Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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August 31, 2005 -- Number 33, Volume 5

1. Australian Study: Sheep Learn Quickly and Retain Knowledge for Long Periods

Australian researchers have studied sheep and determined that they have a significant capacity to learn and retain knowledge, which one source says "dispel(s) the popular belief that sheep are mindless animals." Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) conducted the research by making 60 sheep find their way through a maze to meet up with other sheep from the same flock. Over a period of three days, the sheep dropped their average time going through the maze from 2 minutes to about 30 seconds, showing an ability to learn quickly. The sheep were retested 6 weeks later and the average time to complete the maze was still about 30 seconds, further indicating that sheep can retain such knowledge for long periods. The research corroborates past studies showing that sheep can remember the faces of up to 50 other sheep and 10 humans shown to them in pictures (see FAW #2-66, In the CSIRO study, some sheep were also given a drug to impair their memories, with the impaired sheep performing significantly worse through the maze. The comparison shows that a sheep's learning and retention abilities are based on cognitive rather than instinctive processes. The findings may have significant welfare implications for sheep farming in Australia and elsewhere.

"Ewe Would be Amazed: Sheep Solve Problems," The Age / AAP, 8/30/05 (

2. U.S. Goat Slaughter Industry Booming; Consumption Growing by 10% per Year

The US goat farming and slaughter industry is experiencing rapid growth in part based on increased demand from Muslims, Hispanics, Indians, and other ethnic minorities. According to the American Boer Goat Association (ABGA), goat flesh is the "fastest-growing segment in agriculture." Indeed, total consumption of goat flesh in the US grew by 64% from 1999 to 2003 and is expected to grow by 10% per year in the short term future. The industry changed dramatically in the early 1990s when Boer goats were imported from South Africa, replacing the much smaller goats traditionally raised by US farmers. The US also ceased paying government subsidies to farmers raising goats for mohair or cashmere around the same time, prompting some farmers to switch to raising the animals for meat production.

As of January 1, 2005, nearly 2 million goats were being kept on farms for slaughter; another half-million goats were being kept for angora and milk production. This is according to the first complete annual survey of goat farming conducted by the US Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Despite growing consumption, however, the goat industry's total size is largely unchanged from 2002 when the same number of goats (just less than 2 million) was kept on farms for slaughter. Because of increased demand but relatively stagnant supply, the US imported 17 million pounds of goat flesh in 2003, an increase of one-third more than 2001. One increasingly popular item, especially among Hispanics, is caproetta, which is the flesh of a "baby goat that was still suckling its mother." Several high-end restaurants in New York City are reportedly carrying the product.

1. "No Kidding; America's Booming Goat Industry," / The Economist, 8/27/05 (

2. "Livestock Reports: Sheep and Goats," USDA / NASS, 1/28/05

3. Smithfield Foods' Earnings Drop; Shareholder Sustainability Resolution Rejected

Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pig slaughtering company, experienced a drop in earnings for the most recent fiscal quarter and will close its pig slaughter operation in Smithfield, Virginia. The earnings decline of 11% comes is despite an overall revenue increase for the company by the same amount, suggesting significant margin erosion. Smithfield said it will shift to a focus on packaged products with higher profitability. At the company's annual meeting in August 2005, a group of activist shareholders including the Sierra Club and the Nathan Cummings Foundation forced a vote that would have required the company to produce annual sustainability reports. The resolution was submitted in response to perceived long-term liability resulting from the environmental consequences of large-scale pig farming. A strong majority of Smithfield shareholders (71%) voted against the resolution. The 29% of shareholders who voted for the resolution represents a significant increase over the 21% that voted for a similar resolution last year. In presenting the 2005 resolution, Smithfield executives said they cannot force the company's 2,250 contract pig farmers to comply with sustainability reporting.

1. "Smithfield Touts Record Performance," Richmond Times Dispatch, 8/27/05 (

2. "Smithfield Foods Narrows its Focus," Daily Press, 8/27/05,0,4121772.story

3. "Smithfield Foods Profit Slips on Pork Processing," Reuters, 8/25/05 (

4. U.S. Turtle Farmers Lobby to Repeal 1975 Ban on Sale of Baby Turtles as Pets

In Farmed Animal Watch we typically cover animals bred, raised, and slaughtered for human food. Animal farming can be considered more broadly, however, also including the breeding and confinement of animals for purposes other than food, such as companion and research animals. For instance, turtle farmers located mostly in the rural southern US continue to raise about 15 million turtles a year for overseas markets including China, Japan, Mexico, and elsewhere. However, the sale of baby turtles as companion animals has been banned in the US since 1975. The number of turtles produced annually could grow to 30 million if turtle farmers successfully lobby to repeal the ban on selling baby turtles domestically. Louisiana representative Rodney Alexander will introduce legislation in the US Congress this year that would allow sales of baby turtles determined to be free of salmonella. The prevalence of salmonella among farmed turtles and the banning of antibiotics used to treat the bacteria resulted in the original ban on turtle sales. Companion turtles were the source of 14% of salmonella infections in the early 1970s. Turtle farmers now claim to be able to prove scientifically that the salmonella risk can be controlled as part of the lobbying effort to repeal the ban.

1. "Breeders Seek to Reopen U.S. Turtle Market," AZ Central / Gannett, 8/27/05

2. "Legislation to Help Pet Turtle Farms Planned," Nola News / Associated Press, 8/25/05 (

5. Farmed Animal Statistics: California, the World's 6th Largest Economy

The US state of California is the world's 6th largest economy and one of its topmost agricultural producers. The state's agricultural products were valued at $26 billion in 2002 with dairy products and poultry falling among the top six industries. California is the largest dairy producing state in the US. The numbers provided below by species are from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and include only federally inspected commercial slaughter. The data are therefore understated by an unknown number of animals slaughtered on farms without inspection.

Cows Farmed for Milk: As of July 2005 California had about 1.8 million "dairy cows" representing more than 21% of the 8.1 million cows used for milk production in the US. During 2004, dairy cows in California produced on average more than 21,000 pounds of milk per animal. California's dairy industry generates many "spent" dairy cows; more than 527,000 California dairy cows were sent to federally inspected slaughterhouses in 2004.

Cows Farmed for Meat: As of January 1, 2005, California had approximately 5.2 million cows and calves living on farms or in feedlots. The state slaughtered more than 1.3 million adult cows for their flesh in 2004 (not including the more than half-million dairy cows noted above). Statewide nearly 100,000 calves were slaughtered in 2004 in federally inspected facilities.

Pigs: As of December 1, 2004, California had an estimated 140,000 pigs on farms including 20,000 used for breeding purposes; the remaining 120,000 were "market" pigs being prepared for slaughter. California slaughtered a total of 2.5 million pigs in 2004 in federally inspected facilities.

Sheep and Lambs: California had an estimated 680,000 sheep and lambs living on farms as of January 1, 2004. This number included 325,000 ewes and rams used for breeding purposes and 355,000 "market" sheep being readied for slaughter.

Poultry: As of August 1, 2005, California had 19.8 million hens on farms for forced egg production. More than 15 million turkeys were slaughtered in California in 2004, but the number of turkeys currently on farms is not available. California does not disclose state-specific data for chicken slaughterhouses or chicken hatcheries to avoid identifying individual operations.

1. NASS Quick Stats Agricultural Statistics Data Base

2. "Poultry Slaughter: 2004 Annual Summary," USDA / NASS, Feb-2005

3. "Livestock Slaughter: 2004 Summary," USDA / NASS, Mar-2005

4. "Stats: California Cattle on Feed," USDA / NASS, 8/26/05

5. "Stats: California July Egg Production," USDA / NASS, 8/30/05

6. "Cal Facts 2004: Economy," California Legislative Analyst's Office, 12/6/04

6. Other Items of Interest

AUSTRALIA: "Pastoral Sheep to be Trialed for Live Export," ABC, 8/29/05
Australian officials are beginning a two-year "trial" to determine the impact of transporting pastoral sheep more than 800 kilometers during winter to shipping ports for live export. The study will investigate distance traveled, weather conditions, and other factors to determine impact on sheep sickness and mortality during transport.

RUSSIA: "Russia Trying to Contain Foot-and-Mouth Disease," Interfax, 8/30/05
Health officials in Russia have slaughtered more 130 cows diagnosed with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) located in the country's Primorye region. More farmed animals are being vaccinated and some villages quarantined as officials try to stop the outbreak.

AUSTRALIA: "Vets welcome Mulesing Pain Relief Spray," AAP, 8/29/05
A new anesthetic spray has been granted a one-year permit for use on sheep to reduce pain immediately following "mulesing," the process of cutting off the animals' hind quarters to prevent fly strike. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) granted the permit and endorsed the product, saying it "has the potential to reduce the pain and discomfort experienced by sheep after they have been mulesed." (

INDIA: "India Debates Nature of Eggs as Gandhi Advert Sparks Fury," The Irish Times, 8/27/05
A coalition of egg farmers in India is using Gandhi's image to market and sell hens' eggs, pointing to a 1931 statement in which Gandhi appeared to endorse their consumption. Calling the advertisement an "insult," at least one local government official is demanding that the egg producers apologize and retract the ad.

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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.