains.htm

 

7. GULF OF MEXICO FISH-FARMING PROPOSAL

Underwater cages the size of a McDonald's restaurant, each holding 70,000 to 100,000 pounds of fish, spread in clusters over dozens of acres (see article photo). Fish farming of this magnitude would be allowed in the Gulf of Mexico under regulations being considered in public hearings being held this month (see: http://tinyurl.com/2z5tf8 and www.gulfcouncil.org ). A coalition of environmental groups and fishing interests oppose the plan, citing environmental and economic concerns. A United Nations report found that nearly as many fish were used for fish meal as were produced by aquaculture. Fish feces and uneaten food from aquaculture pens have polluted coastal waters elsewhere (the proposed rules have no specific pollution standards). Diseases spread quickly from crowded open-ocean fish farms to wild species, and hatchery fish escape and breed with wild populations, sometimes with disastrous results. (At least 10 million farmed salmon and trout are estimated to have escaped between 2000 and 2006, see: http://tinyurl.com/2l5t9b ). Antibiotics and hormones given to farmed fish have raised food-safety questions, and plummeting prices could wreck Florida's already shaky commercial fishing industry. The coalition wants regulators to wait until more environmental research is conducted.

Half of the fish imported into the U.S. are produced in offshore aquaculture facilities (see: http://tinyurl.com/ywmd72 ). "We are already consuming a tremendous amount of farm-raised fish," U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said earlier this year, "We might as well do it ourselves under our terms, under our conditions, under our standards, and take the market." A surge in applications is not expected, however, as start-up costs are estimated at about $10 million and it could take years for a company to become profitable. A government council is expected to vote on the Gulf regulations in January. The United Nations anticipates that by 2015 half of all seafood consumed worldwide will be farmed. Currently, China produces 70% of all farmed fish, the U.S. produces 1%.

(See also “Trout Stage Daring Breakout at Fish Farm”: http://tinyurl.com/295p22 )

GULF TO TEEM WITH FISH IN CAGES IF FARMS OKAYED
ST. Petersburg Times, Stephen Nohlgren, December 10, 2007
http://www.sptimes.com/2007/12/10/Southpinellas/Gulf_to_teem_with_fis.shtml

FISH FACTORIES
The Times-Picayune, Chris Kirkham, December 9, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/32sqqo

RETHINKING GULF FISH FARMS
Press-Register, Ben Raines, November 25, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/3ams95

 

8. FISH PERSONALITIES

Fish have personalities. Some are daring, others timid; some sociable, others not. Scientists at the University of Guelph (Canada) noticed differences in young brook trout, and found the fish retained their same personality characteristics when moved to a laboratory environment. Their study has been published in the science journal Animal Behaviour. (See also: http://tinyurl.com/248wm9 )

NOTHING FISHY ABOUT PERSONALITY TRAITS IN ANIMALS, STUDY FINDS
Vancouver Sun, Tom Spears, November 25, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2x6veo

 





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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.