GAO FAULTS EPA ON CAFO OVERSIGHT
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the information it needs to effectively regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, a.k.a. “factory farms”). This is the finding of a recent report by Congress’s investigative agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Analyzing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data for large farms, GAO estimates that the number of CAFOs increased by some 230%, going from about 3,600 in 1982 to almost 12,000 in 2002. During this 20-year period, the number of animals per farm also increased, depending on the species. EPA lacks key data on the amount of pollutants that are emitted from CAFOs to be able to determine the extent to which they may be causing harm to human health and the environment, the GAO reports. It further notes that a 2-year nationwide study initiated to monitor air emissions ( http://tinyurl.com/3nn5no ) may not provide the data that EPA needs to develop air emissions protocols. The GAO concluded with recommendations for the EPA. The report is available on-line at [PDF link]: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081177t.pdf
"This GAO study confirms that the Bush administration's plan to exempt industrial-sized animal feeding operations from emissions reporting requirements is nothing more than a favor to big agribusiness," said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mi.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at a recent hearing on the proposed rule change (see: http://tinyurl.com/6cs2gx). An EPA representative said that the goal of the proposal is to reduce reporting burdens and protect public health and the environment. EPA officials acknowledged the GAO’s finding that no national database of CAFOs exits but said that the agency is working to develop one. In the absence of federal guidelines, some states are developing their own air regulations for certain pollutants emitted by CAFOs.
CONCENTRATED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS
Government Accountability Office, September 4, 2008
REPORT: MORE FACTORY FARMING BUT OVERSIGHT LAGS
Associated Press, Erica Werner, September 24, 2008
GAO QUESTIONS PLAN TO EASE FARMS' EMISSIONS RULES
The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Power, September 24, 2008
VENTILATION SHUTDOWN APPROVED IN BRITAIN
Millions of chickens in Britain could be killed by suffocation if an avian flu epidemic there put human health at risk. The High Court upheld a regulation amendment that gives the Rural Affairs Secretary the authority to order ventilation shut down at chicken farms in “exceptional circumstances.” Death would result from a combination of overheating, disease and lack of oxygen, with birds taking up to a day to die. The RSPCA had challenged the amendment, arguing that it contradicted a European directive designed to protect animals from excessive suffering when they are killed. The judge said the directive intended to spare animals "avoidable excitement, pain and suffering" but could not "guarantee absence of all such discomfort" if the killing was carried out as a last resort.
A government official said that such killing would only be done if state vets had no other way to quickly remove infected birds. However, the agency fears that some poultry workers may refuse to participate in the method usually employed: rounding up birds by hand, stunning them and gassing them in a mobile chamber. “Ventilation shutdown is likely to be no better than simply burying birds alive, and is therefore totally unacceptable on welfare grounds,” said Philip Lymbery, the chief executive of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). "By listing ventilation shutdown as a lawful method of killing, the government has removed the urgency to plan and prepare resources to use humane methods," another CIWF representative said. Both CIWF and the RSPCA say the rule is in breach of standards laid down by the World Organization for Animal Health. Trials have shown that a combination of carbon dioxide and argon is the fastest and least inhumane killing method. (See also [PDF link]: http://tinyurl.com/4wpufr )
CHICKENS COULD BE SUFFOCATED IN FLU OUTBREAK
The Times, Valerie Elliott, May 4, 2006
BIRD CULL RULING DISAPPOINTMENT
BBC News, October 7, 2008
PROPOSITION 2 – FOR AND AGAINST
“The goal of the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act — Proposition 2 on the state’s November ballot — sounds extremely modest. It would ban the confinement of animals in a way that keeps them from being able to stand, sit, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs. The fact that such fundamental decencies have to be forced upon factory farming says a lot about its horrors. We urge California voters to pass Proposition 2. We urge every state to enact similar laws,” stated The New York Times in an October 9th editorial. It continues, “No philosophy can justify this kind of cruelty, not even the philosophy of cheapness,” and goes on to explain that the ballot initiative will help animals, the environment, and small farmers. The editorial concludes: “To a California voter still undecided on Proposition 2, we say simply, imagine being confined in the voting booth for life. Would you vote for the right to be able to sit down and turn around and raise your arms?” A list of other newspapers endorsing Prop 2 is at: http://tinyurl.com/3lc85k
“The egg industry is rife with cruelty to animals,” begins a September 25th editorial by The Los Angeles Times. Calling Prop 2 “admirable,” it continues: “Because it only regulates eggs produced in California and not eggs that are sold here, it would likely bolster the market for cheaper out-of-state eggs produced where farmers have no similar bans on cages. As a result, we fear the result of Proposition 2's passage would not be better treatment of hens but merely the export of their mistreatment. We recommend a no vote.” (A more in-depth consideration of economic and ethical implications of Prop 2 is found in a Union-Tribune article: http://tinyurl.com/3h3xlt ) The editorial concludes on a cautionary note: “Although Proposition 2 isn't the answer, the egg industry is due for an overhaul, and chicken farmers should take heed. Polls indicate that this measure has wide support. If it passes, that will be in part because the egg industry either has been oblivious to consumer concerns or recalcitrant about coming up with its own solutions. Proposition 2 is proof that if farmers insist on mistreating animals, people will act.” A list of other newspapers opposing Prop 2 is at: http://tinyurl.com/46kvlj.
A look at the financing behind the pro and anti-Prop 2 efforts -“one of the most expensive animal-welfare campaigns in U.S. history”- can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/4pyr39.
STANDING, STRETCHING, TURNING AROUND
The New York Times, Editorial, October 9, 2008
NO ON PROP. 2
The Los Angeles Times, Editorial, September 25, 2008
INDUSTRY “FIRST”: LIVE MONITORING OF CAGE-FREE EGG FARM
American Humane Certified (AHC) and GCB Foods have announced “an industry first”: live video monitoring of a cage-free egg facility. AHC is a welfare certification program (formerly known as the Free Farmed program) of American Humane. GCB is a cage-free egg company in North Carolina. According to AHC: “The video monitoring offers around-the-clock observation of barns, trucks transporting animals, and live areas of processing plants. Computers monitor the video feed for extraordinary events, alerting management and [AHC] so that corrective action can be taken immediately.” AHC also conducts annual on-site audits, and it is able to observe company production data on an ongoing basis via a proprietary on-line reporting system. The audit system, True Humane Tracking, is expected to be in full use for all AHC producers and all species by the middle of next year. More than 50 million animals are in the AHC program, with GCB adding nearly a million more. AHC will provide a sample of the on-line video monitoring upon request: http://www.thehumanetouch.org.
INDUSTRY FIRST: LIVE MONITORING OF CAGE-FREE EGG FARM
The Poultry Site, September 30, 2008
JOHNE’S EPIDEMIC, CAUSE OF CROHN’S IN HUMANS?
Johne's disease is estimated to be present in 68% of U.S. dairy operations and in 8% of U.S. herds raised for meat. (The dairy figure is up from an estimated 20% in 2004: http://tinyurl.com/3h3f5q ) An estimated one in ten U.S. cows going through an auction facility has Johne's disease, and a vast majority of sellers are said to have no idea that the cows are infected. Animals afflicted with Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP) are thin and suffer from unresponsive chronic diarrhea. "Infected animals can shed large numbers of the disease-causing bacteria in their feces, leading to contamination of feed and water sources without ever showing clinical signs. Infected animals can also shed the bacteria in their colostrum and milk, and infected dams can pass the disease on to their offspring," explained Dr. Michael Carter, National Johne's Disease Control Program Coordinator (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
MAP has been found in dairy products and beef on store shelves (see: http://tinyurl.com/4gw24b ) “People with Crohn’s disease (CD) are seven-fold more likely to have in their gut tissues the bacterium that causes a digestive-tract disease in cattle called Johne’s disease. The role this bacterium may or may not play in causing CD is a top research priority,” states the American Society for Microbiology in an August 12th press release announcing a new report on the subject. See also: A complex and controversial question: Can M. Paratuberculosis Infect and Cause Disease in Humans? http://www.johnes.org/zoonotic/index.htm.
FREE JOHNE'S DISEASE TEST BROCHURES
The Cattle Site, September 25, 2008
MYCOBACTERIUM AVIUM PARATUBERCULOSIS: INFREQUENT HUMAN PATHOGEN OR PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT?
American Society for Microbiology press release, August 12, 2008
URBAN CHICKEN MOVEMENT IN U.S. CITIES
A growing number of U.S. city-dwellers are keeping chickens, often in violation of local ordinances, according to WorldWatch Institute ( http://www.worldwatch.org/node/23 ). Some cities have changed their laws to permit a limited number of hens while some others are reconsidering their laws. In many cities there are different laws regarding chickens kept for eggs versus those raised for meat. "Raising chickens on a backyard stoop, especially if you have children, is agreeable," said Jac Smit, president of the Urban Agriculture Network, "How you convince the kids you'll cut its neck and eat it is another thing." In some communities, mobile slaughter facilities do the killing and distribute the meat.
The rising popularity of the birds has many city officials concerned about public health, particularly the possibility of lethal strains of avian influenza (although no cases have been reported in the U.S.) Others contend that chickens are no more likely to carry the disease than pigeons and other birds commonly residing in cities. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production reported that intensively confined poultry pose a greater risk for the disease than do outdoor chickens (see: http://tinyurl.com/658l4m ). "When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem," concluded the international sustainable agriculture organization GRAIN in a 2006 report (see: http://tinyurl.com/3k6l4f ).
REPORT: ILLICIT URBAN CHICKEN MOVEMENT GROWING IN US
Christian Science Monitor, Eoin O'Carroll, October 8, 2008
U.S. CITY DWELLERS FLOCK TO RAISING CHICKENS
WorldWatch Institute, Ben Block, October 6, 2008