Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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MARCH 7, 2008 -- Number 8, Volume 8

1. POULTRY RULED NOT “LIVESTOCK”

Chickens and other birds raised for food are not “livestock,” and therefore are not protected by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), a judge has ruled. U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel dismisses a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and East Bay Animal Advocates against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, see: http://tinyurl.com/39ww56). The organizations based their argument on a 1958 dictionary definition of “livestock” [the same year the Act was passed]. The USDA countered that, internally, the term had been meant to exclude birds. Judge Patel concurred, writing: "The plain language of these bills indicates that Congress intended to exclude poultry from the definition of livestock when it enacted H.R. 8308, the bill that eventually became the HMSA."


JUDGE RULES POULTRY ARE NOT 'LIVESTOCK'
Meating Place, Alicia Karapetian, March 5, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=202983

 

2. CALIFORNIA BALLOT INITATIVE MOVES FORWARD

Nearly 800,000 signatures have been handed in to authorities in an initiative to have a question placed on the California ballot this November (see: http://tinyurl.com/324hdf). Supporters are confident that the 433,971 valid signatures needed to qualify have been obtained. The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would, as of 2015, ban battery cages, gestation crates, and crates for calves used for veal.

Of particular interest is the effect the potential law would have on the egg industry. More than 90% of the 19 million hens used for egg production in California are kept in battery cages. Californians for Sound Farm Animal Agriculture, a group formed to fight the initiative, warns that higher prices are inevitable if the cages are banned. According to a University of California (UC) study, prices will rise by less than a penny per egg, notes Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the U.S. This equates to a 27% cost increase to consumers, responds Joy Mench, director of UC’s Center for Animal Welfare. She said that reasons for the cages include to keep the birds out of their droppings and to reduce broken bones (caused by calcium depletion from egg laying) and injuries from aggression. Shapiro countered that the latter can be curbed with beak trimming and by separating aggressive hens. He also notes that uncaged hens have stronger bones from exercise. 

In an article entitled “Initiatives are Battle for the Country,” Feedstuffs, a leading industry publication, states: “Ballot or legislative proposals that are being pursued in [California, Colorado, New Hampshire and Washington] would effectively make egg producers transition housing to cage-free egg production systems.” The article includes results from an economic analysis of the potential costs to industry in those states. The American Egg Board (AEB) approved a resolution last November to reserve $3 million to oppose the California initiative. Californians for Humane Farms is threatening to sue AEB if it spends money that way. As a commodity promotion program created by Congress, AEB is prohibited from engaging in political activities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the AEB, has been asked to enforce the laws prohibiting illegal political activity by it.


HUMANE SOCIETY SEEKS CAGE-FREE FARMS
The Argus, Suzanne Bohan, February 29, 2008
http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/localnews/ci_8404316

INITIATIVES ARE 'BATTLE FOR THE COUNTRY'
Feedstuffs, March 3, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/32rgy6

AMERICAN EGG BOARD FACES LAWSUIT OVER ILLEGAL POLITICAL EXPENDITURES IN OPPOSITION TO CALIFORNIA ANTI-CRUELTY INITIATIVE
Farm Sanctuary, March 6, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/37wfff

 

3. HALLMARK UPDATE

I.  Industry Repercussions
“U.S. animal agriculture is under attack as never before and industry must immediately explain its management practices to the American public, say observers,” notes Meat & Poultry. The industry publication cautions that the Hallmark case (see: http://tinyurl.com/34gyxv) “will likely lead to significant changes in regulations that govern the U.S. meat and livestock industry.” It notes a few possibilities, going on to also list “Several animal husbandry practices [that] might come under greater scrutiny by animal activist groups and federal authorities.” The Hallmark/Westland recall is the first in U.S. history to be made on the grounds of animal abuse. Industry is attempting to calm consumers by downplaying food safety concerns. However, by doing so, meat companies’ recall insurance, which covers recalls due to food-safety reasons, may not be applicable.

II.  Congressional Recommendations; CEO Subpoenaed
Members of a Congressional subcommittee used a February 26th hearing on food safety to renew calls for: banning all meat from non-ambulatory cattle from the food supply, mandatory traceback standards, mandatory recall authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the creation of a single food-safety agency (see: http://tinyurl.com/2o2pd5). Steve Mendell, the CEO of Hallmark/Westland declined the committee’s request that he testify. He has since been subpoenaed to appear at a March 12th hearing.

III. HSUS Sues USDA
The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) is suing the USDA for changing slaughter regulations last year (see: http://tinyurl.com/3b36ww). The organization says the change created a legal loophole through which some non-ambulatory, potentially ill cattle are passed into the food supply. The suit claims the rule change gave industry financial incentive to send ailing cattle to slaughter. It also contends that the public was not given the legally required time to comment prior to the change. Industry had lobbied USDA for the change, arguing that the 2004 ban on all non-ambulatory cattle caused injured but otherwise healthy animals to be unnecessarily barred from being used as food, a point it still maintains.

IV.  USDA Action; AMI Recommendations
The USDA says the existing law is adequate. However, it has said it will take other steps, including interim ones. For example, inspectors are to monitor animal treatment more randomly in order to prevent slaughterplant workers from anticipating their arrival (see: http://tinyurl.com/2o2pd5). Cameras might also be placed in some 800 slaughterplants to observe the handling of cattle (as suggested by a Senate committee three years ago). The American Meat Institute is advocating more training for animal handlers and inspectors, and third-party random checks of producers and handlers. As many as 20% of producers are ‘still behaving badly,’ estimates Temple Grandin: http://tinyurl.com/3dwugp

V.  Contradiction & Accusations
Controversy continues over the timing of the USDA being alerted to the cow abuse at Hallmark, with conflicting statements by HSUS and the San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney. A leading industry publication claims there is question (though it doesn’t say by whom) as to whether the video evidence was staged. It also mentions questioning of whether the two fired employees intentionally participated in making the video [one of the two is an illegal immigrant with pending drug charges], as well as the possible involvement of USDA inspectors. Elsewhere it was reported that the aforementioned employee said his boss’s supervisor demanded the abusive behavior that his whole crew engaged in it and that most of his former co-workers were also here illegally. At least two federal inspectors, including a veterinarian, who worked at the slaughterplant have been placed on paid leave.

VI.  Non-ambulatory Cattle
The number of non-ambulatory cattle in the U.S. sent to slaughterplants is estimated at nearly a half million per year. Temple Grandin believes 90% of non-ambulatory cow incidents are preventable, with 5-10% of dairies responsible for 90-95% of the cases. A 1999 analysis found that an average profit of $28.70 was made for each non-ambulatory cow who was marketed. In a cost-benefit analysis, attorney Bill Marler, who specializes in food-borne illness cases, writes: “Weighing the pros and the cons, we can conclude that the payoff of including downers [in the food supply] is, at best, illusory, and, at worst, depressing prices in the whole industry…Animals will receive better and more humane treatment if downers are prevented and when a non-ambulatory condition does occur, put down on the farm.” See also How 'Downer' Cows Enter Food Chain: Emaciated, Calcium-Depleted Dairy Cattle are Turned into Meat” at http://tinyurl.com/2m4ozh and see: http://tinyurl.com/39lysp

VII. Additional Information
The Congressional Research Service has released a report detailing the issue, entitled “USDA MEAT INSPECTION AND THE HUMANE METHODS OF SLAUGHTER ACT”
{NOTE: PDF} - http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RS22819_20080226.pdf 

See also: FILM PROMPTED FIRST HUMANE SLAUGHTER LAW
Associated Press, Frederic J. Frommer, February 27, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2sv5ra
And: DOLE RECALLS WORK ON HUMANE SLAUGHTER
Forbes/Associated Press, Frederic J. Frommer, February 28, 2008
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/02/28/ap4709678.html

And see: MADHOUSE MEATS
Tony Auth, Tony Auth, February 19, 2008
http://www.gocomics.com/tonyauth/2008/02/19/

MARKET FALLOUTS BEGINNING TO SHOW
Meat & Poultry, Steve Bjerklie, February 29, 2008
http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/beyond_stories.asp?ArticleID=91671

HALLMARK/WESTLAND TO HAVE FAR-REACHING IMPACT
Meat & Poultry, Steve Kay, March 4, 2008
http://www.meatpoultry.com/news/headline_stories.asp?ArticleID=91794

HUMANE SOCIETY GRILLED ON NOT ADVISING USDA ABOUT HALLMARK
Meating Place, Janie Gabbett, February 26, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=200818

MORE BRANDS ADDED TO HALLMARK/WESTLAND RECALL, CEO TO BE SUBPOENAED
Meating Place, Lisa M. Keefe, March 4, 2008
http://www.cattlenetwork.com/beef_cattle_hot_topics_Content.asp?ContentID=202662

HUMANE SOCIETY SUES U.S. IN CATTLE CASE
The New York Times, Andrew Martin, February 28, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/business/28beef.html

HUMANE SOCIETY SUES USDA OVER DOWNER COW RULES
Associated Press, Gillian Flaccus, February 27, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/33a2kh

AGRICULTURE DEPT. VOWS TO IMPROVE ANIMAL WELFARE
The New York Times, Andrew Martin, February 29, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2rqx79

USDA COULD INSTALL CAMERAS IN SLAUGHTERHOUSES
CNN, David Fitzpatrick, March 6, 2008
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/06/meat.cameras/index.html

IN WAKE OF HALLMARK, AMI CALLS FOR TRAINING AND RANDOM 3RD PARTY CHECKS
Meating Place, Janie Gabbett, February 28, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/2ucczd

IN BEEF RECALL, THREE AGENCIES DIFFER ON WHY VIDEO'S RELEASE TOOK SO LONG
The Press-Enterprise, Ben Goad, February 27, 2008
http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_D_rift28.3b9fe62.html

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT VALIDITY OF VIDEO
Feedstuffs Foodlink, March 3, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/29jefs

CHINO BEEF INSPECTORS PUT ON LEAVE
Los Angeles Times, Victoria Kim, March 1, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/336w47

THE RAW ECONOMICS DRIVING THE USE OF DOWNERS
Food Poisoning Lawyer, Bill Marler, March 4, 2008
http://tinyurl.com/38sskw






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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.