Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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OCTOBER 12, 2006 -- Number 36, Volume 6


The Twenty-Eight Hour Law, passed in 1873, requires that farmed animals be unloaded every 28 hours during shipment and given feed, water and rest. The law was passed before trucks were used for that purpose. They are now the means by which some 95% of all farmed animals are transported, according to The Humane Society of the U.S (HSUS). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had in recent years stated that the law does not pertain to trucks. Accordingly, per HSUS, “…more than 50 million of the nearly 10 billion farm animals transported by truck every year must endure trips far in excess of 28 hours without food, water or rest.” HSUS, along with Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing, and Animals’ Angels, petitioned the USDA last October for trucks to be recognized under the law. Early this month the USDA made it known publicly that, in a 2003 internal memo, it had clarified that trucks are indeed covered. Its new interpretation was based on changes Congress made to the law in 1994. Those changes also switch enforcement responsibility for the law from the USDA to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The change in policy was news to many organizations, including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Trucking Associations, some of which have raised concerns. It has become common practice in the pig industry for two drivers to be assigned to every trip, avoiding having to stop along the way. Trucks carrying calves avoid stopping so the animals don't lie down, said a representative of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, who claims that calves travel better standing. Chickens, turkeys and other birds, who constitute some 95% of all farmed animals, are still not protected by the law.

The Humane Society of the United States, September 28, 2006

Herd on the Hill, Edited by Elliotte Bowerman, Oct. 9, 2006

The Des Moines Register, Philip Brasher, September 29, 2006



September was “National Chicken Month.” The National Chicken Council recognized it with a website (hyperlink to: with the theme “Taste the Possibilities,” which offers chicken recipes and resources for boosting sales of the birds’ meat. The Humane Society of the U.S. instead celebrated it by urging consumers to “check out some delicious alternatives to meat and eggs—and give the chickens something to crow about!” (See: )



The egg industry has agreed to permanently drop "Animal Care Certified" logos on egg cartons, which has been replaced with a logo that instead says "United Egg Producers Certified." The agreement was reached with 16 states that contended the original logo falsely implied a higher level of care for hens. United Egg Producers (UEP) also agreed to pay $100,000 to the states for attorney fees, consumer education, and other costs. The trade group denies it misled consumers, noting that the certification program guidelines are still the same.

Compassion Over Killing [which initiated the action in 2003 with through a successful petition to the Better Business Bureau] is now petitioning the Food and Drug Administration “to establish a uniform, market-wide regulation mandating the labeling of egg production methods on egg cartons (i.e. “eggs from caged hens”) to protect consumers from false and misleading advertising” (see: ). In Washington D.C., City Councilor Jim Graham has introduced legislation requiring retailers to hang signs with black letters at least one inch tall stating: "Eggs may be from caged hens." The law would be the first of its kind in the U.S. According to the UEP, about 95% of eggs sold are produced by caged hens, whereas a decade ago almost all eggs were. UEP contends that it is meeting market demand for cheap eggs with the use of battery cages, and that eggs from uncaged hens are already labeled as such. A discussion with Councilor Graham and reps from advocacy and industry can be heard at:

On a similar note, Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, the largest grocery store in Berkeley, California, has agreed to allow Foster Farms and East Bay Animal Advocates the opportunity to express their positions via point-of-sale-notices on the treatment of chickens by Foster Farms. Additionally, Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. will, over the next four years, become the first national food manufacturer to require egg producers to allow their laying hens to live outside cages (see: & ).

The San Francisco Chronicle, September 21, 2006

The Washington Post, Nikita Stewart, September 29, 2006



To determine the most common causes of death prior to slaughter for chickens raised for meat, 302 birds who died between the time they were caught and slaughtered were studied in the Netherlands. Visible skin injuries caused by disease were found on 89.4% of the birds who arrived dead. Signs of infectious disease were identified in 64.9% of them, heart and circulatory disorders were detected in 42.4%, and 29.5% showed signs of trauma. It was determined that a good health status along with more attention during the catching and crating process is needed to decrease the percentage of birds who arrive dead. Prevention of heart disorders and of ascites was also deemed necessary to improve livability during production and to “enormously” decrease the dead-on-arrival (DOA) rate. (Peak periods of DOA birds are usually due to heat waves or equipment malfunctions, per (PDF file): )

Although birds constitute 95% of the non-aquatic animals killed for food in the U.S., they are not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and East Bay Animal Advocates are suing the USDA to have poultry included, arguing that birds are among the species that Congress mandated be included under the law. The organizations contend that birds presently suffer from such industry practices as shackling and hanging conscious birds upside down, electrically stunning birds into paralysis but failing to induce actual unconsciousness, cutting conscious birds with imprecise mechanical blades, and drowning conscious birds in tanks of scalding water. They recommend that birds instead be killed with gas. The article considers the history of welfare regulations for animal slaughter, and touches on the use of rabbits for meat.

[Poultry farmers can slaughter up to 20,000 birds per year for commercial purposes without an inspector present. See (PDF file): ] Slaughter at Marin Sun Farms (Ca.) is described: “Four at a time, they're placed upside down in metal cones, their heads poking out of the narrow openings. One at a time, their heads disappear into the fist of a worker. In a calm and steady motion he pulls their heads back in such a way to expose their neck to his blade and makes a slice, careful to cut only the jugular vein - interrupting the flow of deoxygenated blood to the heart.” (The on-line article includes additional details and a photograph.)

Poultry Science, E. Nijdam et al., September 2006

Point Reyes Light, Meghan Gilliss, September 21, 2006



“42-Day Wonders” is an article in the September issue of Washingtonian magazine that looks at the “broiler” industry of the East Coast’s Delmarva Peninsula, where 2,000 “grower” raise more than 570 million chickens each year. It begins with a visit to a concealed genetic research facility where: “Each rooster struts in his own pen, shared with eight hens which he must mount at least 40 times a week to produce a flow of fertile eggs. Should he falter, a pen full of reserve roosters awaits. The laggard stud is euthanized and incinerated on site--we can’t risk competing poultry companies getting his elite genes.” The “working life” of the birds deemed best for breeding purposes is about one year. Cloning, it’s said, “would be stupid because that would end mutation and the constant gains the industry demands.”

Author Tom Horton, who grew up on a chicken farm and worked in poultry processing plants, notes that the “relentless [genetic] advance that has transformed the descendants of Asian jungle fowl into protein machines…” Today a chicken can be raised to more than four pounds (65 times their initial weight) in 42 days versus 116 days back when modern chicken production began (in the 1920’s) and on half the feed. They are kept for their 6-week lives in structures that can hold up to 60,000 birds [30,000 according to the National Chicken Council], with fluorescent lights kept on 22 hours a day to encourage steady feeding. Every couple of years the buildings are given a “total crustout,” with manure-laden litter removed down to the bare floor.

The article features Lou Ann Rieley, a mother of 12 who had been raising half a million chickens a year under contract to Perdue. With thousands of the birds in each flock of 75,000 dying prior to being sent to slaughter, Rieley’s children learned to count by collecting dead chickens. Explains daughter Megan, 16, “We always pray for rain the day they move [by open truck in cages to the processing plant]. That little extra weight on their feathers is more money for us.” She continues: “I really hate killing em, but you gotta do what you gotta do.” “As long as they don’t suffer,” adds her mother. The article describes how the chickens are caught and slaughtered.

Karen Davis, head of United Poultry Concerns, is characterized as “a lonely counterpoint” to the Delmarva chicken industry. At her sanctuary, some 85 mostly former industry birds quickly revert to their natural behaviors -taking dust baths, sunbathing, eating grass, perching in trees, and socializing- despite having been bred for generations to maximize egg or meat production. Australian avian researcher Lesley Rogers is quoted: I am convinced chickens are not animals that should be kept in mentally and socially deprived conditions. They are as complex as the cats and dogs we share our homes with and should not be looked upon as bird brains.
DPI [Delmarva Poultry Industry]’s Bill Satterfield disputes the contention that the industry is abusive to birds, arguing that stressed and suffering birds would diminish performance and profits. The article includes numerous photographs, all by David Harp who found some aspects of the industry “a bit jarring” but “still enjoys barbecuing and eats chicken several nights a week.”

Washingtonian, Tom Horton, September 2006


“The misery of egg-laying birds has been well-documented,” states the U.K.’s Guardian Unlimited. In anticipation of a report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) comparing its standards for raising birds for meat to Assured Chicken Production (ACP) standards, by which 90% of U.K. chickens are said to be raised, reporter Andrew Purvis was sent to investigate “whether the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme is really working or whether chicken farming is just one big cock-up.”

Purvis, who obtained an advance copy of the report, warns: “The 30-page document makes harrowing reading, with tales of up to 50,000 chickens crammed in a dark, airless shed, pumped up by a high-protein diet and suffering from 'heat stress' and respiratory problems caused by 'aerial contaminants'. So tightly packed are the birds, they sit immobile in their own soiled litter, with blistered breasts and ulcerated wounds from the ammonia in their excreta. Grotesquely obese, they suffer from ascites (a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, caused by the heart being unable to pump it around their engorged bodies), hip disorders such as femoral head necrosis (where the top of the leg bone disintegrates due to bacterial infection) and 'sudden death syndrome' (acute heart failure) - all the result of selective breeding for rapid weight gain.” Writing about report, the Daily Mail states: “Tens of millions of weak and injured 'factory' birds die every year because their bodies cannot cope with regimes designed to speed their growth. While many more suffer painful leg burns, which are caused by the acidic filth on the floor of the barns.” The full report, “Everyone’s a Winner,” is available at (PDF file):

Producers monitored almost 13 million birds for one year for the report, 10.5m to ACP standards, 2.4m to the RSPCA's. The statistics, independently analyzed, “make grim reading.” In standard birds, the mortality rate was 5.1% (equivalent to 45 million of the 900 million “broiler” chicks hatched annually in Britain) compared to 1.8% for Freedom Food (F.F.) birds. The level of hock burn was 19% for standard birds versus 3.5% for those reared by F.F. standards. Foot-pad burn was half as likely for F.F. birds, deaths in transit were 70% less likely, and rejects at slaughter were 1.6% compared to 1.9% for conventionally raised birds.

On F.F. farms, a different breed is used, with birds whose “bone structure is good, and everything grows in proportion.” They grow half as fast and are given 25% more space, lighting is varied and brighter, and the environment is enriched with bales, perches and pecking objects. Additionally, their diet is such that they don’t “'feather-peck' each other, or eat feathers off the ground, to compensate for a lack of amino acids in their diet.” While F.F. standards are not in same league as free-range or organic, the RSPCA points out that meat from the birds raised by them is sold at a fraction of the cost.

Despite a clear correlation between higher welfare scores and lower incidence of Campylobacter, a disease that is transmissible to humans, “…the pressure to grow birds quickly and cheaply - 'has dictated a more industrialised system.” Meat from birds produced under higher welfare standards accounted for only 3% of U.K. production last year whereas free-range eggs account for 40% of the market. Purvis attributes this to a failure to register the plight of these birds with the public. However, sales of organic and free-range birds, for whom there are legally mandated standards, are up 65% from 15 million in 2004.

In 2000, investigators from the Hillside Animal Sanctuary filmed dead, dying, rotten and sick hens at an F.F.-certified free-range egg farm. In 2001, similar accusations were made about a FF. turkey farm, and a pig farm. Animal protection advocates claim F.F. is also intensive production with terrible consequences for the animals used.

The Guardian article concludes with a comparison of price, market share, welfare, diet, and pros and cons of different production systems.

The Observer, Guardian Unlimited, Andrew Purvis, September 24, 2006,,1876749,00.html

Daily Mail, Sean Poulter, Sept. 26, 2006



Over 70% of all chickens raised for meat in the U.S. are fed roxarsone, an organic arsenic compound, according to a Poultry Science article published in 2000. Roxarsone prevents the growth of microscopic intestinal parasites called coccidia and promotes faster chicken growth. Some roxarsone is stored in tissues which are later eaten by human consumers. Exposure to arsenic from eating chicken is estimated to be between 3 and 11 times the recommended safe level. The rest is excreted in the birds’ waste, 90% of which is made into fertilizer that can contaminate crops, water, and eventually drinking water. Some 250 to 350 metric tons of arsenic is released into the environment from poultry manure every year.

Roxarsone, along with three other growth promoters, was banned from farmed animal feed in the European Union in 1999. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers arsenic a class A carcinogen: one that has definitively been shown to cause cancer. Other effects from chronic low-level exposure include partial paralysis, blindness and diabetes. Arsenic exists in both organic and inorganic forms, and experts disagree about the relative toxicity of the two. However, roxarsone converts into inorganic forms of arsenic, which are present in poultry manure, some of which are highly toxic. The EPA is responsible for regulating roxarsone’s byproducts in drinking water but has no jurisdiction over its use in chicken feed.

Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University, blames the failure to ban roxarsone on industry influence. “The major ‘pressure’ to keep drugs in animal feeds comes from the pharmaceutical industry, since over 60 percent of antibiotic production, and 100 percent of roxarsone production, is used for nonclinical ‘growth promoting’ purposes in animals,” she wrote.

Scienceline, Melinda Wenner, September 20, 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.