Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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DECEMBER 15, 2008 -- Number 30, Volume 8

1. SLAUGHTERPLANTS AUDIT RESULTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has released a report of its audit of Hallmark [ http://tinyurl.com/59jlov ] and ten other slaughterplants that handle culled cows. OIG determined that Hallmark employees deliberately acted to evade required animal inspections. It also found that USDA staff failed to comply with required procedures and, in some cases, relegated their responsibilities to company employees. While OIG said that inhumane handling was not found systemwide, it asserts that there is "an inherent vulnerability" for such incidents to occur due to inadequate verification and insufficient training on the part of the USDA. Noting that half of the ten plants audited "failed to gain a passing grade," beef industry columnist Chuck Jolley remarked: "In most industries, a 50% failure rate easily qualifies as a 'systemic' problem." He also notes examples of other federal audits that support this (and see: http://tinyurl.com/6z3852 ).

OIG made 25 recommendations, including that the ban on slaughtering non-ambulatory cattle, proposed by the USDA last August (see: http://tinyurl.com/5b8r4o ), be implemented. (A USDA spokesperson said the ban might have to wait until early 2009.) OIG also recommended appropriate oversight of slaughterplants by the USDA to ensure they comply with the law, and that the Department improve oversight of its own inspection staff. The USDA agreed with the recommendations. It said it will begin distributing quarterly humane handling alerts based on noncompliance data. The Department also said it will complete an analysis by August of unique handling risks associated with culled cattle to determine if more frequent slaughterplant reviews should be conducted. In response to OIG's recommendation that the USDA consider controlled in-plant video monitoring, the Department said it has legal access to company video records and will issue guidelines to ensure they are "trustworthy, accurate and a true representation of the process."

The audit can be accessed at (PDF link): http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-07-KC.pdf. OIG is also conducting a criminal investigation into potential violations of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, as requested by the USDA.

“How widespread is the abuse and what is the beef industry doing to combat the problem?” Chuck Jolley (see above) presents a debate between Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S., and Rosemary Mucklow, Director Emeritus of the National Meat Association: http://tinyurl.com/6qexzv (and see: http://tinyurl.com/5lry36 ). “It’s way past time to put some serious teeth into animal handling practices,” Jolley admonishes, “Everything we need to combat the problem is already on paper somewhere – federal rules and regs, trade association position papers, corporate policies, etc. Let’s dust off all that stuff and put it into action before another ‘anomaly’ surfaces. We do not need another Hallmark, MowMar or Aviagen [see item #2] induced black eye.”


JOLLEY: HALLMARK/WESTLAND MIGHT NOT BE AN ANOMALY ACCORDING TO AN OIG REPORT
CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, December 11, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=275451

FAILURES AT HALLMARK IDENTIFIED
BEEF (source: American Meat Institute), December 10, 2008
http://beefmagazine.com/sectors/processing/1211-hallmark-failures-identified/

 

2. AVIAGEN FIRES ABUSIVE EMPLOYEES; AGENT INTERVIEWED

Aviagen has announced that several employees, including a supervisor, have been fired after having been filmed abusing turkeys (see: http://tinyurl.com/66vvhk ). People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which documented the abuse, is urging authorities to prosecute the accused.

Beef industry columnist Chuck Jolley (see item #1) has published an interview with the PETA investigator. “[B]e forewarned; he’s not through with his undercover video work,” Jolley cautions, “If you’re responsible for what happens at a harvesting facility, I strongly suggest you walk through the plant regularly and randomly. If you witness any abuse, deal with it harshly and immediately.”  


COMPANY FIRES WORKERS FOR ABUSING TURKEYS IN W.VA.
The Associated Press, December 8, 2008
http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20081208/APF/812082407

JOLLEY: FIVE MINUTES WITH PETA'S 'SECRET AGENT'
CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, December 12, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=275959

 

3. THE STATE OF EUROPE’S PIGS

“The pigs looked uncared for, they showed aggressive behaviour and there was nothing for the pigs to do. The floors were bare, space was very limited and the places very dirty,” said an investigator with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). “In general the situation of the pigs was very alike in all countries we visited.” The organization has released a report entitled The State of Europe’s Pigs, after visiting 60 farms in Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. CIWF says it found that 80% of the countries routinely flouted E.U. laws regarding tail-docking and/or environmental enrichment. CIWF released its report in anticipation of a European Commission review next year of European pig welfare regulations. While Britain rated higher than the others “many UK pigs continue to be kept in conditions that are inhumane and unlawful,” CIWF asserts. The report does support the British pig industry’s claim that it faces unfair competition from countries where pigs are treated worse. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (see: http://tinyurl.com/6a8o5q ) is planning to air a program next year comparing conditions between pigs in the U.K. with those elsewhere in Europe.


REVEALED: THE CRUELTY OF UK'S PORK SUPPLIERS
The Independent, Martin Hickman, December 5, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/56ojhg

FRESH-WELFARE-ATTACKS-ON-EUROPEAN-PIG-INDUSTRY
Meat Info, December 10, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/5dcfp9

 

4. EPA MOVES TO EXEMPT CAFOS FROM REPORTING EMISSIONS

On December 5th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied it was considering a tax on greenhouse gas emitted by farmed animals. The agency had been deluged with comments from farmers and ranchers opposing the rumored tax (see also: http://tinyurl.com/5djdne and http://tinyurl.com/62rbo5 ). A week later the EPA put forth a change to the Clean Air Act exempting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, see: http://tinyurl.com/5hlt8f ) from having to report emissions of hazardous gases from animal wastes. The reporting is intended to help emergency responders determine whether crews need to be sent to clean up spills or evacuate/treat people for exposure to the hazards. CAFOs would still need to notify the EPA if the emissions are from sources other than wastes or if the substances are released to soil or water.

The EPA has not set air-quality standards for hazardous gases from farms, although studies indicate the emissions can be higher than workplace exposure limits set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In September, the Government Accountability Office reported that the EPA "does not have the information it needs to effectively regulate" CAFO emissions (see: http://tinyurl.com/5qv4o5 ). The EPA initiated a study of air pollution from poultry farms last year but the results will not be available until some time next year. An analysis of ammonia releases from poultry operations has just been published by the Environmental Integrity Project: http://tinyurl.com/65w5zt. See also: POLLUTION FROM LIVESTOCK FARMING AFFECTS INFANT HEALTH: http://tinyurl.com/5ear9u.

Environmentalists believe the reporting would increase pressure to reduce pollution. Getting the EPA to ease reporting requirements has been a major goal of agriculture lobbyists. An EPA spokesperson said that reporting farm emissions is unnecessary because "there's no way our responders can deal with that.” Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said: "Today's action by the Bush EPA is nothing more than a giveaway to Big Agribusiness at the expense of the public health and of local communities located near large factory farms." He has stated his intention to investigate ways to block or reverse the regulation change when Congress reconvenes in 2009. The rule change was one of dozens of regulations being issued by the waning Bush administration. “If the rules take effect before Obama's inauguration Jan. 20, they can't be blocked by the incoming Democratic administration, and changing or repealing them could take years,” notes the Baltimore Sun.

Other countries are proposing regulating farmed animal gas emissions. It was one of the main topics discussed last week by environmental ministers from 187 countries who met to work out a new treaty on global warming. See: http://tinyurl.com/66xq5c and http://tinyurl.com/5p2xgv

'COW TAX' UPROAR UNDERSCORES GREENHOUSE-GAS DIVIDE
The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Power, December 12, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122913405823603643.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

EPA ISSUES EXEMPTIONS FOR HAZARDOUS WASTE, FACTORY FARMS
Washington Post, R. Jeffrey Smith, December 13, 2008
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/12/AR2008121203826_pf.html

EPA EXEMPTS FACTORY FARMS FROM EMISSIONS REPORTING RULE
The Washington Post, Stephen Power, December 12, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122911925393902761.html

INDUSTRY SEEKS EPA EXEMPTION FROM REPORTING EMISSIONS
Baltimore Sun, Timothy B. Wheeler, December 12, 2008
www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bay_environment/bal-te.md.poultry12dec12,0,7884252.story

 

5. FDA CALLS OFF ANTIBIOTIC BAN

Reversing its bid to end the widespread use of cephalosporin drugs in farmed animals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked a ban on November 25th, five days before it was to go into effect. The FDA had said in July that it wanted to curtail the usage of the potent class of antibiotics due to "the importance of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans." It now says it needs more time to review the many comments it has received on the order.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the ban had come under fire from industry and was criticized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Keep Antibiotics Working -a coalition of health, consumer, agricultural, environmental, humane and other advocacy groups dedicated to eliminating antibiotic resistance- denounced the reversal. The Pew Charitable Trusts's Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming did also, stating: "The misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture helps fuel the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections - a fact long acknowledged by the American Medical Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even the FDA" (see: http://tinyurl.com/6gk59n ). If the FDA does decide to pursue the ban there will be another public comment period.

FDA CALLS OFF BAN ON ANIMAL ANTIBIOTICS
The Wall Street Journal, Alicia Mundy and Jared Favole, December 9, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122887467038993653.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
or
http://tinyurl.com/6yavkb

FDA REVOKES ORDER PROHIBITING EXTRA-LABEL USE OF CEPHALOSPORIN
Feedstuffs, November 25, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/5qkzgq

 

6. ALL IRISH PIG MEAT RECALLED

All pig meat products made in the Irish Republic since September were recalled on December 7th after tests showed some contained up to 200 times more dioxins than the recognized safe limit. Dioxins, chemical contaminants primarily formed during the incineration of chlorinated wastes, affect the nervous system and liver but are said to only be dangerous through prolonged exposure. Officials estimated that 100,000 pigs might be slaughtered due to possible contamination. The source was traced to a single feed mill. Forty-seven farms were identified as possibly having received contaminated feed, including 38 cattle farms. (Ireland has 69,000 beef farms and 400 pig farms. The implicated farms were not named.) The North Ireland government said that none of the pig farms had used the feed, so its pig meat products could be returned to stores or exported. Beef is not being withheld from the market.

Up to 70% of the pig meat was said to be consumed in Ireland with most of the rest sent to the U.K. However, 20 to 25 countries (“certainly less than 30”) were reported as possibly affected. (Some 75,000 pounds of meat have been recalled in the U.S.: http://tinyurl.com/5u73b7 ) In London, the Food Standards Agency “changed its advice to manufacturers and retailers for the third time in a few days,” according to The Guardian: “Over the weekend, the FSA followed advice from the authorities in Dublin that all Irish pork slaughtered after September should be recalled and destroyed. On Monday, that was reversed. On Wednesday evening, the advice changed again with another call for all Irish pork to be recalled, on orders from the European commission. Yesterday, the agency said once more that shops, manufacturers and caterers that could trace products directly back to a farm unaffected by contaminated feed could continue selling them.” Ireland is putting a special label on pig meat to indicate it was not linked to the contaminated feed. Products containing less than 20% Irish pig meat are not being ordered tested or withdrawn.

The Irish government is giving the industry 180 million euros ($232.8 million) to help restart pig slaughtering. The European Commission announced a 15 million euro ($20 million) package for Irish pig meat to be stored while the market recovers.

IRISH WON‘T HALT BEEF SALES DESPITE DIOXIN SCARE
The Associated Press, Shawn Pogatchnik, December 9, 2008
http://www.heraldnewsdaily.com/stories1/index.php?action=fullnews&id=52846

IRISH DIOXIN SCARE SPREADS TO BEEF
CNN, December 9, 2008
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/12/09/ireland.pork.dioxin.scare/

ALL-CLEAR FOR IRISH PORK TO GO BACK ON SHELVES
The Guardian, James Meikle, December 12, 2008
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/12/ireland-fsa-pork-contamination-dioxin

TAINTED IRISH PORK MAY HAVE REACHED 25 NATIONS
Reuters; Andras Gergely and Kate Kelland with Carmel Crimmins, Michael Kahn and Matthew Jones; December 7, 2008
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081207/ts_nm/us_ireland_food_recall

IRELAND GIVES $233 MLN TO RESTART PIG SLAUGHTERING
Reuters, December 11, 2008
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8143691

 




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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.