Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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APRIL 8, 2009 -- Number 6, Volume 9

1. ABUSE ALLEGED AT NEW ENGLAND'S LARGEST EGG FARM

State police and Maine Department of Agriculture officials raided an egg facility known as Maine Contract Farming and Quality Egg of New England on April 1st, after Mercy for Animals (MFA) filed a complaint for civil and criminal charges to be brought against the facility and workers there. An MFA investigator allegedly documented animal abuse at the facility from mid-December to February. "It really indicated to us that there appeared to be some very deplorable and egregious animal welfare violations over there," state veterinarian Don Hoenig said of the documentation, which included: supervisors and other workers kicking live hens into manure pits, holes in cage floors large enough for hens to fall into the pits below, hens with body parts stuck in caging including some 150 who were unable to access food or water, cages with decomposed bodies and rotting eggs, inhumanely killed hens and live hens in the garbage (see: http://tinyurl.com/cf2gaa ).

Quality Egg’s management countered that none of the alleged abuses had been brought to its attention, and said that employees were re-trained on the industry-accepted use of euthanasia just last month. Investigator Chris Smith said supervisors dismissed his repeated reports of abuse, which is evidenced in MFA video. The company further alleges that Smith acted criminally by performing as a paid investigator without a license, pursuant to Maine law. It also points out that an annual United Egg Producers audit was conducted in December (see item #2) and that a state poultry health inspector examines the chickens for health problems about once a week.

Quality Egg, the largest producer of eggs in New England, was originally founded as AJ DeCoster Egg Farms, which had a history of human rights violations (see: http://tinyurl.com/dd7pv8 and #8: http://tinyurl.com/dhpv5m ). Hens are covered by Maine's animal cruelty laws, and the case has been turned over to the Androscoggin County District Attorney's Office. Major egg distributor Eggland’s Best announced it would stop working with franchisee Radlo Foods. Radlo in turn said it will sever ties with Quality Egg and plans to “become an exclusively cage-free company within 10 years," which reportedly will make it the first national egg company to do so. (See also: http://tinyurl.com/d36fnl ) On April 3rd the Maine Senate unanimously directed the state Department of Agriculture to develop standards for egg production: http://tinyurl.com/dca5u3  See also: EGG GIANTS WORK ON REFORMS: http://tinyurl.com/cqy59k.


PROBE GOES ON DAY AFTER RAID AT TURNER PLANT (includes photos)
Sun Journal, Lindsay Tice with Judith Meyer, April 3, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/crto5x

STATE EXECUTES SEARCH WARRANT AT TURNER EGG FARMER
Sun Journal, April 1, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/dzc8ug

EGG FARM MANAGERS FIRE BACK AT ANIMAL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Susan Sharon, April 7, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/cjhblp

NOBODY CARED ABOUT THE ANIMAL ABUSE, SAYS UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATOR AT TURNER EGG FARM
Sun Journal, Daniel Hartill, April 8, 2009
http://www.sunjournal.com/story/311542-3/LewistonAuburn/Nobody_cared/

MASS.-BASED EGG PRODUCER VOWS TO GO 'CAGE FREE'
Associated Press, Jerry Harkavy, April 6, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/cawnbh

 

2. INEFFECTIVE AUDITS?

The effectiveness of third-party audit inspections employed by the meat industry to verify animal handling and other practices is being questioned, notes Steve Bjerklie in his column for Meat & Poultry. The Hallmark slaughterplant, the subject of a massive meat industry scandal in early 2008, passed 17 private audits in 2007. Robert LaBudde, a former third-party auditor, explains that, typically, places that are audited also pay for the audit, so there is a conflict of interest for the auditor. In addition, third-party audits are often announced in advance, and most auditors cannot levy fines or other penalties. “Consequences – "pain" is the word LaBudde used – will cause change, but little else will…The meat industry operates on pennies of profit, so it won’t change unless it has to,” states Bjerklie.

The popularity of video auditing was one of the topics at the American Meat Institute Foundation’s recent Animal Care and Handling Conference: http://tinyurl.com/cvtlbu. Cargill has announced it will begin implementing a third-party video auditing program which it plans to have in at all of its U.S. beef slaughterplants by the end of 2009. The company also created an animal-handling training and certification program for its employees: http://tinyurl.com/ct3n4a.


UPSET ABOUT AUDITS
Meat & Poultry, Steve Bjerklie, March 27, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/dh3rvj

VIDEO AUDITING BENEFITS TOUTED AT ANIMAL WELFARE CONFERENCE
Meat & Poultry, Joel Crews, March 20, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/cvtlbu

 

3. LIVE PIGS SCALDED AT SWEDISH SLAUGHTERPLANTS

Pigs at four Swedish slaughterhouses were scalded to death in 2008 (see: http://tinyurl.com/chbppn). The pigs were to be gassed unto unconsciousness but, due to overcrowding in the chamber, they did not receive adequate gas. The pigs later resumed consciousness in the scald tank. A veterinarian reported observing such an incident occurring with two pigs. No procedures were changed, and the following week he saw the same thing happen again. The head and partial owner of the slaughterplant conceded that pigs’ welfare is at risk due to the pace at which they are handled.   

According to a source at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, “These plants use carbon dioxide to stun the pigs. The method of killing is to bleed the pigs. Probably the main cause [of live scalding] is that people bleeding the pigs have not done their job properly. It is also compulsory to make sure that pigs are dead (i.e. bled out) before any other action is taken.” See also: http://tinyurl.com/cu3ocd

Similar incidences occurred at the other slaughterplants, all of which are operated or partially owned by HK Scan, a prominent Northern European food company which slaughtered nearly 2 million pigs in 2008. Scan has acknowledged the scaldings. The Swedish agriculture minister has urged closer monitoring of slaughterplants and supervision of officials. An investigation has been initiated to determine if animal-protection laws were violated.

In mid-March, the Agriculture Committee of the European Union, of which Sweden is a member, voted in favor of restraining animals at slaughter only if the person responsible for stunning or killing is ready to perform the task, and for bleeding to begin as soon as possible after stunning to ensure the animal does not regain consciousness before death. The committee also approved the introduction of indicators to detect signs of consciousness or sensibility in animals during killing operations.


PIGS BOILED ALIVE AT SWEDISH MEAT PLANTS
The Local, March 17, 2009
http://www.thelocal.se/18258/20090317/

SWEDISH SLAUGHTERHOUSES FACE ACTION OVER SCALDED PIGS
The Earth Times, March 17, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/dmz6lq

EU CONSIDERS REGULATIONS TO STOP SLAUGHTER SUFFERING
The Pig Site, March 18, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/d6rngh

 

4. LARGEST W. AUSTALIAN PIG COMPANY CHARGED WITH CRUELTY

Accusations that pigs had been forced to wallow in filth so deep they struggled to walk and sick ones were left to slowly die [and be cannibalized] have resulted in the largest pig operation in Western Australia (WA) being charged with the mistreatment of one pig. Made two years ago by Animal Rights Advocates (ARA), the allegations prompted a police raid of Westpork Pty Ltd’s 40,000-pig facility. ARA points to the charge as proof of the industry’s inability to regulate itself. A WA Farmers Federation spokesperson said pig handling has improved since the raid. 

STATE’S BIGGEST PIGGERY ON ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGE
The West Australian, Ronan O'Connell, March 26, 2009
http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=132383

 

5. 600 PIGS DIE IN FIRE

On April 1st, 600 pigs died in a fire at a confinement facility in Iowa. Fire raced through an L-shaped building surrounded by tanks recently filled with 5,000 gallons of propane. Eight fire departments spent more than four hours fighting flames whipped by high winds. Investigators said they might not be able to determine the cause of the fire due to the extent of the damage. Aerial footage of the fire can be viewed at the first source below:

FIRE AT MARSHALL COUNTY HOG CONFINEMENT FACILITY
WHO-TV, April 1, 2009
http://www.whotv.com/news/who-story-hog-fire-040109,0,6238348.story

INTENSE FIRE KILLS AT LEAST 600 HOGS
KCCI, Vicky Boucher, April 1, 2009
http://www.kcci.com/news/19066138/detail.html

 

6. FEED BAN DELAY, BODY DISPOSAL CONCERNS

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed delaying the effective date of its ban on the use of high-risk cattle tissue in animal feed (PDF link: http://tinyurl.com/cffd5d) from April 27th to June 26th. The regulation, intended to reduce the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”), requires the brains and spinal cords of cattle 30 months and older be removed before they are rendered, and prohibits use of the tissue in animal feed and other rendered products. (Ruminant-derived materials have been banned from cattle feed since 1997: http://tinyurl.com/cm888f ) The FDA proposed the delay in response to industry requests for more time to comply.

Only about half of each cow, pig and chicken slaughtered in the U.S. is used for human food, the rest is rendered into animal food and other products. Some 54 billion pounds of animal parts are rendered each year, including farmed and companion animals and wildlife. Several billion are from farmed animals who die prior to slaughter. There are concerns that renderers will no longer accept dead cattle. The alternatives: burying, burning or composting the bodies, can be difficult. Improper disposal can pollute soil and groundwater, and the infectious BSE agent can survive burial or composting.

Some within industry believe the regulation is “a gross overreaction” to BSE and was approved merely to broker a trade deal with Korea (see: http://tinyurl.com/dbcpgs ).The image of one sick cow on national television has led us down this path of frivolous regulation with only one result: more wasteful tactics by our nation's bureaucrats, who would rather see rotting carcasses in landfills instead of beautifying the women of our country with cosmetics,” opined industry advocate Trent Loos. The FDA is accepting public comments for seven days solely on whether or not to delay the effective date: http://tinyurl.com/dbycco. See also: ONTARIO: Carcasses left to rot after cut to subsidy (“This is just a ticking time bomb, and if our neighbours to the south get wind of this, our international reputation as a safe meat producer is at stake.”): http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1405092

NEW REGULATIONS MAKE DISPOSAL DIFFICULT FOR CATTLE RANCHERS
The Associated Press, Chris Blank, March 17, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/cduuyj

THE OTHER RECYCLING BUSINESS
Los Angeles magazine, Dave Gardetta, April 2009
http://tinyurl.com/c2et4c

FDA'S MAD COW PRECAUTIONS CAUSE CARCASS REMOVAL HEADACHES
Business Lexington, Kara Keeton, March 19, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/caqfdt

LOOK WHO'S BLUSHING NOW
Feedstuffs, Trent Loos (commentary), March 30, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/conzzv

 

7. FARM SUBSIDY REFORM FAILS

President Obama’s “audacious proposal” to save nearly $10 billion over the next decade by capping direct subsidies to farms that annually gross more than $500,000 was rejected by the House and Senate. Agricultural interests lobbied against the subsidy cuts and even subsidy reform advocates deemed the President’s plan to be too ambitious (although the Senate version of the 2008 Farm Bill included a lower cap). Budget outlines that have been approved by the House and Senate do not limit farm subsidies at all, and, according to the House Agriculture Commission, such a proposal can only be executed during the next Farm Bill (http://tinyurl.com/cwa9st), in 2012.

In the April 6th Grist, Tom Laskawy blogs that even with a lower capping limit the subsidy system would continue to encourage “the overproduction of corn and soy and the underproduction of fruits and vegetables.” He asserts that the current system primarily benefits food processors, and reform efforts focus on its wastefulness rather than on ensuring production of “the right things.” 

A bipartisan group of 27 congressmen have written the President and the Senate and House Budget Committees in opposition to the administration’s proposed 20% cut in the Market Access Program (http://www.fas.usda.gov/mos/programs/map.asp), which helps finance foreign promotion of U.S. agricultural products. The program was reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill at $200 million annually.

DID OBAMA SCREW UP AG SUBSIDY REFORM?
Grist, Tom Laskawy, April 8, 2009
http://www.grist.org/article/2009-04-06-2009-obama-subsidy-refom/

OBAMA NOT ALLOWED TO CUT FARM SUBSIDIES
World Poultry, March 18, 2009
http://www.worldpoultry.net/news/obama-not-allowed-to-cut-farm-subsidies-3712.html

LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW
National Hog Farmer North American Preview, March 20, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/caau8x

 

8. USDA BUYS MORE MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCTS

Responding to industry requests, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on March 31st that the Department would purchase $87 million of turkey, lamb and pig meat, including a “bonus” purchase of approximately 50 million lbs. of boneless, skinless turkey-breast meat. The prior week the USDA bought some 200 million pounds of nonfat dry milk to help the dairy industry. The purchases are in addition to the ones the USDA makes annually for school lunch and other federal food programs. Last April, the agency bought $50 million of supplemental pig meat.

The pig industry claims it has been losing an average of $20 on each pig sold since October 2007 (purportedly some $3 billion in equity), and the dairy industry says it loses and average of $3 per cow per day. Vilsack said the government's purchases will "help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions, stimulate the economy and provide high quality, nutritious food to our nutrition programs." The National Pork Producers Council also asked Vilsack to use USDA resources, including the Market Access Program (see item #7) and the Foreign Market Development Program, to promote pig meat exports, which were at record levels in 2008.

VILSACK LAUDED FOR U.S.D.A.'S BONUS MEAT PURCHASES
Meat & Poultry, Bryan Salvage, April 1, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/d3d2gz

USDA BUYS UP $25 MILLION IN PORK
The Wichita Eagle, Rick Plumlee, March 31, 2009
http://www.kansas.com/business/updates/story/754919.html

 




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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.