Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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February 9, 2006 -- Number 6, Volume 6

1. Clarification: European Proposals and Laws on Animal Welfare

In FAW 6-5, we covered recent and proposed advancements in the European Union regarding farmed animal welfare, but our coverage slightly confused the two primary events. Thanks to a reader and European animal welfare policy expert for pointing out the inconsistencies and assisting us with this clarification. The two major developments include:

    1) The European Commission released its "Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals," which is the first of its kind and will make animal welfare improvements part of the Commission's work for the next five years. The plan outlines actions including revising curren European laws covering animal welfare at the time of slaughter, but it does not extend to farmed fish as stated previously. The Commission has yet to propose legislation for farmed fish, but may be compelled to do so following a related recommendation from the Council of Europe that comes into effect in June 2006.

    2) Separately, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament voted to adopt measures to improve the welfare of "broiler" chickens raised for their flesh. The measures included minimum space requirements for chicken "stocking densities" and suggest that imports of chicken products be held to the same standards. However, these measures must still survive votes in the European Parliament's plenary in February 2006 and subsequently in the Council of Agriculture Ministers before becoming European law.

2. United Nations Report on Environmental Impact of Industrial Animal Farms

A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provides a robust critique of industrial animal farms from an environmental perspective. According to the FAO: "Concentrated, large-scale livestock production often creates concentrated, large-scale environmental problems. Large industrial farms bring in massive quantities of nutrients in the form of concentrate feed. And they produce far more waste than can be recycled as fertilizer and absorbed on nearby land. When intensive livestock operations are crowded together, pollution can threaten the quality of the soil, water, air, biodiversity and ultimately public health."

The FAO report focuses on industrial animal farms in "developing" countries, where farmed animal slaughter (meat production) grew at an average 5% per year from 1980-2004 and tripled over the entire period. The FAO report states that "the rapid growth of livestock production highlights the urgent need for effective policies to regulate intensive livestock operations." This rapid growth of concentrated animal farming and the resulting volume of animal waste are causing severe water and land pollution, according to the report.

Specifically, the FAO says that industrial pig and poultry farms in China, Thailand, and Vietnam are the leading cause of nutrient pollution in the South China Sea. The report states that "Pig production accounts for an estimated 42% of nitrogen and 90% of phosphorus flows into the South China Sea… Run-off is severely degrading seawater and sediment quality in one of the world's most biologically diverse marine areas." In response to such problems, the FAO suggests that developing nations use tax policies and subsidies to discourage development of industrial animal farms, particularly near urban areas.

1. "Industrial Livestock Production near Cities often Damages the Environment," UN / FAO, 2/2/06

2. Full Report: "Pollution from Industrialized Livestock Production," UN / FAO, 2/2/06
PDF file (3.6 MB):

3. "FAO Faults Meat Production in Developing Areas,", 2/6/06

3. Part 3 of Fatigued and Dead Pigs Article Series Covers Transportation

In FAW 6-5, we summarized findings from parts 1 and 2 of a study of death and fatigue among farmed pigs prior to slaughter, conducted by John McGlone at Texas Tech University. Part 3 of the series is now online and includes a focus on pig welfare and death during transportation from farm to slaughterhouse. McGlone says the "stress of being moved at the farm, during loading, transport, unloading, as well as the plant experience, all add up in the pig's mind and body." During transport, pig welfare is greatly influenced by both the environmental conditions available on trucks and the experience and behaviors of individual drivers.

McGlone studied 38 drivers who transported more than one million pigs and found that the "dead and downed" rate varied from a low of 0.02% to 1.4%. The median rate appears to have been approximately 0.8%, suggesting that truck drivers experienced on average at least 8,000 dead or fatigued pigs during transport (assuming the minimum of one million pigs transported). McGlone concluded that "the causative factors are found in two general areas: truck set-up and driver behavior." Environmental issues that often cause fatigue or death are temperature and humidity variations as well as bedding type or if bedding is provided.

"Fatigued Pigs: The Transportation Link," Pork Mag, 2/1/06

4. US Government Report Says Downer Cows Still Being Slaughtered for Food

The US Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has audited the country's bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance program and found several problems. In particular, the OIG report states that some slaughterhouses continue to kill and process non-ambulatory or "downer" cows for human consumption. According to the report, "At 2 of the 12 slaughter establishments reviewed… 29 non-ambulatory animals were slaughtered; 20 of them were identified as downers with no documentation of any acute injury." A policy against slaughtering non-ambulatory animals for human food has been in place since the discovery of BSE in the US in late 2003.

The OIG report also says that officials at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) attempted to quash a tissue sample retest for fear of undermining confidence in the agency's procedures. According to the OIG, upon retesting the cow's brain sample eventually resulted in the US's second confirmed BSE case. The report notes that APHIS has conducted more than 350,000 BSE tests as of May 2005, but underscores that problems remain with testing procedures that could put public health at risk. The OIG made numerous suggestions for APHIS and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which have responded and agreed to implement the recommendations.

1. "Audit Report: APHIS BSE Surveillance Program and FSIS Controls over BSE Sampling, Specified Risk Materials, and Advanced Meat Recovery Products," USDA / OIG, Jan-2006
PDF file (5.9 MB):

2. "Downer Cows' Entering Meat Supply, USDA Inspector General Says," Bloomberg News, 2/2/06

3. "Agency Fought Retesting of Infected Cow," Washington Post, 2/3/06

5. Upcoming Farmed Animal and Related Events

Following is a subset of the full farmed animal and related events list currently available at To suggest other events that may be of interest to FAW readers, please email

6. Other Items of Interest

"Suit Aims to Ease Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens,", 2/1/06
A California lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks to end a tax break egg farmers currently receive on their purchases of "battery" cages for housing hens. Egg producers receive a 5.25% tax break on cage purchases, but the lawsuit argues such "subsidies" violate California's law against confining any animal without providing sufficient space to exercise.,0,5292647.story

"Per Capita Consumption," Livestock Marketing Information Center, 2/3/06
US domestic per-capita consumption of animal flesh declined in 2005 due to decreased consumption of major "red meat" products including beef, pork, lamb, and veal products. Consumption of turkey flesh also declined in 2005, but chicken consumption increased by about a pound per person (retail), on average. Chicken slaughter as measured by federally inspected weight increased to more than 35 billion pounds in 2005, a new industry record.

"Bison Slaughter up 17 Percent in 2005,", 2/1/06
The number of bison slaughtered in the US at federally inspected facilities increased by 17% in 2005 to a total of 35,000 bison killed during the year. For 2006, the National Bison Association predicts the industry will slaughter 11-15% more bison due to growing consumer demand for "more variety in their diets." Bison flesh is still a niche product marketed as healthier and more natural than conventionally raised and farmed animals. (Registration)

"Genes of Deadly Bird Flu Reveal Chinese Origin,", 2/6/06
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been circulating among poultry in China for more than a decade. The study found the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in about 2% of ducks, geese, and some chickens during most of the testing period. The study is based on samples from 50,000 farmed poultry and 13,000 migratory birds. The study authors state that the virus originated in China's Guangdong province and since evolved into several divergent strains.

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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.