Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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September 29, 2005 -- Number 37, Volume 5

Note to readers: Farmed Animal Watch will not be published next week, but will return the following week with Issue 38 (Volume 5). As always, if you have any questions or comments about the newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Thank you for reading - Editorial team

1. USDA Provides Preliminary Assessment of Hurricane Impact on Farmed Animals

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a detailed but preliminary assessment of hurricane Katrina's impact on the farmed animal industries in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and three other states. (Also see FAW 5-34). According to the USDA, the counties affected by hurricane- and tropical storm-force winds included farms accounting for about 1% of all US milk production and less than 1% of all pig slaughter. However, the affected counties represent approximately 17% of the US slaughter of chickens for meat consumption and 3% of farms raising cows for slaughter. Hurricane Katrina also had a significant impact on some types of crops important to animal farming industries , including primarily soybeans, corn, and rice.

Regarding specific numbers of animals, according to the USDA, an estimated 10,000 cows are "presumed dead" in the St. Bernard Parish area near New Orleans. This is only an initial estimate, and some fear that many more could be dead or stranded. Prior to the storm, there were a total of 825,000 cows and calves on farms in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Thousands of cows are believed to be stuck on levees and surrounded by marshes, despite some efforts to get them food and water, and in some cases rescue the animals. However, by far the most lives were lost on chicken farms; 6.2 million chickens are believed to have died from hurricane-related causes. This includes approximately six million birds on 2,400 farms in the state of Mississippi alone. Moreover, the USDA emphasizes that these are only current impact estimates, and that farm "production" will be impacted for some time to come.

1. "A Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of Katrina and Drought on U.S. Agriculture," USDA, 9/19/05
PDF file (317k):

2. "Louisiana Cattle and Dairy Industries Facing Long Recovery," Delta Farm Press, 9/26/05

2. Food Safety and Inspection Service Issues Notice on Humane Treatment of Poultry

The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued an official notice to poultry farmers and slaughter companies that the birds must be treated humanely prior to slaughter. FSIS said it is issuing the notice "because there has been considerable congressional and public interest in the humane treatment of animals, including poultry." The notice mentions that FSIS and its parent agency, the US Department of Agriculture, have received more than 13,000 emails from citizens asking that poultry be included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. FSIS acknowledges that poultry are currently not covered under the act, but notes that they are covered under the Poultry Product Improvement Act (PPIA), which is meant to ensure the quality of products created from slaughtered birds. According to FSIS, the PPIA insists that birds prior to slaughter are handled in a manner "consistent with good commercial practices, which means they should be treated humanely."

The PPIA identifies "adulterated" poultry corpses to be unfit for human consumption. Causes of adulteration may include diseases, injuries, and inhumane handling. According to the FSIS notice, "The abuse of poultry by killing them by an unacceptable method… may render the poultry product adulterated and, hence, not acceptable for human food." The notice also provides specific examples, noting that "If birds hung on the slaughter line expire prior to slaughter due to mishandling, the resultant product is adulterated under the PPIA." In response to these potential abuses, FSIS asks poultry farmers to adopt a systematic approach to ensure humane handling of poultry, suggesting three steps.

    (1) Assessing when "poultry may experience excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury."

    (2) Minimizing the possibility of such excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury.

    (3) Periodically evaluating how poultry are being handled and slaughtered, including ensuring that "breathing has stopped before scalding."

FSIS is inviting public commentary on the notice, accepted only by postal mail, and due by October 28, 2005. See the first link below for details.

1. "Treatment of Live Poultry Before Slaughter," FSIS Notice, 9/29/05 (

2. "FSIS Issues New Notice on Humane Treatment of Poultry,", 9/29/05 (Registration)

3. US Senate Votes to Make Permanent the Ban on Using "Downers" for Human Food

On September 20, the US Senate voted in favor of making permanent the ban on the inspection of "downer," or non-ambulatory, animals for human consumption. The vote came as an amendment to the $100 billion 2006 agriculture appropriations bill. Because it is a spending bill, the impact of an amendment would be to bar the use of federal funds for inspecting and approving downers for human consumption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. A complementary agriculture spending bill from the House of Representatives, however, does not include a similar amendment, so its future remains unclear. A temporary ban on using non-ambulatory animals for the human food supply was put in place in December 2003, following the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the US. The new amendment, if approved, would apply to non-ambulatory cows, but also sheep, pigs, goats, horses and mules.

1. "Senate Okays Bill to Ban 'Downer' Animal Meat for Food," Cattle Network, 9/21/05

2. "Senate Passes Amendment Barring Non-Ambulatory Livestock from Human Consumption," American Meat Institute, 9/21/05 (

4. Report: Majority of North Carolina Poultry Workers Injured or Ill in Past Month

A survey of North Carolina poultry farm workers conducted by Wake Forest University researchers found that a majority (60%) have experienced occupational injuries or illnesses in the past month. One in five poultry workers also missed a day of work in the past year due to job-related illness or pain. The most common problems are musculoskeletal in nature, with a third reporting neck or back pain within the past month. At some farms, up to 70% of workers also report having respiratory problems, but this number varies considerably by farm. The survey included face-to-face interviews with 200 current poultry farm workers in six North Carolina counties; all of the interviewees were Latinos.

The Wake Forest announcement notes that the state has a 9.4% injury and illness rate for poultry workers, although again this varies considerably by farm. Nonetheless, the average is significantly higher than the national average for poultry workers, estimated at 8.1% in 2003 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to the study's authors, "The reported rates of illness and injuries in the poultry industry are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Workers often see the hazards as just part of the job…" Concerns about farm worker safety are not new; in February the group Human Rights Watch released a report showing that in 2001, as many as 20% of meatpacking workers had some kind of job-related illness or injury (see FAW 5-34).

According to the 2004 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 141 on-the-job fatalities related to "animal production," along with another 26 deaths for workers involved in "animal slaughtering and processing." See the statistics section below for more on this topic.

1. "Survey of Poultry Workers Shows High Rate of Injuries…," Wake Forest U., 9/26/05

2. "Report: N.C. Poultry Workers Suffer More Job-related Injuries…,", 9/28/05 (Registration)

3. "2004 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries," Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004
PDF file (192k):

5. Farmed Animal Statistics: Fatalities, Injuries, and Illnesses in Animal Farming

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides detailed fatal injury, nonfatal injury, and illness data reported by specific industries. As mentioned earlier, animal farming industries rank among the most lethal and injurious in terms of occupational hazards. For these reasons and others, many opponents of factory farming and its impact on animal welfare also acknowledge the human suffering created by these industries. The tables following provide a snapshot of impact on workers in these areas, including specific types of farms. In some cases these numbers are understated given limited reporting from some farms and industries, according to BLS.

Number of Fatal Injuries, by Industry - 2004

    Industry / Job Type Incidence Rate
    ALL Animal Production
    -- Cattle Ranching and Farming 93
    -- Hog and Pig Farming 10
    -- Poultry and Egg Production 9
    -- Sheep and Goat Farming 3
    -- Other Animal Production 9
    ALL Animal Slaughtering and Processing 26
    -- Poultry Processing 10
    -- Meat Processed from Carcasses 9
    -- Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering 4
    -- Rendering and Meat Byproduct Processing 3

Number of Nonfatal Injuries and Incidence Rates, by Industry - 2003

    Industry / Job Type Number of Injuries Incidence Rate
    ALL Animal Production
    11,600 7.8
    -- Poultry and Egg Production 3,000 7.8
    -- Beef cattle ranching and farming, including feedlots 2,200 8.7
    -- Hog and pig farming 1,400 8.3
    ALL Animal Slaughtering and Processing 37,800 7.2
    -- Poultry Processing 13,700 5.7
    -- Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering 13,000 7.9
    -- Meat Processed from Carcasses 10,200 9.2
    -- Rendering and Meat Byproduct Processing 1,000 11.1
    ALL Seafood product preparation and packaging
    3,300 7.3
    -- Fresh and frozen seafood processing 2,700 6.8

Incidence Rate of Nonfatal Illnesses, by Industry - 2002

    Industry / Job Type Incidence Rate
    ALL “Livestock” Production 43.9
    -- Poultry and eggs 81.3
    -- Animal specialties 37.9
    -- Dairy farms 20.0
    ALL Meat Products 342.3
    -- Meat packing plants 567.4
    -- Poultry slaughtering and processing 279.9
    -- Sausages and other prepared meats 163.0

1. "2004 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries," Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004
PDF file (192k):

2. "Illness Rates by Type of Illness - 2002," BLS, 2002

3. "Injury Cases - Rates, Numbers, and Relative Standard Errors - 2003," BLS, 2003

6. Other Items of Interest

"Stakes are Big at Roundtable on Megafarms," Toledo Blade, 9/27/05
On September 28, the state of Ohio hosted a national roundtable meeting to discuss regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Ohio is home to 150 of the 15,500 CAFOs currently operating in the United States, defined as having a minimum number of animals: 1,000 cows (for slaughter), 700 cows (for milk production), 2,500 pigs, 10,000 sheep/lambs, 55,000 turkeys, or "thousands" of hens, ducks, etc. The roundtable was focused on ways to mitigate the environmental damage caused by CAFOs.

"Branding on Way out as ID for Montana Cattle," MSU News Service, 9/25/05
The implementation of a national animal identification system, be it voluntary or mandated, may signal the end of cow branding as a means of telling animals apart. In Montana, where branding of cows has been used for 150 years, some farmers and ranchers are resisting the possible change, but it could eliminate one source of pain and suffering for farmed cows. (

"In California, Agriculture Takes Center Stage in Pollution Debate," Washington Post, 9/25/05
California's San Joaquin Valley is home to nearly two thousand dairy farms producing an enormous amount of ammonia and volatile organic compounds that create smog. As a result, 15% of children in the area have been diagnosed with asthma, which is three times the national average. Some schools in the Fresno area raise red or green flags to indicate to parents whether or not children should be kept indoors.

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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.