Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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August 17, 2005 -- Number 31, Volume 5

1. USDA: More Than 1,000 BSE-related Non-Compliance Reports in Past 17 Months

From January 2004 through May 2005 the US Department of Agriculture issued 1,036 citations to meatpacking companies for violating safety rules related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The violations involve so-called Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) including "removal of the brain, skull and spinal cord of cattle aged 30 months and older." Such body parts were banned from the human food supply in December 2003. Documents detailing the citations were released to the American Meat Institute (AMI) and Public Citizen as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, claims that federal US meat inspectors incorrectly segmented cows by age and allowed normal processing of SRMs. Not surprisingly, AMI disagrees and said that the citations represent only about one-tenth of a percent of the total of 46 million cows slaughtered in the US during the 17-month period. Note however that the 1,036 SRM-related citations were less than 1% of all "non-compliance records" issued during the same period, suggesting that other non-compliance issues abound in the cow slaughter and "beef" processing industries. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has approximately 8,000 inspectors charged with oversight of animal handling and slaughter.

1. "US Meatpackers Cited for Violating Mad Cow Rules, Group Says," Bloomberg Report, 8/15/05

2. "USDA Finds 1,000 Violations of Mad Cow Rules," ABC News / Reuters, 8/15/05

3. FSIS Fact Sheet: "BSE Rules Being Strictly Enforced," August 2005

2. Breeding Made Farmed Pigs "Anxious;" Monsanto Responds to Patent Criticism

According to a special report from the magazine US News and World Report, farmed "pigs became anxious and would drop dead at the slightest upset" as a result of a long history of selective breeding. Researchers have also discovered a gene responsible for "porcine stress syndrome," possibly created or at least exacerbated through selective breeding. Today's farmed pigs are bred to be lean relative to their predecessors in response to consumer demands for less fatty foods. Around year 1900, pigs were generally much larger, sometimes weighing as much as 2,000 pounds. The author notes that current farmed pigs gain nearly a pound of muscle a day up to a "market" weight of more than 250 pounds. However, such "efficiency" has led to both animal welfare issues and what the author considers a bland taste for most modern pork products. She also notes, "With 100 million hogs slaughtered each year (in the US), these efficiencies... have also sparked growing concerns about animal welfare and pollution."

In FAW 5-30 we reported that Greenpeace announced Monsanto Corporation has filed for patents on combining techniques to breed pigs for farming and consumption. One of the patents would cover the means of identifying key gene markers that "indicate pigs with better meat characteristics." Greenpeace's announcement has resulted in a war of words between spokespeople from the environmental group and the agriculture and bioengineering giant. Greenpeace claims that granting the patent would "open the flood gates for other companies and other animals" while also ensuring a monopoly of sorts on the future pig breeding. Monsanto , already a major player in the farmed animal feed industry, argues that similar patents are filed all the time by its competitors.

1. "Building a Better Pig," / US News & World Report, 8/15/05 (

2. "Greenpeace Squeals at Plan to Patent a Bigger, Better Pig," The Ottawa Citizen, 8/11/05

3. "Crop King Monsanto Seeks Pig-Breeding Patent Clout," Reuters, 8/10/05 (

3. Hen Welfare: 250,000 Killed in Michigan Fire; California Rescue in Process

FARM FIRE: A fire in Michigan has killed 250,000 hens housed in facilities operated by one of the country's largest egg suppliers. The cause of the fire that occurred at Herbruck Poultry Farm, which houses nearly 3 million hens in close confinement, is unknown. This most recent tragedy is added to a list of fatal barn fires this summer. In June we reported that nearly 420,000 chickens had perished in a barn fire in Iowa, and again in July that 62,000 birds died in two separate incidents involving heat exhaustion and yet another fire in Pennsylvania.

RESCUE: The new owner of a piece of land in California reluctantly accepted the inclusion of 160,000 "spent" hens as part of the sale but is allowing animal protection groups to try to find them homes. Working with the Marin Humane Society, farmed animal sanctuary Animal Place has rescued more than 700 hens and is actively seeking homes for many of them. Commenting on the freed birds, one rescuer noted, "These birds were born in incubators and put in cages about double the size floor space of a record album. They have never been outside. They have never touched the earth, never seen the sun shine."

1. "Blaze at Poultry Farm Kills 250,000 Chickens," Associated Press, 8/11/05

2. "Vacaville Rescue Group to Save Hens from Slaughter," Times-Herald, 8/14/05

3. "Rescued Chickens See the Sun," Daily Republic, 8/15/05

4. Farmed Animal Statistics: US Agricultural Subsidies

At the Global-8 Summit in Scotland in July, US president Bush proposed an agreement under which the $112 billion that "rich countries" spend on farm-related subsidies would be eliminated by 2010. The move follows a recommendation from the Bush administration to decrease government payments to US farmers by $500 million as part of the 2006 budget. Federal subsidies paid to farmers remain high, however; agriculture-related government payments in the US are estimated to total $17 billion this year. In 2003, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the largest of these payments (top ten categories) can be broken down as follows:

    1. Disaster Payments -- $2.9 billion
    2. Corn Subsidies -- $2.8 billion
    3. Cotton Subsidies -- $2.7 billion
    4. Conservation Reserve Program -- $1.8 billion
    5. Rice Subsidies -- $1.5 billion
    6. Wheat Subsidies -- $1.4 billion
    7. Soybean Subsidies -- $1.1 billion
    8. Dairy Program Subsidies -- $892 million
    9. Peanut Subsidies -- $540 million
    10. "Livestock" Subsidies -- $344 million

At least $7.3 billion, or nearly half of the total $17 billion in farm-related subsidies, is given to farmers growing crops for farmed animal feed. This is in addition to government payments directly to animal farmers themselves, including the $344 million in "livestock subsidies" noted above. Also according to EWG, in 2003 more than half of all farm-related government subsidies were paid to the top 5% of farms, a system some say puts small family farmers at a disadvantage.

Using the same data but a somewhat different methodology, the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) also provides estimates of total farm payments by specific farmed animal sector. According to the ERS, government payments or subsidies to farms were much larger in 2003 than in 2002, increasing from $11 billion to $16 billion (rounded down). ERS estimates include the following total payments by sector for 2003:

    1. "Beef cow" farms -- $1.6 billion
    2. Dairy farms -- $1.3 billion
    3. Pig farms -- $258 million
    4. Poultry farms -- $60 million
    5. "General livestock" farms -- $300 million

1. "Farm Subsidy Database," Environmental Working Group, 2003 data

2. "Which Farms Receive Government Payments?" USDA / ERS Briefing Room, 2/11/05

3. "Feds Aren't Subsidizing Recommended Foods," Yahoo News / AP, 8/11/05

4. "Bush Calls for Elimination of Agricultural Subsidies," The New Farm, 7/5/05

5. Upcoming Farmed Animal and Related Events

See for further details.

    ACT for Farmed Animals (Workshop)
    August 27, 2005; Santa Rosa, CA

    Future Trends in Animal Agriculture Symposium
    September 21, 2005; Washington, DC

    World Farm Animals Day
    October 2, 2005; Events held globally

    The Association of Sanctuaries Conference
    September 22-24, 2005; Denver, CO

    The Power of One (Compassionate Living Festival)
    October 7-9, 2005; Raleigh-Durham, NC

6. Other Items of Interest

"Food Company Aims to Curb Antibiotic Use in Pork," USA Today / AP, 8/4/05
Compass Group, a major US foodservice company, has worked with the world's largest pig slaughterer (Smithfield Foods) to devise a policy to only accept "pork" from operations that do not treat pigs with antibiotics also used on humans. Smithfield already has such a policy in place, which is becoming more common among pig farmers as concerns grow about human resistance to antibiotics resulting from their use on farmed animals. Compass Group, which purchases 30 million pounds of pork every year, says the decision was based on consumer demand and perception.

"UK Milk Production Facing 'Worst Case Scenario', Says Study," Dairy Reporter, 8/11/05
A report from the UK's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that the country will miss its milk production quota by more than a billion liters due to major producers leaving the industry. The report notes that 45 of 363 dairy farms surveyed in 2003 had left the industry and another 25 farms said they intended to leave in the next few years.

PRESS RELEASE: "Humane Farm Animal Care is First Animal Welfare Certification Body to Gain ISO Guide 65 Accreditation," PRNewswire, 8/10/05
Farmed animal welfare group Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) has been granted ISO accreditation by the US Department of Agriculture for operating third-party product certification systems. HFAC's program, Certified Humane, is currently in use by 31 companies and was awarded the accreditation for developing "certification system in a consistent and reliable manner based on internationally recognized methods." (

BOOK: "The Holocaust and The Henmaid's Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities," July 2005
Karen Davis, PhD, founder and president of animal activist group United Poultry Concerns, has released a new book with the above title. Publisher Lantern Books describes the manuscript as drawing "significant parallels… between the Holocaust and the institutionalized abuse of billions of animals in factory farms." The analogy ranges from the general to the specific, including noting that the Nazi Heinrich Himmler was a chicken farmer who Davis says epitomizes the spirit of exploitation of both animals and humans alike.

"The Contribution of Poultry to Rural Development," FAO, March 2005
Researchers with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a paper in March 2005 providing a "global overview of the development of the poultry sector and of the role of small-scale, family-based poultry production in developing countries." The article is in favor of small-scale chicken farming and describes several initiatives to spur growth of such farms in "developing" countries. The authors also note that "poultry meat is the fastest growing component of global meat production, consumption, and trade."
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Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, 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.