PETA ACCUSES TYSON OF CRUELTY; WORKER FIRED
“…chickens being cut but not killed by automated knives, having their heads pulled off while still alive and being slaughtered while conscious rather than stunned after an electric bath failed.” These are among the allegations recently leveled against Tyson Foods by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which claims to also have videotape evidence of workers urinating in an area where chickens are kept prior to being slaughtered. The footage (see: http://tinyurl.com/2n6hgj ) is by a PETA investigator who worked at two Tyson plants in Georgia last autumn. Tyson said it is investigating some of the allegations but that others “are being misrepresented and sensationalized by PETA." The company contends the worker violated company policy by not reporting suspected abuse. PETA says he did report it but nothing was done about it.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reportedly visiting both plants “to see if chickens are handled humanely before slaughter, to minimize discomfort and injuries such as broken bones.” The Forsyth County district attorney's office is reviewing PETA's allegations of animal abuse and drug use by slaughterplant employees. In 2005, PETA released a video charging Tyson with cruelty to chickens at an Alabama slaughterplant (see: http://tinyurl.com/3xtc9u ). Tyson is the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. PETA has been protesting the company’s practices for several years and campaigning against KFC, a Tyson customer.
Murphy Family Ventures, supplier of Smithfield Foods, has fired at least one worker for “unacceptable behavior.” The disciplinary action stems from a PETA video said to be of workers abusing pigs at the company’s Garland, N.C. pig breeding facility (see: http://tinyurl.com/2wqouy ).
TYSON PROBES PETA CLAIM
CNN Money (Associated Press), January 17, 2008
USDA INVESTIGATES ANIMAL ABUSE CLAIMS AT TYSON PLANT
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Elizabeth Lee, January 17, 2008
SMITHFIELD HOG GROWER FIRES WORKER FOR ABUSING PIGS
Meating Place, Tom Johnston, January 11, 2008
“[Y]our tax dollars have helped pave the way for the growth of [farmed animal] megafarms by paying farmers to deal with the mountains of excrement that their farms generate. All of this is carried out under the rubric of ‘conservation,’” states this article (replete with photograph) in the business section of The New York Times. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was initiated as part of the 1996 farm bill. The government agreed to pay up to 75% of a conservation project, with payments limited to $10,000 annually. In the 2002 farm bill, “at the livestock industry’s behest,” the $200 million program was increased to $1.3 billion, and large-scale farmed animal operations once ineligible for EQIP were urged to participate. Many farmers now use EQIP money ($179 million in 2006) for waste management, including manure storage lagoons.
“Why should taxpayers foot the bill for manure lagoons…? Why should taxpayers subsidize expansion of livestock farms? And…shouldn’t the polluters have to pay for the mess that they created, rather than the taxpayers?” asks the article. Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition contends: “You shouldn’t be justifying [lagoons] as a conservation payment. You are building things that have been proven time and time again to cause severe environmental damage when they misfunction.” The National Milk Producers Federation argues that bigger facilities deserve more EQIP money because they are subject to the strictest regulations. Environmentalists are divided on the use of EQIP money for manure management on mega-farms. Congress is preparing to renew and possibly expand EQIP. Concludes the article: “[I]f Congress is to keep sending taxpayer money to farmers to build manure lagoons, it may want to consider a more honest name for the program. How about “Factory Farm Incentive Program”?
IN THE FARM BILL, A CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON?
The New York Times (The Feed), Andrew Martin, January 13, 2008
THE PLIGHT OF CALVES IN EUROPE
The dairy industry impregnates cows in order to cause them to produce milk. In the United Kingdom (U.K.), some 500,000 male calves are also produced as a result, whom neither the dairy or beef industry want. Instead, an estimated one- to two-thirds of them are shot as newborns while 60,000 to 70,000 travel up to 100 hours to Spain or Italy to be raised and made into veal. The number exported is expected to increase to at least 200,000. The treatment these calves receive has resulted in veal accounting for only 0.1% of the meat bought in Britain.
However, with the support of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), “ethical” veal is making a comeback there. "We support eating British veal if the calf is reared to the highest standards," a CIWF spokesperson stated, “There are still some issues with veal reared in this country, but it is so much better than veal reared on the continent." In the U.K., calves raised for veal are legally required to have bedding, more space (comparison at: http://tinyurl.com/2rzkfy) and a better diet. See also “The Big Debate: AGAINST Live Exports” at: http://tinyurl.com/2my2bd.
CIWF is working with industry, retailers, the government and academics to find alternatives for the calves and to end the shooting of infant calves and the long distance transport of others. Asda (part of Wal-Mart) is backing the development of “single-sex semen” so only female calves are produced. Tesco, another supermarket chain, plans to carry only veal made from British calves. This is said to have been made possible because its milk suppliers have agreed to not export calves. According to the National Farmers’ Union, low demand is more of a barrier to raising calves for veal in the U.K. than are higher welfare standards. Even a large growth in veal from calves raised in the U.K. is not expected to substantially reduce the number of calves exported, so new markets for other beef are also being sought. See also: “Now We're to Eat More Veal - as Well as Everything Else that Moves. I'm Sick of this Raving Mad Meat Industry”: http://tinyurl.com/27wap7
BBC3'S KILL IT, COOK IT, EAT IT FOCUS ON VEAL
Compassion in World Farming, January 11, 2008
WHAT IS 'ETHICAL' VEAL?
BBC News, January 21, 2008
SUPERMARKETS BACK DRIVE TO CHANGE MINDS ON REARING VEAL
Guardian, James Meikle, January 21, 2008
CHEFS GETTING INVOLVED WITH ANIMALS
“Some agricultural ethicists believe that if animals could lead comfortable lives and die completely free of fear and pain, raising and killing them would not pose an ethical problem…Others maintain that killing animals is inherently unethical because it cuts off their opportunities for ‘future good experiences,’” Dr. Richard Haynes, the editor of the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, explains, as stated in this New York Times article. In the United Kingdom, “Leading chefs…seem to be wallowing in — and advertising — a new intimacy with the animals they cook,” the article notes. In the recently broadcast tv show, “Jamie’s Fowl Dinners” (see: http://tinyurl.com/2oskgp ), chef Jamie Oliver cut the throat of a chicken and suffocated male chicks, among other “shocking” scenes. (Oliver also used a computer-altered baby photo of himself “grossly engorged” to convey the rapid growth of a modern bred baby chick.) Oliver said he wanted people to realize that meat entails killing an animal, and that most chickens live miserable lives due to consumers demand for inexpensive meat.
The article goes on to discuss a growing number of American chefs who are involving themselves in the lives of animals they later use as food. Explained one meat entrepreneur: “For the most part, we in the meat industry live in a world of half-truths, like ‘natural,’ ‘family farmed,’ and ‘humanely raised,’ and the only thing we can really trust is what we see.” Seattle chef Tamara Murphy visited piglets weekly after their birth and then accompanied them to the slaughterplant. “The hardest part of the slaughter was the betrayal,” she said, noting how the pigs had followed her to their death out of the trust they had developed in her. She called the dinner she used them in “a Celebration of the Life of a Pig.”
CHEFS’ NEW GOAL: LOOKING DINNER IN THE EYE
The New York Times, Julia Moskin, January 16, 2008
Continuing its Big Food Fight series (see item #4), the U.K.’s Channel 4 featured novice pig farmer Tom Hodgkinson, who “discovered that meat is not murder, it's justifiable homicide.” Referring to the pigs, he states: “…if we weren't going to eat them, they wouldn't have existed in the first place.” Hodgkinson points to philosopher Roger Scruton’s outline of “morally correct meat eating” for “conscientious carnivores.” Scruton has written that, traditionally: "The animal brought to the table will have enjoyed the friendship and protection of the one who nurtured him, and his death will be like the ritual sacrifices described in the Bible and Homeric literature - a singling out of a victim, for an important office to which a kind of honour is attached." He further quotes Scruton: "Duty requires us therefore, to eat our friends." Hodgkinson brushes over the argument for vegetarianism with brief remarks on world hunger and reducing the demand for “factory-farmed” meat.
Hodgkinson describes the “humane and painless” way his “beasts,” Gnasher and Rasher, were killed: “…they were shot in the head with a pistol, while the man with the gun stroked their heads. One squealed for a few seconds before dying, the other simply dropped to the ground. Then each animal was tied by its back legs to the tractor and hoisted into the air. There was quite a bit of kicking. I was struck by the calm gentleness of the whole operation.” He remarks: “What was surprising was the amount of tenderness that we felt towards the animals when they were killed.” Hodgkinson continues: “Keeping them was a great pleasure and eating them an even greater one. I'd recommend it to anyone.” He cautions, however: “You are not allowed to kill and share your own pigs or eat them with friends and family.” A two-year old law requires they be killed in a slaughterplant. A forum on the article is also on the Channel 4 website.
THE BIG FOOD FIGHT
Channel 4, Tom Hodgkinson, January 14, 2008