Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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NOVEMBER 26, 2008 -- Number 29, Volume 8

1. TURKEY ABUSE EXPOSED; INDUSTRY ADVISED

“The scenes show stomach-turning brutality,” states a New York Times article about a recent video covertly made at West Virginia (W.V.) turkey facility. “Workers are seen smashing birds into loading cages like basketballs, stomping heads and breaking necks, apparently for fun, even pretending to rape one. On the tape, one worker describes losing his temper at a tom who pecked him, marking its head with a pen so he could find it again, fetching a broomstick, ramming it down the bird’s gullet and holding it up in the air while shouting `Let this be a lesson to y’all’ at the rest of the flock. His supervisor later excuses such behavior by saying, `Every once and a while, everybody gets agitated and has to kill a bird.’ Noting that only two of his crew `really like to do it’ he says they are otherwise steady workers and adds: `As long as they don’t do it a lot, I don’t really say too much about it.’”  The video can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/5vpx9l.

The video was made by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who worked at Aviagen, which supplies most of the turkeys used for breeding in the U.S. and bills itself as “the world’s leading poultry-breeding company.” Aviagen said it has suspended a supervisor and could fire other workers depending on its investigation. PETA is seeking prosecution of the employees. Felony animal cruelty charges in W.V. can result in one to three years in prison and fines of up to $5000. (A PETA investigation at Pilgrim’s Pride plant in W.V. in 2004 resulted in 11 employees being fired and animal handling training at all of the company’s North American operations. None of the workers were indicted by a grand jury convened in 2005. See: http://tinyurl.com/6ypjg7 ).

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) spokesperson questioned PETA timing in coming forth with the video, accusing the organization of using the investigation as “public relations propaganda.” PETA responded: "We did actually complain about it more than a month ago and nothing changed…The company president responded to our letter and said they would take appropriate action, but the gratuitous abuse continued." PETA is requesting that NTF put in place a 7-point plan (see first link above for details).

“This has got to stop and the major trade organizations…have got to put some serious teeth into their animal welfare positions,” admonished Chuck Jolley, a columnist with CattleNetwork. In order for industry to avoid future scandals, Jolley advises trade organizations “give their members just 30 days to make sure the strictest compliance rules are in place and all employees – top to bottom - are fully aware of those rules and any abuse means instant dismissal.” He continues, “Trade associations have to audit their membership, expel the sinners and be ready to publicize what they’ve done or turn over that responsibility to Federal, state and local authorities.” Jolley also alludes to video cameras being placed where abuse might happen, and he calls for criminal charges to be filed against the Aviagen workers and their supervisors.


GROUP DOCUMENTS CRUELTY TO TURKEYS
The New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr., November 19, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/dining/19peta.html

ANIMAL RIGHTS VIDEO SHOWS TURKEY ABUSE IN W.VA.
Associated Press, November 19, 2008
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/11/19/ap5717650.html

JOLLEY: GETTING DEAD SERIOUS ABOUT ANIMAL WELFARE
CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, November 19, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?contentid=270322

JOLLEY: GETTING DEAD SERIOUS ABOUT ANIMAL WELFARE, TAKE 2
CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, November 24, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=271220

 

2. PICKENS OFFERS REFUGE FOR WILD HORSES

At a public hearing on November 17th, Madeleine Pickens made known her intentions to rescue some 30,000 horses and burros now in federal holding pens, including about 2,000 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was planning to kill (see: http://tinyurl.com/5t7h7q ). The equines had been rounded up from public land to prevent them from competing with cattle who are grazed on it. Adoptions have fallen off and the cost of keeping the horses has risen from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007. The situation was deemed a “crisis” in a recent report by the Government Accountability Office. The report said the BLM lacked a coherent nationwide management policy and recommended that alternatives to killing and adoption be investigated. The BLM fears public outrage if the horses are killed and rancher outrage if they are turned loose. Additionally, some 19 million acres of wild horse habitat have been removed from the BLM program (and see: http://tinyurl.com/69exxu ).

The BLM has agreed to give the horses to Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, when she obtains land (some million acres) to be used as a sanctuary for them and future horses removed from the wild (more at: http://tinyurl.com/5frjur ). The horses are then to be sterilized. The BLM has said that roundups next year will be limited to about 5,000 horses. Horse protection advocates fault government estimates of horse numbers and claim they are biased in favor of ranching interests. Some are calling for the horses to be sterilized and returned to the wild. They also want tax incentives for owners of private land who allow wild horses to live on it. In a November 20th editorial, the New York Times applauded Pickens’s plan and opined: “Sterilization is the best solution for long-term wild horse management…The bureau also needs to consider buying back some of its range permits from cattle ranchers...The bureau then could leave wild horses on the range…until aggressive contraception comes into play.” People on all sides of the issue agree that basic changes are needed.


A DRAMATIC RESCUE FOR DOOMED WILD HORSES OF THE WEST
Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton, November 18, 2008
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/17/AR2008111703680.html?hpid=topnews

TYCOON’S WIFE TO BUY LAND AS A REFUGE FOR WILD HORSES
The New York Times (Associated Press), November 19, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/us/19horses.html?_r=2

WILD HORSES
The New York Times, Editorial, November 20, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/opinion/20thu4.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=horses&st=cse

 

3. FOIA REQUEST REVEALS GRAPHIC HORSE ABUSE; EUROPEAN DOSSIER

Thirty-six months after making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Animals' Angels has received over 900 pages of documents and photographs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture taken during 2005 at the now-defunct Beltex horse slaughterplant in Texas (see: http://tinyurl.com/35ub2n ). The graphic photos show horses with open fractures, missing legs, battered and bloody faces, dangling eyes and horses who appears to be bleeding to death. (Photos and video at: http://tinyurl.com/6lwmse ) The documentation “provides unimpeachable evidence for the immediate ban on the slaughter of American horses,” states Animals’ Angels. The organization is investigating whether actions were taken against anyone for the abuse. It is also urging the passage of the Prevention of Equines Cruelty Act (H.R. 6598: http://tinyurl.com/6y3owp ), which prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and the export of horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico. The bill made progress this year but was stalled in the Agriculture Committee and will have to be reintroduced next year. The number of horses exported for slaughter has risen substantially after U.S. horse slaughterplants were closed last year.

In Europe, World Horse Welfare (WHW) announced it has, over seven years, compiled a dossier of evidence of welfare assaults entailed in the long-distance transport of horses to slaughter (see: http://tinyurl.com/2rfmbe ). "Our evidence of injury, extreme exhaustion, dehydration and stress demonstrates that existing safeguards are not sufficient in protecting horses from suffering and in addition, they are not being effectively enforced,” the organization stated. WHW is calling for journey limits and stricter enforcement by the European Commission. It says horses should be slaughtered prior to transport and their flesh sent instead.


RESULTS FROM FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST SHOW SEVERE ABUSE PREVIOUSLY UNDISCLOSED
Animals’ Angels, November 2008
http://www.freewebs.com/equinecrusaders/crueltyreport.htm

MORE HORSES SENT ABROAD FOR SLAUGHTER AFTER US BAN
Associated Press, Nate Jenkins, November 26, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/6qbwa6

'HORSE SLAUGHTER CRUELTY MUST END'
Sky News, Greg Milam, November 18, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/5gyg9s

 

4. HARMFUL BREEDING

The breeding of the billions of chickens produced for food each year is controlled by a few corporations using relatively very few birds. The level of inbreeding was already 10% prior to the advent of the modern poultry industry, which further pushed it to 15%. Inbreeding of chickens has resulted in hens used for egg production losing 90% of the genes found in their ancestral populations - a loss of 90% of their potential genetic diversity. Chickens bred for meat production have lost at least 30%. This intensive breeding for food-production traits is at the expense of other traits, such as those involving animals’ immunity and well-being. Scientists are now attempting to reintroduce ancestral genes into chickens in order to make them more resistant to stress and disease but without also introducing undesired traits. 

Animal scientist at the Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, published a plea for the inclusion of robustness in farmed animal breeding programs. They point out that breeding for increased production coupled with intensified confinement housing have resulted in increases of behavioral, physiological, and immunological disorders which deleteriously affect the health and welfare of the animals. Noting that robustness involves traits that are significant for health and welfare, the scientists contend: “in order to be ethically acceptable, selective breeding in animal production should accept robustness as a breeding goal.”

CHICKEN GENOME PLUCKED BARE BY INBREEDING
New Scientist, Debora MacKenzie, November 4, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/6xtpxv

A PLEA TO IMPLEMENT ROBUSTNESS INTO A BREEDING GOAL: POULTRY AS AN EXAMPLE
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, L. Star and E. D. Ellen, April, 2008
http://www.springerlink.com/content/j1270385531m2151/

 

5. ORGANIC GRAZING RULES

The public’s desire that cows used in organic milk production be allowed to graze has been made clear, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a recent notice published in the Federal Register. In response to an earlier notice, only 28 out of more than 80,500 comments were opposed to tightening the grazing rules for organic production. The action was taken because some dairies were flouting the grazing provision of the government’s organic standards due to their lack of specificity as to what “access to pasture” means (see: http://tinyurl.com/6y6hk9 ). The draft rules require the cows be on pasture at least 120 days of the year and that 30% of the cows’ food be from grazing. Organic advocates are pleased but note other concerns, such as the need for flexibility in regard to weather extremes and the existing allowance for conventionally raised heifers. Also of concern are provisions regarding other organic industries that were newly added to the rule (which has been eight years in the making). The proposed rule is on-line at: http://tinyurl.com/6afqtn. Comments are due by December 23rd.

Organic dairy products are a $2.7 billion industry, constituting about 4% of all dairy products sold in 2006. There are about 1,800 dairies with some 87,000 organic cows in the U.S. Although more than 93% of them are in the Northeast or Midwest, the 7% in the West account for a third of production. The number of big organic dairies has grown from two in 2000 to 14 or 15 today. They produce about 40% of the organic milk supply.

120 DAYS OF GRASS PROPOSED FOR ORGANIC MILK COWS
Associated Press, Steve Karnowski, November 18, 2008
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2008-11-18-organic-milk-cows_N.htm

USDA TRYING TO PUT LOOPHOLE IN ORGANIC DAIRY RULES OUT TO PASTURE
Washington Post/Bloomberg News, Cindy Skrzycki, November 4, 2008
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/03/AR2008110303000_pf.html

 

6. THANKSGIVING CREATIVITY

See the first source below for a meat-free turkey slideshow and other vegetarian Thanksgiving fare.

The second source is an article telling about how some hotels are creating special vegetarian menus to cater to a wider clientele.

TURKEY-ISH DELIGHT
Grist, Ashley Braun, November 25, 2008
http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/11/24/142111/18?source=daily

VEGETARIAN APPEAL: HOTELS CREATING TURKEY FREE THANKSGIVING MEALS
Hotel Interactive, Caryn Eve Murray, November 25, 2008
http://www.hotelinteractive.com/article.aspx?articleid=12211







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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.