Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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May 26, 2006 -- Number 18, Volume 6


The Way We Eat, a new book by ethicist Peter Singer and attorney Jim Mason, follows the food choices of three American families: meat-and-potatoes Wal-Mart shoppers, “conscientious omnivores,” and stringent vegans. Animal well-being; production standards; fair trade; environmental impacts, including of local production; and genetically modified foods are among the considerations of the applied ethical calculus. Readers are warned that we cannot know exactly how far the concepts of "free range" or "humanely slaughtered" might be stretched, and that even humanely raised animals take up space that might be better used to grow crops or provide habitat for wild species.

In a Slate interview, Singer suggests that to improve the conditions under which animals are raised, either consumers must be ethically motivated to pay more for their food or else unfair competition must be eliminated with regulations. In a Mother Jones interview, he comments that the market is probably the best tool for producing change in the U.S. whereas the political system may be a more effective tool in Europe. Mason and Singer recommend that consumers ideally follow a vegan diet and buy organic and fair trade items. If, however, one merely avoids products produced by intensive animal agriculture, Singer says you will have already achieved 80% of what the book suggests we should strive to accomplish. The immorality of obesity is also discussed. The book will also be reviewed in the next New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Michael Pollan's new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, explores the origins of a meal from a fast food restaurant, a meal he hunts and grows himself, a meal with ingredients from small “family farms,” and a meal with ingredients from large organic corporations. Pollan (who has been engaged in a “mini-feud” with Singer over animal rights) visits a “free range” organic chicken farm where 20,000 birds are raised in a single building with little opportunity to go outdoors. He reminds readers that cheap food is not really cheap, because costs to human health, the environment, the farming community and taxpayers are not reflected. Perhaps paying more for our food would make us “more mindful eaters,” he says, considering we in the U.S. spend the smallest percentage (9%) of our income on food of any population in history.

See also:

The Practical Ethicist: “The Way We Eat” Author Peter Singer Explains the Advantage of Wingless Chickens, how Humans Discriminate Against Animals, and the Downside of Buying Locally Grown Food.
Slate, Oliver Broudy, May 8, 2006

It’s Not Enough to be a Vegetarian
AlterNet, Christina Waters, May 23, 2006

Chew the Right Thing: The philosopher talks about ethical eating, fast-food burritos, and why local food is overhyped.
Mother Jones, Dave Gilson, May 3, 2006

Tampa Author Reconstructs the Food Chain, and it's Icky!
St. Petersburg Times, Colette Bancroft, May 21, 2006


Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson’s new book, Eric Schlosser’s 2001 bestseller Fast Food Nation is “an expose of fast food that describes, in often-graphic detail, how the industry mistreats animals and workers, homogenizes the American landscape and its culture and makes people sick or obese.” Schlosser’s new book, Chew on This, written with Charles Wilson, expands these points to a new audience: preteens. The food and farm industries are striking back with, a web site that counters many of the book’s claims by saying that American farmers raise their animals humanely and treat the environment with care, and that food and restaurant workers, including meatpackers, are paid fair and competitive wages. Meanwhile, director Richard Linklater’s big screen adaptation of Fast Food Nation could be targeted with similar protests when it opens this fall. Linklater says: “These days we can be sued for disparaging [a food] industry. It's like it's a felony to say something bad. I think they should make it a felony to criticize a film product…I’d like to see people get sued if they wrote a bad review of my movie.” Schlosser adds, “You can't criticize these big corporations. If you do you're an anarchist, socialist, whatever.”

Greasy Kid Stuff
The Washington Post, Abby McGanney Nolan, May 14, 2006

‘I've Never Been in the Firing Line like this Before’: Director Richard Linklater is known for his gentle, Gen-X movies. Now he's taking on the American meat industry with Fast Food Nation.
Guardian Unlimited, Xan Brooks, May 22, 2006,,1780445,00.html


The rising popularity of organic foods is causing mixed reactions, as some fear small farmers will be squeezed out of the market by large corporations who are able to produce organic food for a lower cost with compromised standards. In 2005, the industry still only accounted for 2.5% of all retail food sales, but the sector is growing quickly – last year’s $14 billion in sales was up 16% from the year before, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic meat in particular showed strong sales, up 55% from 2005 (likely due to concerns over mad cow disease since infected cows first officially identified in the U.S. in December 2003), and organic dairy sales rose 24%. The U.S. market for organic meats has become highly import-dependent with organic meats coming in from Latin America, Australasia, and Canada. More than 60 percent of the organic pork sold in the U.S. is currently imported.

According to a recent report by the Cornucopia Institute, two of the largest organic dairy producers in the country, Horizon Organic (of Dean Foods) and Aurora Organic (a private-label supermarket supplier) buy much of their milk from huge feedlots where cows are raised under terrible conditions, with little or no access to pasture. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards issued in 2000 for anyone using the “organic” label prohibit the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and all antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge in the production of fruits, vegetables, and meat, including poultry. Feed must be 100% organic with no animal byproducts or growth hormones. However, there are not many welfare requirements other than that animals must be allowed some outdoor access. Large-scale organic producers may not provide the same quality husbandry as do smaller farms. “The USDA has a yearly budget of $90 billion coming from our public taxes, and yet the USDA still refuses to allocate anything more than crumbs ($10 million annually) to organics, meanwhile allowing inhumane and non- sustainable industrial farming practices to creep into organic production,” states Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.

In the United Kingdom, a new test to detect the presence and number of treatments of antibiotics in chicken bones or pig bones will help determine whether products marketed as “organic” have been produced in compliance organic requirements.

Consumers have an opportunity to weigh in on the organic pasture debate by submitting comments on a proposed USDA rule change by June 12. The change requires that organic dairy cows must spend at least 120 days per year on grass and at least 30% of their feed must come from grazing during the pasture season. Visit: Comments on standards for “grass-fed” production are also being accepted. See:


As ‘Organic’ Goes Mainstream, Will Standards Suffer?
Advocates are cheered by the growing appeal of organic foods. But shoppers, confused by labels, don't always get what they think they paid for.
The Christian Science Monitor, Amanda Paulson with Melanie Stetson Freeman, May 17, 2006

U.S. Sees Growth in Organic Meat
The demand for organic meats in the United States is outpacing the supply.
Meat Processing, May 24, 2006

New Tests to Spot ‘Organic’ Labeling Fraud
Food Standards Agency, May 17, 2006


Tyson Foods, Inc. has announced the introduction of its “all-natural” chicken line of products. The USDA definition of “natural” only requires that meat not contain artificial colors or additives – it has nothing to do with how the animal was raised or what the animal ate. Animals may still be fed antibiotics under this term. While putting hormones in chicken feed is prohibited, chickens can still be given antibiotics every day for the same purpose – to increase growth rates. A recent Christian Science Monitor article considers the meanings of such labeling terms as “natural,” “organic,” “free-range” or “cage-free.”

Tyson Official Details Plans for New ‘All-Natural’ Poultry
Meat & Poultry, May 18, 2006

When Grocery Shopping, Read the Fine Print: Helpful Hints to Avoid being Tricked by those Misleading Package Labels
MSNBC, Herb Weisbaum, May 15, 2006


Last week, Whole Foods Market stopped selling live soft shell crabs and is currently reviewing its position on lobster and other aquatic species out of concern over whether the animals are handled humanely after they’re caught. Soft shell crabs are forced to live up to a week out of water during transport. Some die during transport, and the time and conditions during the process concerns the company. Whole Foods still sell frozen soft shell crabs, who are killed soon after they moult (shed their shells), but consumers complain the meat is mushy.

The California state has passed the Sustainable Oceans Ac, which imposes strict environmental standards on any commercial fish operations in state waters. It is expected to also be approved by the Senate. Commercial fish farms discharge heavy concentrations of untreated waste and breed disease by closely confining fish. Carnivorous species, such as tuna, also eat several times their body weight in wild prey, stripping the oceans of small fish as a result. Fish farms provide the world with 20% of its total food-fish supply. The U.S. Dept. of Commerce has mandated a fivefold increase in U.S. aquaculture by 2025, with experts predicting that it will be a $5 billion industry in two decades.

Live Seafood the New Humane Focus
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Elizabeth Lee with Saeed Ahmed, May 19, 2006

Bill Would Toughen Fish Farm Standards
Tri-Valley Herald, Julia Scott, May 14, 2006


Adam Durand, the Compassionate Consumers activist who was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing last week (see last issue) was sentenced to 6 months in jail, a year of probation and 100 hours of community service, plus fined $1,500. Although he could have received up to 9 months in jail, the sentence was harsher than expected. A 5-page statement that Judge Dennis Kehoe read in court berated Durand for believing he was above the law. Kehoe called the video "contraband" and expressed his desire to order it destroyed but said he could find no legal justification to do so. He also said he wished he could hold Durand and the other activists responsible for the $1 million Wegmans said it has spent in security upgrades since the illicit visits. Rochester City News details the striking similarities between the judges statement and a victim-impact statement submitted to the court by a Wegman attorney, which at times match “almost word for word.” Durand’s attorney is considering an appeal.

Jailing a Cage-Free Activist
Rochester City News, Krestia DeGeorge, May 24, 2006

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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.