Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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October 19, 2005 -- Number 39, Volume 5

1. Preview: WorldWatch Institute Describes Impact of Global Meat Industry

The WorldWatch Institute recently published a paper entitled "Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry," written by Danielle Nierenberg. The paper includes a detailed analysis of the animal welfare, environmental, and public health consequences of factory farming, which the author says has "almost completely taken over Europe and North America." Nierenberg provides a robust critique of modern-day concentrated animal farming based on more than 200 primarily academic and industry citations. The WorldWatch Institute is a US-based think tank that conducts research and analysis of global environmental, social, and economic trends.

The WorldWatch Institute has graciously given Farmed Animal Watch permission to share with our readers the full content of Chapter 1 of "Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry." Please be sure to watch for this special edition of Farmed Animal Watch next week.

"Towards Happier Meals in a Globalized World," WorldWatch Institute, 9/29/05

2. Studies Show Capacity for Fish and Invertebrates to Feel Pain, Suffer

Two recent studies suggest that fish and other invertebrates may feel pain and experience fear and other complex emotions that contribute to their ability to suffer. The first study includes a paper from a University of Birmingham (England) researcher that says that invertebrates respond similarly to vertebrate animals when exposed to noxious stimuli. The author uses this response to stimuli as a basis for invertebrates being able to experience pain, but also notes that some people believe such responses are only reflexes. The paper goes on to draw a possible distinction between less "complex" invertebrates such as insects compared with cephalopods, including octopuses, squids, etc. The paper is published in the Journal of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research and concludes with the perspective that greater care should be provided to invertebrates in lab environments.

Another study conducted by students from the University of Guelph (Canada) provides evidence that fish respond to fear similarly to other animals who are more commonly believed to be sentient. According to one researcher, "There is more evidence that fish do have some level of consciousness than there is evidence against it, and it is logically more likely that fish are sentient animals than they are not." The research is focused on determining whether or not fish have the neuro-anatomical structures that allow them to have consciousness and experience pain and suffering. The series of ongoing studies is being conducted by the University of Guelph's "fish welfare group" and is sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute and the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

1. "A Question of Pain in Invertebrates," ILAR Journal, 10/16/05

2. "What Fish Feel," AWI Online, 10/14/05

3. Chicken Welfare: Canadian Battery Cages; Controlled Atmosphere Stunning

BATTERY CAGES: The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA) is using the results from an undercover egg farm investigation in Southern Ontario to put pressure on retailers to ban battery cage eggs. The coalition has also released an in-depth report on Canada's egg industry and the welfare of hens, including criticism of the lack of legislation to protect these birds from harm. The report describes battery cage systems, the illnesses and ailments they cause, and the natural behaviors that they limit or preclude. According to CCFA's website, Canada has 26 million hens kept for egg production, 98% of whom are confined to battery cages. The coalition is asking the public to stop buying "cage-farmed" eggs, and is pressuring Loblaws, a major Canadian food retailer, to add a special label to packages of cage-farmed eggs. CCFA is also asking Loblaws to move toward having at least 50% of its eggs for sale produced by cage-free hens.

STUNNING: An article from July written by Dr. Temple Grandin and published on describes the use of controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) for birds raised for their flesh. CAS has been implemented with different techniques, including the use of inert gases versus carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as single-stage versus multiple-stage stunning systems. Grandin briefly analyzes the primary CAS methods available, noting that some systems may cause broken wings from excessive flapping or "gasping" resulting from CO2 usage. The use of inert gases is generally preferred by animal protectionists for this reason, but Grandin notes that such systems have so far performed poorly. According to Grandin, the "best technology" is a two-stage carbon dioxide-based system that uses low levels of CO2 for a full two minutes during an initial induction phase. She says this technology is already in place at one US farm where it is "working well." Finally, Grandin notes that a Michigan engineer is developing a CAS system that will integrate with traditional chicken farming systems that "dump" the birds onto conveyer belts prior to stunning.

1. "Battery Cages and the Welfare of Hens in Canada," CCFA, Oct-2005
PDF File (1.2 MB):

2. "The Truth about Canada's Egg Industry," CCFA, 10/12/05

3. "Activists Go after Loblaw in Fight against 'Cruel' Treatment of Laying Hens," MacLeans, 10/12/05

4. "Hatching Innovations in Poultry Stunning,", 7/1/05

4. USDA Publishes First Annual Report on the State of Animal Health

The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published the first edition of a new annual document entitled the "United States Animal Health Report." This first volume provides an extensive overview of the U.S. animal health system, including its infrastructure and the agencies that comprise it, as well as a detailed review of government programs and initiatives. The report includes the organizational charts for APHIS and its related agency, Veterinary Services, and lists state agencies with responsibility for animal health. It also describes in some detail the various certification programs and disease surveillance plans designed to improve and maintain animal health in the US.

The report includes one chapter entitled "Demographics of US Livestock, Poultry, and Aquaculture Production in 2004," which may be of interest to readers. In it APHIS provides a concise overview of the number of animals farmed by industry (measured by "inventory") and the geographic distribution of those animals throughout the US. The report covers all major types of farmed animals, including poultry, farmed fish, pigs, cows, sheep, and horses, but less information is offered for poultry and aquaculture operations. All data is based on the US Census of Agriculture, which is conducted every five years by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

It is interesting to note that, according to the report, the number of federally-inspected slaughterhouses dropped by 4% from January 2004 to January 2005. The actual number of federal facilities decreased from 855 slaughterhouses in 2004 to 825 in 2005. Similarly, the number of state-inspected slaughterhouses decreased by 5% over the same period, from 2,289 facilities in 2004 down to 2,116 in 2005.

1. "The 2004 US Animal Health Report," USDA / APHIS, August 2005
PDF File (11 MB):

2. "New USDA Report Examines Animal Health,", 10/18/05 (Registration)

5. Report Says Farmed Animal Waste Emits up to 70% of All Ammonia in US

A new report from the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) describes how the country's disconnected environmental policies may in fact encourage pollution. The report tells us that, "Regulations to restrict animal farm emissions to the water might inadvertently increase emissions to the air, and vice versa." Laws such as the Clean Water Act may thus encourage farmers to take measures that increase air pollution. In response, ERS officials recommend that farms take an integrated approach to environmental protection. The ERS report provides a simulation showing both economic and environmental benefits from simultaneously taking into account all current and upcoming regulations, including those that cover both air and water pollution.

According to the report, "animal agriculture produces a variety of pollutants, including organic matter, urea, ammonia, nitrous oxide, phosphorus, methane, carbon dioxide, pathogens, antibiotics, and hormones." In particular, animal farming is responsible for up to 70% of all US ammonia emissions. Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs) represent the largest farms measured by number of animals and broken up into small, medium, and large CAFOs (see below for a full definition of CAFOs). These farms account for a disproportionate amount of pollutants generated by large volumes of animal waste. Despite representing less than 5% of all farming operations in the US, CAFOs produce nearly half (47%) of the country's animal waste.

The total amount of waste produced by farmed animals is approximately 500 million tons, (presumably per year, but no timeframe is indicated in the report). CAFOs alone account for about 235 million tons of animal waste.

"Managing Manure to Improve Air and Water Quality," USDA / ERS, Sept-2005

6. Farmed Animal Statistics: Definition of a CAFO

The definition of an animal feeding operation (AFO) includes any facility that keeps animals confined at least 45 days in a 12-month period, and for which no grass or other vegetation is provided in the confinement area during the normal growing cycle. The definition of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act, and was last revised in late 2002. The rule defines large, medium, and small CAFOs as determined by thresholds of numbers of animals, per the table below. Note that small CAFOs must be specifically designated as such and are not otherwise subject to EPA regulations. Additionally, medium CAFOs only include facilities where animals or animal waste comes into contact with groundwater, either directly through access to such water or via drainage ditches and pipes.

The following table summarizes the EPA-established "size thresholds" for CAFOs, by animal farming sector.

    Animal Sector Large CAFOs Medium CAFOs Small CAFOs
    Chickens other than laying hens
    (other than a liquid manure system)
    125,000 or more 37,500 - 124,999 Fewer than 37,500
    Laying hens (other than a liquid manure system) 82,000 or more 25,000 - 81,999 Fewer than 25,000
    Turkeys 55,000 or more 16,500 - 54,999 Fewer than 16,500
    Ducks (other than a liquid manure system) 30,000 or more 10,000 - 29,999 Fewer than 10,000
    Laying hens or broilers
    (liquid manure systems)
    30,000 or more 9,000 - 29,999 Fewer than 9,000
    Swine (under 55 pounds) 10,000 or more 3,000 - 9,999 Fewer than 3,000
    Sheep or lambs 10,000 or more 3,000 - 9,999 Fewer than 3,000
    Ducks (liquid manure system) 5,000 or more 1,500 - 4,999 Fewer than 1,500
    Swine (over 55 pounds)
    2,500 or more 750 - 2,499 Fewer than 750
    Cattle or cow/calf pairs 1,000 or more 300 - 999 Fewer than 300
    Veal calves 1,000 or more 300 - 999 Fewer than 300
    Mature dairy cattle 700 or more 200 - 699 Fewer than 200

1. "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - Final Rule," EPA, Feb-2003

2. "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - Clean Water Act Requirements," EPA, Feb-2003
PDF File (357kb):

7. Other Items of Interest

"Low-Stress Weaning," Cattle Network, 10/11/05
A rancher-published newsletter for the cow farming industry suggests that farmers allow for "low-stress weaning" by providing more time for calves before taking them away from their mothers. The author recommends letting herds sort themselves into pairs rather than having farmers physically manipulate the animals into groups, and weaning them across a fence for up to five days before separation.

"Scientists Launch Sheep Breeding Program," Sydney Morning Herald / AAP, 10/14/05
Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), a wool industry trade and research group, is funding a $2 million project to breed sheep resistant to "flystrike," potentially eliminating the practice of mulesing. Some sheep in Australia have been born naturally with bare backsides, and now scientists will attempt to replicate those traits in two experimental flocks of 600 sheep each. The research project will last five years, but AWI is also pursing short-term, non-surgical alternatives to mulesing. (

"Strain of Avian Influenza Highly Resistant to Tamiflu," News-Medical.Net, 10/16/05
Despite hopes that the Oseltamivir (or Tamiflu) may reduce the potential for a worldwide avian flu pandemic, a recent case in Vietnam suggests the virus is already resistant to the drug. Based on limited evidence so far, Tamiflu appears to slow the advance of avian influenza, but not stop it. A paper appearing in the journal Nature suggests that other drugs be considered in addition to the more than 80 million doses of Tamiflu currently being sought by the US government alone.

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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.