Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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JANUARY 28, 2009 -- Number 2, Volume 9

1. THE TRANSFORMATION OF U.S. ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

Farmed animal production in the U.S. is trending to much larger enterprises, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS). (See also: http://tinyurl.com/cs3bmc ) Between 1987 and 2002, the median farm size, based on annual sales, increased by 60% for those raising chickens for meat, 100% for cattle-feeding operations, 240% for dairies, and 2,000% for pig farms. Recent surveys indicate that this trend in farm structure is continuing, due in large part to economies of scale.

According to the report, the structural change has brought about increased productivity, lower costs of production, and lower prices for consumers. However, “industrialized livestock production has external costs. High concentrations of animal manure can lead to increased air and water pollution, with adverse health and environmental consequences. Concentrated livestock can also create odors that offend neighbors and reduce property values. A heavy reliance on antibiotics for growth promotion and for disease prevention may spawn antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, with human health risks. Changes in farm structure are intertwined with these concerns because larger operations concentrate manure more and rely more heavily on growth promoting antibiotics than smaller operations” (PDF link): http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB43/EIB43f.pdf

The report goes on to say that animal agriculture is very competitive and little incentive may exist for individual producers to take costly actions to reduce the harmful effects of industrialization. However, states ERS: “The evidence adduced so far suggests that steps can be taken, at modest aggregate costs, to limit the external costs associated with antibiotic use in industrialized operations.” These steps include sanitation measures and testing, to prevent disease and promote growth.

See also: IMPACTS ON FURTHER GROWTH OF THE NORTH AMERICAN PORK INDUSTRY: http://tinyurl.com/anmesn or http://tinyurl.com/cnxqlz.


THE TRANSFORMATION OF U.S. LIVESTOCK AGRICULTURE: SCALE, EFFICIENCY, AND RISKS
USDA Economic Research Service, James M. MacDonald and William D. McBride, January 2009
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB43/

 

2. PENDING FEDERAL REGULATIONS PUT ON HOLD

Almost immediately upon Barack Obama becoming president of the U.S., a memorandum was sent to all federal agencies directing them to stop all pending regulations until they can be reviewed by the new administration. The regulations affecting farmed animals include ones pertaining to: country-of-origin labeling (see: http://tinyurl.com/abw6uv ), the National Animal Identification initiative (see: http://tinyurl.com/bxx3dt ), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (http://tinyurl.com/5ngt8r ), and several rules implementing new provisions in the 2008 farm bill (see: http://tinyurl.com/cwa9st ). The memo’s implications for the Food and Drug Administration's new guidance on genetically engineered animals (see item #3) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule specifying when farmed animal facilities need to report air emissions (see: http://tinyurl.com/a9qdbj ) was unclear. The memo can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/avbam4. See also: OBAMA FACES HURDLES IN REVERSING BUSH REGULATIONS: http://tinyurl.com/86p8lk.


COOL, OTHER LAWS ON HOLD FOR OBAMA REVIEW
MeatingPlace, Tom Johnston, January 22, 2009
http://www.aamp.com/news/COOLonholdforObama.asp

USDA REGULATIONS BEING REVIEWED BY OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
Farm Futures, January 22, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/cjtfcy

COOL RULE, MANY OTHERS, ON HOLD AWAITING REVIEW BY OBAMA TEAM
Feedstuffs, Sally Schuff, January 22, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/93g32n

 

3. FDA GUIDANCE ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ANIMALS

On January 15th, just before the Bush Administration ended, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final guidance for industry on the regulation of genetically engineered (GE) animals: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/GEAnimals.htm (see also item #2). FDA had released the draft guidance in September and subsequently received nearly 29,000 comments about it. Many of them expressed concerns about animal welfare, and the vast majority opposed genetic engineering of animals. Ethical concerns were essentially dismissed by the FDA as being “largely outside the scope of FDA's authority” but the agency states that its “guidance will provide a predictable science-based framework that will ensure the safety and safe use of GE animals.” The FDA notes that it also intends “to hold public scientific advisory committee meetings prior to making decisions on GE animal-related applications." The agency’s summary of and response to the comments are at: http://tinyurl.com/9l37n9.

“After all is said and done, the fact remains that any move towards GE food animals will most probably precede a monumental shift in what we now know as farming and what we perceive as meat,” writes Adam Anson, a reporter for a number of industry-oriented websites. “The FDA says that under the draft guidance, in those cases where the GE animal is intended for food use, producers will have to demonstrate that food from the GE animal is safe to eat,” he points out, “However, at a time when the FDA has inadequate resources to protect the food system and is reeling under allegations of conflicts of interest, has the issue of food safety been fully considered?” Jaydee Hanson, of the non-profit Center for Food Safety, contends: "This new proposal uses a secret approval process wherein no one other than FDA reviewers can see the data submitted before final approval…And, unlike drugs which can be recalled because they are labelled, FDA maintains that genetically engineered animals should not be labelled."


FDA GUIDANCE ON GE ANIMALS UNVEILED -- FINALLY
Feedstuffs, January 19, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/ctvvop

THE FUTURE OF US LIVESTOCK IS GENETICALLY MODIFIED
The Poultry Site, January 17, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/avzum9

BRAVE NEW FARM: GE FOOD ANIMALS IN THE USA
The Poultry Site, Adam Anson, November 2008
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1235/brave-new-farm-ge-food-animals-in-the-usa

 

4. EC ACCUSED OF IGNORING ITS OWN CLONING DIRECTIVE; JAPAN

Eurogroup for Animals, a coalition of European animal protection organizations, has filed a complaint of maladministration against the European Commission (EC) with the European Ombudsman. Eurogroup accuses the EC of ignoring its own legislation by delaying a decision on the use of animal cloning for food production. On January 13th, during its first legislative session of 2009, the European Commissioners again postponed submitting a proposal on cloning, asserting that more scientific answers are needed as is a debate with international trading partners. “The Commission has failed to respect the EU directive for the protection of farm animals, which states that reproduction techniques which cause animals to suffer cannot be used,” Eurogroup stated.

Eurogroup points to a Eurobarometer survey, conducted in July, in which 58% of respondents indicated that animal cloning for food production should never be justified. Some 83% of surveyed Europeans said that if food from the offspring of cloned animals does become available, special labeling should be required for it. A 2008 report by the European Food Safety Authority generated increased concerns about cloning in regard to animal health and welfare, and the European Group of Ethics raised ethical concerns about animal cloning. In September, the European Parliament voted with 622 votes in favor of urging the Commission to prohibit cloning of animals for food and any products from cloned animals and their offspring. Eurogroup announced it “will be calling on member states to apply the directive for the protection of farm animals and introduce national bans if the Commission continues to do nothing."

Japan
"Foods derived from cloned cows and swine, and from the offspring of clones, are as safe as food from conventionally bred animals,” an expert panel reported to Japan's Food Safety Commission (FSC) on January 19th. A decision by the FSC on the safety of food produced by cloning animals will take months and several high-level meetings. If the Commission decides that it is safe, it will likely generate great criticism over the ethicality of such food. For example, approximately 31% of cloned cows are either stillborn or die soon after birth. Japan, the largest Asian importer of beef, will become a significant market for cloned animals if the FSC approves the technology.

THE EU IGNORES ITS OWN RULES ON ANIMALS
New Europe for Animals, Sonja Van Tichelen (commentary), January 19, 2009
http://www.neurope.eu/articles/92022.php

EUROPEAN COMMISSION GUILTY OF IGNORING ITS OWN LEGISLATION
Farming UK, January 14, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/8xvee5

CLONED PIGS MIGHT FLY, AS JAPAN CONSIDERS ALLOWING CLONED MEAT ON TO THE MARKET
Food Business Review, Matthew Jones, January 22, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/b2gjog

JAPAN STUDY GROUP SAYS CLONED ANIMALS SAFE FOR FOOD
Reuters, Risa Maeda with Edwina Gibbs, January 20, 2009
http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE50J1SV20090120

 

5. U.K. CRITICIZED FOR E.U. CHICKEN WELFARE RULES

"From now on, we will be looking at what really matters, which is the overall welfare of the bird itself,” declared Jane Kennedy, the U.K. Minister for Farming and the Environment, in announcing plans to implement new welfare rules for chickens raised for meat (see: http://tinyurl.com/d9jvwg ). The rules, approved in 2007 (see: http://tinyurl.com/asyg8p ), will for the first time provide a mandatory baseline for all European Union (EU) producers. They include maximum stocking densities, standards for temperature, humidity and lighting, and limits on ammonia and carbon dioxide. The rules will apply to all operations with more than 500 birds excluding those that are solely intended for reproduction, hatcheries, and extensive indoor, free-range or organic production. The rules also address monitoring slaughter facilities. Public comments are being accepted through April 20th and the rules are to be implemented in June 2010.

Acknowledging that the rules will improve typical practices in some EU countries, the RSPCA contends they will do little to improve conditions for chickens in Britain. Industry estimates that about 85% of chickens raised for meat in England are kept in conditions comparable to those required by the new rules (and see: http://tinyurl.com/derv4v ). Defra, the U.K. environment department, issued a document stating that it would not try to strengthen welfare rules for U.K. chickens (see also: http://tinyurl.com/ckahys ).

NEW E.U. RULE ADDRESSES WELFARE OF CHICKENS
Meat & Poultry, Bryan Salvage, January 26, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/ceybyh

RSPCA CONDEMNS NEW WELFARE RULES FOR BROILER CHICKENS
Guardian, James Meikle, January 26, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/dfs7eb

 

6. BRITISH PIG MEAT FROM POLISH PIGS: "HORRIFYING" DISCOVERIES

“[Y]ou could mistake it for a prisoner-of-war camp…The stench is unbelievable and the behaviour of many of the pigs distressing. Some limp forlornly in tight circles. Many frantically chew the bars of their cages with mucus dribbling from their mouths. In one pen, two pigs are fighting.” In this detailed article, journalist Danny Penman relates his quest to find the source of a popular pig meat product sold in Britain. It led him to pigs being raised in Poland by Smithfield, “an American food conglomerate that is the largest pig meat producer in the world” (see: http://tinyurl.com/5ff7jd ). Penman continues: “Perhaps most horrifyingly of all…I saw a huge industrial bin piled high with the rotting bodies of dozens of piglets. Other decomposing piglets lay scattered around the bin. Some had been feasted upon by wildlife.”

Penman says the piles are “an indication of the standards of animal welfare on some Polish farms.” Mortality on that farm was 12.8%, about 50% higher than on a comparable British farm. Confronted, the company issued Penman a legal notice stating that: “All Smithfield farms have a secured disposal container for dead pigs and the dead are placed in them daily. Scores of pigs are not left on the ground to rot. The disposal and collection process avoids carcasses lying on the ground for more than a day.” It also asserted that: “The farms and the records are the subject of review by both local and regional official state registered veterinary inspectors on a regular basis.”

Penman blames Britain’s 60% importation rate of pig meat on welfare laws that only apply to the U.K. “Ten years ago our Government mercifully outlawed some of the worst aspects of factory pig farming,” he writes, after which “the EU and other European institutions soon started pouring subsidies into Poland and Romania to create the type of industrial pig farming now banned in the UK.” Smithfield controls at least 16 giant pig facilities in Poland and four enormous slaughterhouses and processing plants. The farms receive about $1 million a year in E.U. subsidies. See also: http://tinyurl.com/cd9sqx.

The percentage of British people highlighting animal welfare as a driving factor in their food consumption decisions has risen from 8% in 2005 to 20% in 2009, according to international food and grocery expert IGD: http://tinyurl.com/brxaum. The British Farm ministry is pushing the European Union for clearer country-of-origin labeling to tell where an animal was born, reared and slaughtered: http://tinyurl.com/czv3m2.

THE TRUTH ABOUT 'BRITISH' PORK... THAT COMES ALL THE WAY FROM A POLISH FACTORY FARM
Daily Mail, Danny Penman, January 17, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/7afdn4

 

7. GERMANS, U.K. HOSPITALS URGED TO CUT BACK ON MEAT

Meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (see: http://tinyurl.com/26atm7 ). Last year, Rajendra Pachauri, the United Nations climate chief, said that having a meat-free day every week was the biggest single contribution people could make to reduce climate change in their personal lives. Now Germany's federal environment agency, UBA, has strongly advised people to eat meat only on special occasions and to routinely adhere to a more Mediterranean-style diet: (see: http://tinyurl.com/cyxeqf ). Although meat consumption has dropped significantly in Germany since 1991 and, according to VeBu, Germany’s vegetarian association, the number of vegetarians has grown from 0.4% in 1983 to 10% today, Germans are still among the highest meat consumers in Europe.

Food consumed in the U.K. is the source of nearly a fifth of the country’s emissions, with meat and dairy products accounting for a little over half of it, according to the Food Climate Research Network. The Guardian newspaper notes: “The government estimates that, kilo-for-kilo, compared with bread, emissions linked to poultry farming are more than four times as high, to pork six times as high, and to beef and lamb 16 times. Besides this, tropical forest is cleared to allow feed-crops, also a source of emissions.” As part of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) strategy to cut global warming emissions, the organization is recommending that hospitals offer fewer meat and dairy products. (NHS is “the world’s largest publicly funded health service.”) Its strategy document, entitled Saving Carbon, Improving Health, states: "Unless we all take effective action now, millions of people around the world will suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the climate changes."

See also HOW MARK BITTMAN SAVED THE WORLD AND LOST HIS BELLY: http://tinyurl.com/bwk85c.

SCHNITZEL OFF THE MENU AS GERMANS ARE TOLD TO CUT DOWN ON EATING MEAT
The Guardian, Kate Connolly, January 23, 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/23/german-diet-meat-environment

HOSPITALS WILL TAKE MEAT OFF MENUS IN BID TO CUT CARBON
The Guardian, Juliette Jowit, January 26, 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jan/26/hospitals-nhs-meat-carbon

 

8. HOW MANY VEGETARIAN KIDS?

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in which it was estimated that one in 200 U.S. children are vegetarian: http://tinyurl.com/bgdfpk. The estimate was based on responses to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey (PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/938t8f ). However, the two relevant survey questions only included health or weight reasons for being vegetarian. Other popular reasons, such as religion, ethics or environmental concerns, were not mentioned. Factoring these in could greatly boost the number of vegetarian children. [It should also be noted, though, that one of the questions asked about a dietary time period as short as two weeks.] See also: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/cdcsurvey0109.

ONE IN 200 KIDS ARE VEGETARIAN? WRONG!
The PETA Files, Liz Graffeo, January 20, 2009
http://blog.peta.org/archives/2009/01/one_in_200_kids.php




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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.