Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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April, 27 2006 -- Number 14, Volume 6

1. Chicago Bans Foie Gras

Chicago has become the first U.S. city to ban the sale of foie gras, the fatty liver of ducks and geese produced by force feeding. The city council passed the measure with a 48:1 vote. Effective in 90 days, food dispensing establishments, retail outlets and restaurants selling foie gras will be subject to a fine of up to $500 per day. In 2004, California became the first state to ban the sale and production of foie gras, but it will not go into effective until 2012. Other states considering legislation against foie gras are Illinois, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. Countries that have taken action against foie gras include the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. France, however, claims it to be part of its "cultural and gastronomic partimony." The Sun Times article tells of the politics involved in the Chicago ban.

1. Chicago Champions Foie Gras Prohibition
Just Food, April 27, 2006

2. A Better Luxury or Cruelty on a Plate?
ABC News, Rose Palazzolo, April 27, 2006

3. City Council Approves Foie Gras Ban
The Sun-Times Company, Fran Spielman, April 26, 2006

2. U.S. Plans for Avian Influenza

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza is likely to arrive in the U.S. this year, according to officials at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). If the virus is suspected in a commercial poultry operation, the government plans to immediately kill all the birds with carbon dioxide gas (see: ), even before testing is completed. The government will financially compensated any such business for the market value of the birds. Vaccines could be used in flocks in the surrounding area. However, the government is reluctant to use them since the virus could be spread by vaccinated birds who don’t appear sick. Officials are urging that poultry be kept inside and observed. The U.S. poultry industry is worth more than $29 billion, producing 9 billion chickens and 250 million turkeys yearly, more than any other country.

H5N1 has spread through Asia, Europe and Africa, with 110 human fatalities. More than 200 million birds have been killed by the disease or efforts to contain it. The outbreaks originated from chickens in China, not wild birds, according to an article in the April 21st issue of Science. The U.S. plans to test as many as 100,000 wild birds for the disease this year. Suspicion is growing that international movement of poultry or poultry products, such as fertilizer, may play a bigger role in the virus’s spread than do wild birds.

1. Flock-Killing Planned if Bird Flu Found
The Associated Press, Libby Quaid, April 19, 2006

2. Scientists Work to Spot Flu in Migratory Birds
Associated Press, Lauran Neergaard, April 21, 2006

3. Emerging Standards of Farm Animal Welfare

At the March 2006 Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) conference, Dr. David Fraser gave a presentation about emerging standards of farmed animal welfare. He noted highlights that have resulted from the “profound change [that] has occurred in attitudes toward animals” in the past half-century. Fraser pointed out that while most of the world’s meat production occurred in industrialized countries during the 20th century, by the end of the century “the lines crossed,” with meat production increasingly concentrating in less industrialized nations.

Animal welfare has become a global issue. In May 2005, The World Organization for Animal Health adopted its first animal welfare guidelines, covering the slaughter of animals for human consumption, the killing of animals for disease control, and the transport of animals by land and sea. Supported by 167 countries, the guidelines are especially important because they signify the first time many of the nations had adopted animal welfare guidelines.

Many actions and programs to address farmed animal welfare have been brought into existence by governments, corporations and organizations. They include regulations, international agreements, non-mandatory welfare codes and guidelines, corporate social responsibility programs, and labeling to differentiate products. Fraser discussed these options and categorized the requirements needed in animal care assurance programs into four types. The first maintains the basic health and functioning of the animals. The second intends to reduce pain and distress. A third tries to accommodate natural behaviors, and a final type dictates that species must have some access to natural elements in their environment.

With that information, Fraser has assembled the formats and types of requirements into a matrix that allows one to see various programs within this context. "The matrix, then, is a way of organizing the different programs as a set of policy options that could be used to create new programs of animal welfare standards," he explains. Countries and industries can thus select options best suited to their own cultural and economic situations. The strengths and weaknesses of the different formats and requirements were also considered.

1. Orcas, 'Freedom Food' and the World Bank
Alberta Farm Animal Care media release, April 11, 2006
(The full text of the presentation is not available on-line.)

4. Rationalizing Animal Agriculture

The focus of agriculture has been on economics, with animals viewed as objects, explains Dr. Wes Jamison, an agriculture professor and popular speaker. Animal protection advocates have been illuminating society's "schizophrenic" thinking about animals, the contradiction between how the public thinks animals should be treated and the actual use of them. "What we have to do in agriculture is give people permission to both love animals as family members and to eat them as food," he advises. While Jamison doesn't claim to have a moral rationale at the ready for keeping farmed animals confined indoors, he suggests that biosecurity concerns might work as such an argument. He cautions that, for the public, moral concerns will trump scientific or economic arguments for business practices.

1. "Livestock Producers Encouraged to Emphasize the Moral Justifications for Raising Animals for Food," Farmscape, April 5, 2006. or

2. "Morality Debate Coming on Farm Livestock," The Des Moines Register, Philip Brasher, April 2, 2006.

5. The Future of Animal Agriculture in North America

The results of an 18-month study have recently been released in a 247-page report entitled "The Future of Animal Agriculture in North America." The report is a project of the Farm Foundation: "a publicly supported nonprofit organization working to improve the economic health and social well-being of U.S. agriculture, the food system and rural people by helping private and public sector decision makers identify and understand forces that will shape the future." The project was co-chaired by Charles Stenholm, a rancher and former Congressman (R-Tx) who is now a lobbyist for the horse slaughter industry.

The report is believed to be the first of its kind to “take a comprehensive look at the opportunities and challenges facing the major species of the animal agriculture industry in Canada, Mexico and the United States.” It refrains from making policy decisions, instead highlighting “commonalties, differences and areas where future work may be needed.”

Animal welfare is the focus of one chapter, which explains that: “Productivity has increased enormously due to the use of animal confinement systems, especially for poultry and hogs. There has also been intensive genetic selection for desired production traits, development of scientific feed formulation and use of productivity-enhancing pharmaceuticals.” It also points out that while most people in North America do not believe that nonhuman animals and people have equal rights, studies have shown that most do believe farmed animals have “a right to be treated humanely.”

The chapter considers the meaning of animal well-being, and describes current regulations, key issues of changes in practices and policy, and alternatives for protecting animal welfare. It also examines economic aspects of animal welfare, stating that “economic forces…. are likely to be the major determinants of the success of initiatives to raise animal welfare standards in North America.” The chapter concludes: “It seems likely that animal welfare standards will become an increasingly important issue in international trade, not only for governments but also for companies operating in global markets.”

1. The Future of Animal Agriculture in North America, Farm Foundation, April 18, 2006

Special thanks to Bruce Friedrich for information included in this issue.

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Compiled and edited by Cat Carroll and Mary Finelli, 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.