Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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November 15, 2005 -- Number 43, Volume 5

1. Australian Live Export Company Charged with Animal Cruelty

In November 2003, the vessel "MV Al Kuwait" left Fremantle, Western Australia bound for the Middle East with more than 100,000 sheep on board. The vessel was delayed, causing significant stress and many sheep deaths; the incident also prompted the activist groups Animals Australia and Compassion in World Farming to call for an investigation. (See FAW 5-6). Two years later, Western Australian authorities have filed animal cruelty charges under the Animal Welfare Act against the export company responsible for the voyage. According to an Animals Australia news release, "the outcome of the prosecution could have wide-ranging ramifications for the live sheep trade generally." The group calls the MV Al Kuwait incident "representative" of the industry and hopes the action will lead Australia's judicial system to rule all forms of live animal export illegal.

1. "Live Export Company Charged With Animal Cruelty," Animals Australia, 11/10/05

2. "Live Export Company Charged With Animal Cruelty," Compassion in World Farming, 11/11/05
PDF file (43k):

2. More on Trader Joe's / HSUS Agreement Limiting Sales of Caged-Hen's Eggs

As mentioned briefly in FAW 5-42, US-based food retailer Trader Joe's has agreed to use only cage-free eggs for its own brand of chicken's eggs. The agreement results from a campaign waged by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), but Traders Joe's was also influenced by a media report covering one of the company's egg suppliers. An investigative team from San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO traced the supply of Trader Joe's eggs to a farm in Turlock, California that confines more than 1.5 million hens to small "battery" cages. KGO also ran video footage obtained from an undercover activist who had visited that same farm several times to document the hens' conditions. The video is available on the first website listed below. Trader Joe's agreed to convert all of its branded-label eggs to cage-free suppliers by February 1, 2006. The company also agreed that all store promotions will feature exclusively cage-free eggs. Trader Joe's joins other food retailers that have gone even further by selling only cage-free eggs, including Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats, among others. Trader Joe's sells an estimated 100 million eggs per year under its own label, which The HSUS says could result in the un-caging of an estimated 380,000 hens under the new agreement. Wayne Pacelle, HSUS's Chief Executive Officer, said of the campaign, "All of the major chains that sell eggs, we want them to offer consumers the option of cage-free eggs and frankly to move the battery cages off the shelves because we should not tolerate this form of cruelty."

1. "Trader Joe's Makes Change to 'Egg' Policy," ABC-7, 11/8/05 (with videos)

2. "Trader Joe's 'Chickens Out,' Opts to Sell Only Cage-Free," Boston Herald, 11/9/05

3. Avian Influenza: Chicken Industry, Animal Activists Send Public Mixed Messages

According to the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a pro-industry group, nearly half of US adults (47%) agreed with a statement that they can catch avian influenza from eating chicken flesh. The responses are based on a representative survey of 1,007 adults conducted by Opinion Research Corp. CCF blames the "misconception" on the media and "needless hysteria from animal rights activists." The US poultry industry's major trade groups, including the National Turkey Federation (NTF), the National Chicken Council (NCC), and the Egg Safety Center (ESC), have launched a new website to counter the perception and protect sales of poultry products. Fast-food company KFC is also developing television advertisements to counter the public's belief that chicken products may pass on avian influenza. However, KFC says it will not air the commercials until (and if) there is an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the US.

Despite the industry's messages to the contrary, at least one author and health expert says, "There's evidence of transmission (of avian influenza) via dining on the meat of animals," according to an interview in E Magazine in August. A related action alert from United Poultry Concerns quotes several experts, including Dr. Perry Kendall, the chief medical officer for British Columbia, Canada. According to Kendall, "The methods of farming result in them (chickens) being actually more frail and more vulnerable to diseases, particularly since there are so many of them in such a small volume of space." Other animal activist groups are also commenting on a possible pandemic and using it as a basis to criticize modern poultry farming methods and crowded conditions. According to a spokesperson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), "Avian flu is a direct consequence of a very sick and cruel industry."

1. "47% of Americans Mistakenly Believe Eating Chicken Can Spread Bird Flu," Center for Consumer Freedom, 11/8/05

2. "Poultry Industry Launches New Web Site on Avian Influenza," News Release / Yahoo News, 11/15/05

3. "KFC Prepares Ads in Event of Bird Flu Outbreak," All Headline News, 11/9/05

4. "Bad News on Bird Flu a Feast for Anti-Industry Activists,", 11/11/05 (Registration)

5. "Avian Influenza: Action Alert," United Poultry Concerns, 11/11/05

6. "Laurie Garret talks about Avian Flu," United Poultry Concerns, 8/18/05

4. Dairy Industry: U.S. Organic Ruling; Producers Invent New Derivative Products

ORGANIC: In the US, sales of organic milk account for more than 3% of all cows' milk sold directly to consumers, although the trend is growing quickly. Organic milk sales are increasing at an estimated 23% annually compared with an 8% decline for the entire US dairy industry. However, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has amended the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to allow "organic" dairy farms to use some non-organic or synthetic materials if they are "commercially unavailable." The ruling also covers giving cows access to pasture for grazing, which is required for organic producers under the original act. However, the country's largest organic milk producer (Horizon Dairy) reports feeding its cows a diet of "up to 40% grain."

NEW PRODUCTS: Canada-based Dairy Fresh Technologies Ltd., according to a company press release, has developed a new milk product based on blending "skimmed" cows' milk with canola oil. The process uses canola oil as a fat substitute to produce something the company claims is "nutritionally equivalent" to 2% cows' milk, but with a richer taste. The company test marketed its "new generation milk" with 300,000 retail consumers throughout Canada, boasting a "conversion to purchase" ratio of 47% in October 2005. On a similar topic, longtime 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney recently ranted against the use of substitutes and alternative ingredients used to supplement cow's milk. According to Rooney, "I'll bet a calf wouldn't drink most of the stuff called milk now sold in cartons."

1. "An Organic Cash Cow," New York Times, 11/9/05

2. "Congress Acts to Amend Organic Foods Law amid Industry Split," Natural Foods Merchandiser, 11/1/2005

3. "Dairy Fresh Farms Announces Results of 'New Generation Milk','" News Release / Yahoo News, 11/8/05

4. "What Have They Done To Milk?" CBS News / 60 Minutes, 11/6/05

5. Farmed Animal Statistics: U.S. Turkey Farming; Death Loss Rates; etc.

In the United States, more than 250 million farmed turkeys are slaughtered every year; an estimated 65 million of those turkeys are killed and eaten during the holiday season toward the end of the calendar year. The US Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released a new report describing the rapid average weight growth of farmed turkeys. An average turkey's weight increased 4% over the past year (2004-2005), and has increased by 57% since 1965. According to the report, "Over the past decade alone, turkeys have averaged a 5-pound weight gain, from 23.2 pounds in 1995 to 28.2 pounds in 2005."

The NASS data adds to research from Compassion Over Killing (COK), which reported that in the 1960s it took 220 days to raise a 35-pound turkey, but that number had dropped to only 132 days by 2004. (See also FAW 2-77). The rapid growth and abnormally high weights cause a host of welfare problems for turkeys. The consumer's desire for flesh from a turkey's breast has created birds too heavy for flight, according to one professor at the University of Maryland. The increased weight also makes normal breeding more difficult for the turkeys, allowing farmers to justify the use of artificial insemination despite animal welfare concerns with the process. See below for a summary of US turkey farming statistics, by region and for the entire country.

US Turkey Farming Statistics, 2004

    U.S. Region / Total Number of Hatcheries Capacity (000s) Poults Placed (000s) Death Loss Rate (%)
    East North Central (IL IN MI OH WI) 10 5,638 39,981 11.2 %
    West North Central (IA KS MN MO NE ND SD) 18 14,973 105,622 12.2 %
    Atlantic (CT DE FL GA MD ME NH NJ NY NC PA RI SC VA VT WV) 20 15,534 86,192 8 %
    South Central (AL AR KY LA MS OK TN TX) 3 2,434 22,609 9.3 %
    West (AK AZ CA CO HI ID MT NM NV OR UT WA WY) 6 6,321 22,834 13.4 %
    U. S. (TOTAL) 57 44,900 277,238 10.4 %

The six largest turkey-farming states will contribute to a total slaughter of an estimated 166 million birds in 2005, accounting for two-thirds of all US turkey slaughter. See below for 2005 estimates for these six states.

Largest U.S. Turkey-Slaughtering States, 2005 (expected)

    U.S. Region / Total Expected 2005 slaughter
    Minnesota 44.5 million
    North Carolina 36 million
    Arkansas 29 million
    Virginia 21 million
    Missouri 20.5 million
    California 15.1 million

1. "USDA Reports an Increase in the Average Weight of a Turkey," USDA / NASS, 11/15/05

2. "QuickStats Agricultural Statistics Database," USDA / NASS, Updated regularly

3. "Animal Suffering in the Turkey Industry: Breeding," Compassion Over Killing, 2005

4. "Professor Says There's Lots to Gobble About Today's Modern Turkey," NewsDesk, 11/14/05

6. Other Items of Interest

"Farmers May be Losing Battle with Animal Rights Activists," Agri-News, 11/15/05
Iowa university professor Wes Jamison claims that animal protection activists seek to pass a federal Animal Welfare Act that covers farmed animals that he says means "confinement agriculture will cease." Speaking to an industry audience at an Agri-Growth Council meeting, Jamison says farmers and corporations must seek to "establish the moral and scientific high ground" with consumers and society.

"Call for Expressions of Interest," EU Welfare Quality Project, 11/11/05
The European Union-funded "Welfare Quality Project" is inviting "expressions of interest" for activities that complement the coalition's work. The invitation mentions specific areas of interest involving the welfare of animals currently not covered under the project, including young farmed animals, sheep, turkeys, and others. Expressions of interest must be received by December 9, 2005 and the selected projects may receive up to 125,000 Euros in funding.

"The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation of Crop, Forest, Animal and Fishery Genetic Resources in Developing Countries," United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Nov-2005
In June and July of 2005, the United Nation's FAO Biotechnology Forum held an email conference to discuss the role of biotechnology in "developing" countries. The conference touched on wide-ranging uses of biotechnology, including the "constraints" faced by such countries in growing their farmed animal industries.

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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.