Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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September 7, 2005 -- Number 34, Volume 5

1. Hurricane Katrina Leads to Death and Suffering for Millions of Farmed Animals

Hurricane Katrina has had a devastating impact on the lives of many farmed animals in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, as well as other states. In Mississippi, which slaughters 10% of all chickens nationwide or about 830 million birds annually, 11 out of 14 chicken slaughterhouses remained closed as of September 6. According to the National Chicken Council, most are expected to reopen when water and power are restored to the affected areas. In Georgia, an estimated 250,000 chickens died from related causes where tornadoes created in Katrina's wake "leveled" at least 17 farms or "grow-out" operations raising chickens. A graphic video depicting the aftermath of a tornado-stricken factory chicken farm in Georgia is provided via link #4, below. It shows the remains of five large chicken houses and the bodies of hundreds of thousands of dead, dying, and injured birds.

Hundreds of similar farms are reported to have sustained damage in Mississippi, but the full extent of Katrina's destruction cannot be estimated and assessments are just beginning. However, total farmed animal deaths for the storm-stricken region are expected to be in the multi-millions, mostly chickens but also cows, pigs, and other animals. There are 312 dairy farms in the three hardest-hit states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. An estimated 135,000 farmed animals were impacted in southwest Louisiana alone, with many of them now roaming free but trying to escape the flooded areas. Removing the large number of dead cows and other animals will be a "monumental task," according to the state's Agricultural Commissioner.

1. "Poultry Industry Hit Hard," Pork Alert, 9/6/05 (Registration)

2. "Katrina's Ag Aftermath Worsens," Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, 9/2/05

3. "Chicken Industry Hit Hard by Katrina,", 9/2/05 (Registration)

4. VIDEO: Aftermath of Tornado-Stricken Chicken Factory Farm in Georgia, 8/30/05
Windows Media: (

2. Avian Influenza: Potential Impact on the U.S.

As avian influenza continues to spread through Southeast and Central Asia, scientists in the US are concerned that the state of Alaska could provide the disease a bridge to North America. Officials from the US Geological Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are conducting surveys of Alaskan wildlife with a focus on migratory ducks. Migratory birds are believed to be the cause of the disease spreading throughout Asia. Some species of birds fly from Southeast Asia to the west coast of the continental US in addition to Alaska, Hawaii, and other territories. A separate study from the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) suggests that an outbreak of avian influenza in the US could spread quickly. According to an APHIS survey, nearly two-thirds of poultry-related operations in the US (62%) are located within one mile of a "backyard flock." Such flocks, which include small chicken farms as well as homes with companion birds, carry significant risk because the owners and operators are casual about bio-security. The APHIS survey notes that only 3% of backyard flock owners ever consult a veterinarian or vaccinate their birds, and that nearly half (44%) report not washing their hands after handling the birds.

1. "Experts see Alaska as US Front Against Bird Flu," PlanetArk / Reuters, 8/31/05

2. "Poultry: National Animal Health Monitoring System," APHIS, August 2005

3. "Most Commercial Poultry Farms Near Backyard Flocks, Survey Shows,", 8/30/05

3. Bayer Fights Antibiotic Ban; Researchers Develop Phages as Alternative

The practice of routinely treating sick or injured farmed animals with antibiotics has come under increased scrutiny as concerns rise about human resistance to such drugs. For instance, approximately 15% of the 2.4 million human Campylobacter infections each year are resistant to the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics. In July, the US Food and Drug Administration banned use of fluoroquinolones on chickens raised for their flesh, effective September 12 (also see FAW # 5-32). Bayer Corp., manufacturer of Baytril, the commercial form of the drugs, has filed a petition to continue selling it as the company legally fights the ban. Bayer is joined in the petition by "several veterinarian organizations and the trade association that represents animal-drug makers."

Scientists are trying new approaches to mitigate the use of antibiotics on the farm, including the strategic use of bacteria-killing viruses called "phages" on farmed pigs. Through laboratory trials, researchers at the University of Guelph (Canada) have identified six candidate phages that could be used to reduce E. coli infections among young pigs. E. coli is a major source of illness for piglets with low levels of natural antibodies because they have been weaned too early from their mothers; it causes blood poisoning and severe diarrhea. Phages can be administered through the animal's food and the viruses are self-sustaining so they require only a one-time application. The development of "phage therapy" may accelerate as European and North American governments consider banning all antibiotic use on farmed animals.

1. "Bayer Asks FDA's Permission to Sell Antibiotic…," Food Consumer / Washington Post, 9/4/05 (

2. "Bayer Files Petition to Keep Selling Poultry Antibiotic Baytril,", 9/5/05 (Registration)

3. "Finding the Enemy of the Enemy," The Pig Site / Ontario Pork, 9/6/05

4. Theory Suggests Human Remains are Original Source of BSE

A team of UK researchers posited the theory that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow" disease) originated from the disposing of human bodies into the Ganges River. The cause of BSE is believed to be the practice of feeding animal parts to cows who are otherwise vegetarian, but it remains unproven. The new theory suggests an alternate cause in which the bodies of humans with classical Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) were dumped into the Ganges. According to the article, "In India and Pakistan, gathering large bones and carcasses from the land and from rivers has long been an important local trade for peasants. Collectors encounter considerable quantities of human as well as animal remains as a result of religious customs." The UK imported "hundreds of thousands of tons" of such material during the 1960s and 1970s and used it to feed farmed animals, including cows. The article, which appears in the UK medical journal, The Lancet, is facing criticism from Hindu groups and the Indian government, concerned with maintaining India's BSE-free status.

1. "BSE: Origin Of 'Mad Cow' Disease May Have Been Human," Cattle Network / AP, 9/2/05

2. "Human Remains Cause of Mad Cow Disease?" ISN Security, 9/5/05

5. More BSE: Source of First U.S. Case Still Unknown; SRM Rules Eased

Officials with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) have concluded an investigation of the country's first native case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The agencies were unable to determine the cause of infection, which was discovered in June 2005 in a cow in Texas. The 12-year old cow is believed to have eaten contaminated food prior to the 1997 ban on feeding parts of ruminants to other ruminants. However, tests at the farm were unable to confirm any specific at-risk food type. Instead, the government found 21 types of foods and food supplements that had been used on the farm since 1990, but that it could not identify. Also, 21 of 147 of the infected cow's herd mates could not be traced and may have entered the human and other animal food supply. The USDA did trace, kill, and test brain samples from 67 herd mates, all of whom turned out to be negative for BSE.

According to a new ruling from the USDA and FDA, "meatpacking" companies will be allowed to use most of the small intestines of slaughtered cows, effective October 7. The decision relaxes the previous ban on all Specified Risk Materials (SRMs), which include cows' brains, spinal cords, and distal ileums. The distal ileum is part of the cow's small intestine, but the US agencies say if it is properly removed then the intestine may be used without risk. The new rules require slaughterers to remove the last 80 inches of the animal's small intestine, allowing the rest to be used by sausage-makers.

Many people are questioning the USDA's judgment, however, among them a former inspector who claims that SRMs were routinely entering the human food supply as of December 2004. Stan Painter, also head of the federal inspectors' union, is accusing the USDA of harassment and intimidation. Early this year the agency charged Painter with a misdemeanor for not revealing his sources for the allegations. The charges against Painter were dropped, however, when it was discovered in August that more than a thousand SRM-related violations have occurred in the US since the rule went into effect in January 2004.

1. "Feds Unable to Pin Down Source of Mad Cow," Monterey Herald / AP, 8/30/05

2. "US Eases Mad-Cow Rules to Allow More Cattle Parts in Food," Bloomberg, 9/6/05

3. "Inspector to File Charges against USDA," / UPI, 9/6/05

6. Farmed Animal Statistics: World Aquaculture Production

It is often mentioned that roughly 98% of all farmed animals slaughtered are chickens, and this is true of land-based animals. However, a large and rapidly growing number of fishes are killed annually on fish farms throughout the world that raise a variety of species. The number of individual fishes slaughtered by aquaculture operations is unknown because such "production" is measured in weight, not lives, but it may exceed the number of chickens slaughtered annually. In 2003 the global "total fish production" was more than 132 million metric tons, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This included 42 million metric tons of fish flesh from both inland and marine aquaculture operations; the remaining 90 million metric tons were caught or "captured." China alone is responsible for 70% of the world's aquaculture production. See below for a list of the largest aquaculture countries.

    Largest Aquaculture Countries, 2002 Millions of Tons % of Total
    China 27,767 70%
    India 2,192
    Indonesia 914 2%
    Japan 828 2%
    Bangladesh 787 2%
    Thailand 645 2%
    Norway 554 1%
    Chile 546 1%
    Vietnam 519 1%
    United States 497 1%
    Rest of World 4,550 11%
    Total 39,799 100%

The majority of fish raised and slaughtered in aquaculture operations are finfish, and nearly half (45% based on weight) are "carps and other cyprinids." See below for a list of the top ten types of aquatic animals farmed globally in 2002, according to the FAO.

    Most Farmed Aquatic Animals, 2002 Millions of Tons % of Total
    Carps and other cyprinids 16,692 45%
    Oysters 4,317 12%
    Miscellaneous marine molluscs 3,740 10%
    Clams, cockles, arkshells 3,431 9%
    Salmons, trouts, smelts 1,799 5%
    Tilapias and other cichlids 1,506 4%
    Mussels 1,445
    Miscellaneous marine molluscs 1,348 4%
    Shrimps, prawns 1,293 4%
    Scallops, pectens 1,227 3%
    Total (top 10 only) 36,798 100%

1. "World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture," FAO Fisheries, 2004

2. "List of Fisheries Databases and Applications," FAO Fisheries, 2005

3. "Global Aquaculture Outlook in the Next Decades (to 2030)," FAO Fisheries, 2004

4. Download: "FishStat Plus" Software, FAO Fisheries

7. Other Items of Interest

"Ostrich Breeding, New Industry in Vietnam," Viet Nam Economy / Tien Phon, 9/5/05
VIETNAM: A government-sponsored program has provided more than 3,000 ostriches to farms in 23 provinces to encourage breeding and slaughter of the large land-based birds. Vietnam began importing ostriches in 1996 and breeding them on a state-run farm after the country's agriculture minister witnessed ostrich farming in Africa. 670,000 ostriches are farmed throughout Africa and another 100,000 are farmed in China; the birds are primarily farmed for their flesh, but also their skin, feathers, and eggs.

"Outdoor Pigs Rooting out Profit," Farmers Weekly Interactive, 9/6/05
A UK industry report comparing pig farming in indoor versus outdoor conditions found that raising the animals outdoors can be more "efficient." Outdoor pigs were healthier, converted food into weight gain more efficiently, and had lower mortality rates than their indoor counterparts. The industry expects a shift to outdoor pig farming as a result of these findings, as well as less stringent pollution control requirements for outdoor farms.

"PETA Urges Tyson to Change Chicken Killing Method," PlanetArk / Reuters, 8/31/05
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has filed a shareholder resolution with Tyson Foods, Inc., the largest slaughterer of animals in the world, mostly chickens. PETA is asking shareholders to approve a switch to controlled-atmosphere killing of chickens using an inert gas at all of Tyson's slaughter operations.

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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.