CONSIDERING THE ETHICAL MATRIX FOR ANIMAL WELFARE is a January 22nd webinar presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Informal Animal Welfare Working Group in cooperation with the Diverse Voices in Agriculture educational seminars. From 10 a.m. to noon (EST), Dr. Raymond Anthony of the University of Alaska “will discuss general bioethics strategies and issues related to agriculture, specifically animal agriculture, and will include some highlights regarding the California proposition 2 campaign and results.” Questions are welcome, and interested individuals can participate by calling in: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/353097567
WELFARE AT FOREFRONT OF CA. AG COMMITTEE FOCUS
Promising a “new era in California agriculture policy,” the state Senate has revamped its agriculture committee from a narrow focus on production to a new emphasis on animal welfare, the environment and food safety. Democrat Dean Florez, who has fought with industry for greater regulation, will head the committee. "I can tell you, the animal welfare issue is very much at the forefront of this committee. There's no doubt about it, Prop. 2 [see: http://tinyurl.com/a6oesm ] was the wake-up call," said Florez. Historically comprised of rural senators, the committee will now have a more urban sensibility. Among the oversight hearings chairman Florez plans to conduct this year are ones that include how to improve farmed animal welfare and looking at the public health impacts of the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals used for food. A website has also been created to elicit policy input from the public: http://www.californiasafefood.com.
Agriculture is California's top industry. The committee could have difficult in achieving any change that costs tax dollars, particularly given the state’s $40 billion deficit. Also, Governor Schwarzenegger is said to be unlikely to approve anything too radical.
STATE SENATE TO REVAMP AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
The Fresno Bee, E.J. Schultz, January 13, 2009
FOCUS ON FOOD: CALIF. SENATE FORMS COMMITTEE
MY58, January 13, 2009
STATE SENATE REVAMPS AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
Central Valley Business Times, January 13, 2009
GRANDIN: ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN
The primary goal of Dr. Temple Grandin (http://tinyurl.com/9rrf2o) in writing her new book, Animals Make Us Human, was to document that animals have emotions. “People working in animal behavior have all these abstract theories about animal motivation and drives. And what are those drives? If you look at how their brains are organized, those drives have to be emotions. So in the first part of the book I talk about how animal emotions are real. The latter half is a practical way to solve problems,” she explains.
Grandin says that treatment of animals at slaughterplants has improved, mostly due to audits by customers such as McDonald’s. She mentions that undercover investigations are also a factor. Grandin is concerned with animals being biologically “overloaded” genetically and with feed additives and growth hormones. She notes that this is already “a big problem” for cows used for dairy production. Grandin is currently working on a textbook of practical farmed animal welfare. Home Box Office (HBO) is working on a biopic of Grandin starring Claire Danes: http://tinyurl.com/9jk3g5.
GRANDIN'S BOOK SHOWS ANIMALS HAVE FEELINGS, TOO
Rocky Mountain News, Rebecca Jones, January 8, 2009
MORE VEGETARIAN KIDS, NOT ADULTS
About 1 in 200 children, some 367,000,
in the U.S. are vegetarian, according to the government's
first such estimate. The rate could be four to six
times higher among older teens, according to other
surveys. The government study used data from the 2007
National Health Interview Survey ( PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/938t8f
), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Youth dietary information was obtained
from nearly 9,500 parents and others who spoke for
those aged up to 17 years. Vegetarian diets were defined
as those totally devoid of meat. (See also: http://tinyurl.com/7cpru3
The government researchers anecdotally attribute a rise in adolescent vegetarianism in part to slaughter videos on YouTube. A report published last year by Business Insights said that an increasing awareness of animal welfare and other concerns are causing parents to purchase “ethical food and drinks” for their children and is raising awareness of these concerns in children at an earlier age. Previous studies have found that vegetarians are most often female, from higher-income families and living on the East or West coast.
While meatless diets have gained mainstream acceptance and “meat is clearly moving away from the center of the plate,” vegetarianism does not appear to be rising among adults. In the NHI survey, 1.5% of adults said they had followed a vegetarian diet for two or more weeks in the last year for health reasons, compared with 1.6% in the 2002 survey. The Vegetarian Resource Group puts the percentage of U.S. adult vegetarians at between 1 and 3 percent.
As part of his citywide campaign to reduce weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, Chicago health commissioner Dr. Terry Mason is encouraging everyone to join him in going vegetarian during January: http://tinyurl.com/9y2umg Meatless Monday ( http://tinyurl.com/9uphvo ), a national campaign by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, maintains that eating a vegetarian diet one day a week reduces consumption of saturated fat by 15%, enough to ward off the "lifestyle diseases" such as heart attacks, strokes and cancer: http://tinyurl.com/82mf4l.
FIRST U.S. COUNT FINDS 1 IN 200 KIDS ARE VEGETARIAN
Associated Press, Mike Stobbe, January 7, 2009
VEGETARIAN MARKET FOR KIDS
Food Navigator, Sarah Hills, January 13, 2009
ADULTS STILL NOT SINKING TEETH INTO VEGETARIAN LIFESTYLES
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, China Millman, January 14, 2009
PIG CASTRATION IN EUROPE
In 2009, the European Commission will issue a research contract worth up to €1 million ($1,333,914) for a study into alternatives to castrating pigs and dehorning cattle. A review is to be conducted to determine the extent to which piglet castration is practiced in the European Union (EU) and the conditions under which it is performed. The project is to also include the development of a “method to detect boar taint [see: http://tinyurl.com/a7n2uw ] at slaughter…and to assess the commercial aspects of marketing meat from non castrated animals in Europe.”
Some European countries are already reassessing their current pig castration practices (see: http://tinyurl.com/a7n2uw ). The Danish pig meat industry is researching less inhumane methods and alternatives such as a vaccine to suppress male hormones. "Given that vaccination has been tested and approved as a sure method of preventing boar taint in meat production, one could and one should renounce a procedure as violent as surgical castration," the Swiss vets' association Société des Vétérinaires suisses (SVS) declared in a December statement which referred to surgical castration as "outmoded." Switzerland's largest retailer, Migros, and its meat subsidiary Micarna have decided to opt for gas anesthesia to castrate piglets. The surgery is to be performed at farms by traveling veterinary teams. In the Netherlands, the leading pig processing company, Vion, reports having reached a voluntary agreement with Dutch breeders to use CO2 as an anesthetic during castration. A Vion spokesperson said that what is needed is a concerted effort by industry to end castration while ensuring that pig meat is produced without boar taint. In the U.K., for welfare reasons pigs are not castrated. The possibility of taint is reduced by slaughtering pigs at a lower weight than is the case in other parts of Europe. "We don't get the problem and we also get a better feed conversion rate," remarked an industry spokesperson. See also item #5.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently compared alternatives such as teeth grinding and hot-iron tail docking to conventional procedures performed on piglets including teeth clipping and cold tail docking. Most of the alternatives were found to be more stressful. Techniques that could be conducted quickly and with minimal tissue injury were found to be least stressful, and worker training was key.
BALANCING PIG WELFARE, CASTRATION AND BOAR TAINT
The Pig Site, Chris Harris, December 2008
SPEED, TRAINING KEYS TO PIGLET PROCESSING
Pork, October 6, 2008
COMPARING PIG WELFARE IN BRITAIN, HOLLAND, EUROPE
“Pigs kept on slatted, concrete floors; pregnant sows in cages so small they can't move; piglets castrated without pain relief; rails routinely docked to prevent animals attacking each other. This is the truth behind the European pig industry - and so behind most of the pork we eat” states the subtitle of a lengthy Guardian article entitled 'Welfare doesn't come into it.' Britain imports more than 60% of the pig meat it consumes. While imports of foreign produced pig meat has escalated over the past decade, demand for pig meat produced in Britain has dropped 36%. This is blamed on the country’s welfare standards making domestically produced meat more expensive.
According to the British Pig Executive, 70% of imported meat does not meet British welfare standards, yet foreign meat can be labeled as British if it is processed there. Welfare differences between Britain and other European countries are discussed, and examples are given of how European Union welfare regulations are flouted, including in Britain (see also item #4 and http://tinyurl.com/8w8dvc ). The article notes: “Some 40% of breeding sows in Britain are kept outdoors, compared to fewer than 1% in the Netherlands; but only 7% of the piglets born to them are reared outdoors after they're weaned and only 2% are fattened, or finished, outdoors.” In response to British accusations of unfair competition, one Dutch farmer responds, “…you may have tougher welfare regulations, but we have far more stringent environment and hygiene laws.”
The Guardian’s Jon Henley visited a variety of pig farms in the Netherlands (intensive and extensive) and two in Britain, describing and comparing conditions for pigs. "Pigs are clever animals, curious animals, they're clean animals, they tell you about their problems," says one British farmer, "They're not like cows, they're not stoics, they vocalise. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. And they're funny. They have pretty simple needs, really: space, lots to do." Noting that today in Britain “even moderately good welfare standards are coming under pressure” and “what counts, it seems, is price,” Henley concludes: “If it matters to us that our morning rasher or chop or pork pie does not comes from a genetically engineered fat-free pig that spent its brief life in a dark, bare, windowless shed stuffed full of antibiotics and reduced to attacking its pen-mates for entertainment - a pathetic parody, in short, of a pig - we're going to have to reach deeper into our pockets. Right now, that seems increasingly unlikely.” The Guardian subsequently ran a letter that criticized Henley for not mentioning vegetarianism: http://tinyurl.com/8mggax.
See also Balancing Sow and Piglet Welfare with Production Efficiency: http://tinyurl.com/8y93lu.
'WELFARE DOESN'T COME INTO IT'
The Guardian, Jon Henley, January 6, 2009
ROOTING FOR PIGS; DEBATING OLIVER
After a recent poll found that only 2% of respondents understood production terms (e.g., “free range”) used to label pig meat products, the RSPCA initiated a “Rooting for Pigs” campaign ( http://tinyurl.com/9jyta4 ) to urge the British pig industry and retailers to develop and apply standardized terms. According to the organization, which commissioned the poll, 8 out of 10 surveyed people indicated that animal welfare was important to them (and see: http://tinyurl.com/a53rfc ). While the European Union (EU) does have legal definitions for labeling eggs and chicken meat, there are no industry-wide agreed definitions for labeling pig meat. The RSPCA will lobby to make compliance with the agreed terms a legal requirement in the EU.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver will lead a debate on pig welfare on the January 29th television program “Jamie Saves Our Bacon.” Sales of meat from alternatively produced chickens have reportedly risen substantially since campaigns last year ( http://tinyurl.com/6a8o5q ) by the RSPCA and by Oliver.
HELPING SHOPPERS OUT OF 'PIG IGNORANCE'
The Pig Site, January 12, 2009
FORCES SHAPING U.S. PIG INDUSTRY; ROUTINE OVERCROWDING
Largely due to lower risk incurred by financial lenders, the preferred production system of the U.S. pig industry has become facilities in which weaned pigs are fattened (“finished”) for slaughter. The facility is often built to be just small enough to not require a state operating permit but large enough to benefit from economies of scale. The popularity of these wean-to-finish facilities have increased U.S. demand for piglets from Canada over the past decade, with nearly 19% of all pigs weaned in Canada exported to the U.S. for fattening. Because of cost considerations, these facilities are routinely overfilled, usually with twice the number of pigs for which they are intended, with extra pigs removed 5 to 8 weeks after weaning. (See also PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/A52JLF which includes photos.)
The regulatory process has promoted large operations since the costs of regulatory requirements can be spread over a greater number of pigs. These requirements, along with other economies of scale, have resulted in the “optimum” production system being larger than in the past. Notes Michael C. Brumm of Brumm Swine Consultancy, Inc., who presented this information at the London (Canada) Swine Conference 2008 ( http://tinyurl.com/776hfk ): “While production systems have added science-based information to their decision process, quality people involved in the daily care of pigs remains a key component of successful production.”
“The large share of dairy, beef, hog, and poultry production by million-dollar farms reflects the movement of livestock production from an open environment to climate-controlled buildings, which makes production less dependent on the weather. Other technologies—disease control, handling, transportation, and nutrition—have increased the number of production cycles per year. These technological advancements helped standardize production, making it easier for farms to operate on a large scale,” explains a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (see p. 11 of PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/9ddndy ).
IS THERE AN 'OPTIMUM' PRODUCTION SYSTEM?
The Pig Site, Michael C. Brumm, December 2008
MILLION-DOLLAR FARMS IN THE NEW CENTURY
World Poultry, January 5, 2009
EQIP ACCUSED OF INDUSTRIAL ANIMAL FARM BIAS
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was initiated in 1996 to help farmers make environmental improvements. However, since changes were made to the program by the 2002 Farm Bill (see: http://tinyurl.com/59gto5 ), a disproportionate share of its funds go to large, highly-polluting farmed animal operations, according to a new report released by the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment. “Industrial Livestock at the Taxpayer Trough” (please add PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/9en6wk ) contends that although industrial pig operations comprise only 11% of the industry they receive some 37% of all EQIP pig contracts. Similarly, the report contends that while industrial dairies make up only 4% of all dairies they receive an estimated 54% of all EQIP dairy contracts.
Waste-related proposals, which were initially excluded from the program, now receive priority over longer-term conservation proposals, such as grazing management and habitat protection, according to the report. It also says the 2002 Farm Bill severely restricted public access to information about the size of EQIP contracts and the practices they fund. A number of recommendations are made, including that EQIP not subsidize the construction or expansion of industrial farmed animal operations. A spokesperson for the Missouri Pork Association counters that even if industrial operations are receiving $35 million annually, as estimated by the report, it is out of the $6.1 billion allotted to the program by the 2002 Farm Bill. He also argues that since these larger operations own more land they need more of the money.
According to a recent report by the USDA, million-dollar farms (i.e., those with annual sales of $1 million or more, the number of which is rapidly increasing) received 16% of U.S. government payments in 2006. It’s noted that this is “a small share compared with their 48% share of gross sales, although disproportionately large compared with their 2% share of all farms.”
NEW REPORT EXPOSES SUBSIDIES TO FACTORY FARMS
Land Stewardship Project, December 8, 2008
GROUP SAYS PROGRAM BENEFITS INDUSTRIAL FARMS
Associated Press, Alan Scher Zagier, January 1, 2009
MILLION-DOLLAR FARMS IN THE NEW CENTURY
World Poultry, January 5, 2009