GRUESOME INVESTIGATION USED TO PROMOTE PROP 2
“[F]our to six hens crowded into cages the size of a file drawer. Some hens are bleeding or have open wounds; a few are trapped in the opening to the egg conveyor…workers swinging chickens violently to break their necks, then discarding them, still alive, on the ground. Gasping chickens struggle among piles of already dead birds,” relates the Los Angeles Times. These images [and many more] were allegedly obtained by an investigator with Mercy for Animals (MFA) at Norco Ranch in California during August and September. "[A]nyone that watches the footage would have some serious questions about food safety after seeing bodies rotting in cages, older birds covered in cobwebs and eggs crawling with mites," said MFA’s Nathan Runkle. The footage, the investigator’s journal and more are viewable at: http://mercyforanimals.org/norco/.
The footage is being distributed by the pro-Proposition 2 campaign (see: http://tinyurl.com/572tvb ). Norco Ranch referred calls about it to the No on Prop. 2 campaign. Norco is owned by MoArk (see: http://tinyurl.com/5h5vah ), the top contributor the campaign. The video was "a dubious, cynical, politically motivated effort," a campaign spokesperson said. The facility had been inspected by the county one day during the alleged investigation. Its handling of hens was deemed appropriate and in conformance with industry-accepted standards (see: http://tinyurl.com/6n9d5t ). Moark’s president and CEO told KGO-TV that the video doesn’t capture the entirety of the Norco operation. He said workers there sign a code of conduct and that an investigation is being undertaken to determine if any of them should be fired.
FOOTAGE OF MISTREATED HENS RELEASED IN SUPPORT OF PROPOSITION 2
The Los Angeles Times, Howard Blume, October 14, 2008
UNDERCOVER VIDEO OF BLOODIED AND BATTERED HENS AIDS PROP. 2
Sacramento Bee, Shane Goldmacher, October 14, 2008
EGGS FOR YOUR BREAKFAST
KGO-TV, October 13, 2008
PROP 2 DEBATED ON OPRAH, DISCUSSED ON ELLEN
On Tuesday, October 14th, a panel discussion about Proposition 2 was hosted on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The program is “the highest-rated talk show in American television history,” averaging some 8 to 12.5 million viewers (http://tinyurl.com/6mgtcx). Entitled “How We Treat the Animals We Eat,” the show’s guests included Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the U.S., New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Krisof (see: http://tinyurl.com/5jhxko ), and opponents of Prop 2. A slideshow of the program, including investigative reporter Lisa Ling’s visits to intensive confinement facilities and free-range farms, is viewable on the Oprah website: http://tinyurl.com/5enrxg.
On her blog, Ling states: “When I visited the caged egg and pig farms, I was shocked by how efficient, mechanical and computerized everything was. They were literally churning out product at rapid-fire pace...animal product. I must say that it was hugely eye-opening to see 90 thousand hens under one roof. There were 6 to a tiny cage, all on top of each other, fed antibiotics--covered in feces. It wasn't exactly, the wide-open space farm that I envisioned… Anyone who says that it is anything other than the wholesale factorization of living things is fooling themselves.” Noting that she hasn’t stopped eating eggs or pig meat, Ling writes that she “can't help but wonder what would happen if we just produced less. Would we need to run the animal/meat industry like factorized machines? Might we waste less? Might we be less...fat? Would that be so bad?” See also item #6 and More Than One Way To Raise A Hog: http://tinyurl.com/6yve4t.
Ellen Degeneres had Wayne Pacelle on her popular television show on September 26th to discuss Proposition 2. She has also made a public service announcement in support of the ballot initiative: http://tinyurl.com/5ta3rb and promotes Prop 2 on her website: http://tinyurl.com/6qsokd.
Lisa Ling, blog, October 11, 2008
NORTH AMERICAN EGG SITUATION
The U.S. egg industry continues to consolidate. Some 200 companies have an average flock size of one million hens in a single location, with the top 60 companies producing 85% of all eggs. At the International Egg Commission’s annual meeting, held last month in China, it was noted that animal welfare activists in the U.S. and Canada are actively opposing battery cages. Proposed amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code have egg companies there worried. The U.S. egg industry is planning a strategic conference after the presidential election to plan for the future. In Mexico, many farms are being run as they were 3 or 4 decades ago, although there are some more modern large facilities. The country, which has the world’s highest per capita egg consumption (at nearly one a day), imports 50% of its grain from the U.S. and is not a major egg exporter. The Mexican egg industry is challenged by sanitary problems, and while it recognizes animal welfare issues they are said to not currently be a concern of Mexican consumers.
IEC PARTICIPANTS LOOK AT INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENTS IN NORTH AMERICA
The Poultry Site, Terry Evans, October 2008
CANADIAN ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS RANKED
Canada’s animal protection laws have been ranked in a “first of its kind” report for the nation. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) based its rankings “on a detailed comparative analysis of the animal protection laws of each jurisdiction, researching eleven distinct categories of provisions throughout hundreds of pages of statutes.” Farmed animals are included in the consideration. According to an ALDF spokesperson: “Specifically, we looked at which animals were included in the definition of ‘animal’ used; whether the protection laws applied to all, or select, species of animals; and finally, what, if any, statutory exemptions to the laws (e.g. ‘traditional animal husbandry practices’ etc.) were included." The report includes a rankings map and an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the laws of each province and territory. (Manitoba scored the highest, Ontario the lowest.)
2008 CANADIAN ANIMAL PROTECTION LAWS RANKINGS
Animal Legal Defense Fund, June 9, 2008
WTO RULES ON BEEF BAN
In a mixed ruling, the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s top court largely backed Canada and the U.S. in an appeal regarding a European ban on beef from the two countries produced with administered growth hormones. The E.U. banned the beef in the 1980s citing cancer fears. In 1996, Canada and the U.S. claimed the ban violated international trade rules. The WTO authorized the two countries to impose sanctions (worth some $126 million annually) on pig meat and certain other products from the E.U. The sanctions went into effect in 1999.
The E.U. amended its ban in 2003, citing new research that it said found overwhelming evidence that one of the hormones caused cancer and gene damage and substantial evidence that five other hormones could harm human health (see also: http://tinyurl.com/5ouh9w ). In March of 2008, the WTO ruled that the E.U. risk assessment failed to justify the ban. It also faulted Canada and the U.S. for having retained the sanctions without undertaking proper legal proceedings.
Subsequently, Brussels appealed the decision, arguing that its ban on the beef was scientifically sound and thus legal, and that the WTO should have explicitly ordered Canada and the U.S. to lift the sanctions. On October 16th, the appeals court reversed the ruling that Canada and the U.S. had been wrong to independently retain the sanctions. However, it also faulted the original panel for some of its conclusions on the E.U.'s 2003 risk assessment but said it was not able itself to undertake the analysis. The complete reports from the WTO appeals court are on-line at: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news08_e/320abr_321abr_e.htm.
U.S. AND CANADA WIN EU BEEF HORMONE APPEAL AT WTO
Reuters, Jonathan Lynn with Andrew Roche, October 16, 2008
POLLAN ADVISES FUTURE PRESIDENT ON FOOD MATTERS; FOOD, INC.
The October 12th issue of the New York Times Magazine, entitled The Food Issue, states: “International food prices spiked almost 40 percent last year, indicating that the monetary price is finally catching up with the true costs of cheap food: obesity in the U.S., malnutrition in developing countries and environmental degradation everywhere.” The issue is devoted to these problems and possible solutions to them. It features a lengthy open letter to the U.S. president-to-be by food writer Michael Pollan (http://tinyurl.com/2xygyp ), who advises a radical shift in national food policies.
The way food is grown, processed, and eaten greatly impacts such major issues as U.S. foreign and trade policies, energy dependence, climate change and the health care crisis, Pollan points out. “[C]heap food is only cheap because of government handouts and regulatory indulgence…not to mention the exploitation of workers, animals and the environment on which its putative ‘economies’ depend. Cheap food is food dishonestly priced — it is in fact unconscionably expensive,” he states. Intensive confinement animal agriculture is possible only due to subsidized grain, the routine use of antibiotics (“without which the animals in these places could not survive their crowded, filthy and miserable existence”*), and the lack of regulations regarding the pollution it creates, all to which Pollan objects.
* See items #1 and #2
“The current food system — characterized by monocultures of corn and soy in the field and cheap calories of fat, sugar and feedlot meat on the table…is the product of a specific set of government policies that sponsored a shift from solar (and human) energy on the farm to fossil-fuel energy,” Pollan explains. His core advice is to revert back to solar-powered agriculture, which, among other things, “will generate tens of millions of new ‘green jobs.’” This will largely entail returning farmed animals to pasture systems, which in turn calls for the reestablishment of regional slaughterplants and the establishment of a fleet of mobile slaughter operations. “Nothing would do more to make regional, grass-fed meat fully competitive in the market with feedlot meat,” Pollan contends. Presidential support of hunting is also recommended as “a particularly sustainable way to eat meat.”
Pollan counsels the future president: “You will need to make the case that paying the real cost of meat, and therefore eating less of it, is a good thing for our health, for the environment, for our dwindling reserves of fresh water and for the welfare of the animals.” Among his many recommendations is government support of a secondary bar code including one for animal products that, when scanned, will show descriptions of the animals’ diet and drug history along with live video feeds of where they live(d) and the slaughterplant where they are killed. Pollan further recommends that the surgeon general take over from the Department of Agriculture the job of communicating dietary information to the public. He also suggests that the White House practice and publicize the observance of one meatless day per week.
Elsewhere in the magazine, self-described flexitarian Robert Kenner is interviewed about his new documentary, “Food, Inc.”: http://www.takepart.com/foodinc. Asked if he is worried about being sued by Perdue or Tyson, Kenner responds: “Everyone sues. The companies talked to me on the phone, and some even had dinner with us, but they didn’t want to be on camera. Can you blame them? A positive review in Variety says the film ‘does for the supermarket what “Jaws” did for the beach.’ It takes the depiction of the poultry industry to a new level of menace. Some of these chicken houses have 27,000 chickens stuffed in a room without light. They’re designed to grow as rapidly as possible, and their bones cannot keep up with growth. Some of them are too heavy to stand.” Kenner asserts: “…consumers have a lot of power. We get to vote three times a day when we go food shopping. So go vote for fair food!”
See also: Two Takes On World Food Day
THE FOOD ISSUE
NYT Magazine October 12, 2008
FARMER IN CHIEF
The New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan, October 9, 2008
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
The New York Times Magazine, interview by Deborah Solomon, October 12, 2008