Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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OCTOBER 26 , 2007 -- Number 30, Volume 7


I. Animal protection organizations are calling for disciplinary action against a veterinarian who they say testified in an Ohio court that hanging pigs is a humane way to kill them. Dr. Paul Armbrecht, an Iowa veterinarian, was a paid consultant for the defense this summer in a cruelty trial against the owner and employees of the Wiles Hog Farm (see: ). The groups sent a letter to the Iowa Department of Agriculture complaining that Armbrecht likely violated the Iowa Veterinary Practice Act by defending actions that constitute neglect of farmed animals. The executive director of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association declined to comment but pointed to the web sites of the American Veterinary Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Both include guidelines on euthanasia with neither listing hanging as an acceptable form of killing pigs. The letter requests action “up to and including revocation of [Armbrecht’s] license to practice veterinary medicine.” It was sent by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, the Humane Farming Association, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and The Humane Society of the U.S.


II. “Very soon, a farmer and his son will come to the farm to kill our two pigs. If that sentence bothers you, you should probably stop reading now — and you should probably also stop eating pork,” begins an October 25th opinion piece in The New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenborg, one of the newspaper’s editors (see: ). He writes that he has been taming the pigs out of love of being with them and to make it easier for them to be killed “swiftly, immediately.” Klinkenborg and his wife watch as a “gruff farmer and son” kill the pigs in order “to understand what the meat itself means,” explaining that “to me, the word ‘meat’ is at the root of the contradictory feelings the pig-killing raises.” He states that having the pigs killed for meat “sound[s] like a bad bargain” yet “is beauty itself” when compared to “the bargain most Americans make when they buy pork in the supermarket.” Klinkenborg comments: “If I had no more foreknowledge of my death than these two pigs will have of theirs, I’d consider myself very lucky,” opining: “humans have trouble thinking carefully about who knows what.”

See also: (and see: ).

Creston News Advertiser (Associated Press), Amy Lorentzen, Oct. 22, 2007

The New York Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg, October 25, 2007



The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates meat (including poultry) and egg production, says it has 7,450 inspectors. However, according to a representative of the American Federation of Government Employees, there are about 1,000 vacancies, putting the number of existing inspectors closer to 6,500. "It's steadily gotten worse," he said. Several interviewed inspectors said their workloads are doubling or tripling as they take on the work of unreplaced inspectors. About 6,000 food production facilities are monitored by the inspectors, some requiring several of them. Excluding birds, inspectors examined the bodies of some 34 million farmed animals from April to June of this year, condemning 54,546 of them. During that time, they also inspected the bodies of 2.3 billion birds, condemning 11 million of them, according to FSIS records.

Inspectors say their workload is unrealistic, with cursory checks of company records replacing physical examination of meat and eggs. They claim that inspection goals have not been met for years. "For the most part, inspectors at processing plants are on patrols, meaning they cover a number of plants,” said Felicia Nestor of Food & Water Watch. Patrols are counted as an inspection because of the possibility that inspectors could show up, she explains. At the Topps plant -the largest ground beef plant in the U.S., which recently recalled all it had produced in the past year (see: )- the single inspector assigned to the plant also inspected five other plants, spending about an hour and a half daily in each plant. "This is a problem we've been pointing out to [FSIS] forever," Nestor said. Topps had not been cited for its food safety violations, which included inadequate microbial testing and mixing tested and untested meat (see: and ).

After an E. coli outbreak in 1993, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, of which FSIS is a part) required every meat plant institute a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. Companies were allowed to design their own food safety measures, usually around the ability to process meat quickly. Inspectors say that instead of enforcing FSIS regulations they are merely monitoring companies’ HACCP plans. "They write everything for themselves. We're 'monitoring' that now. It's just a joke. We mostly check paper now. You can put anything you want on paper," an anonymous inspector said. In response to the Topps recall and other recent incidents, FSIS has announced new testing measures and more rapid recalls, and that it will work more closely with other entities in coordinating responses (see: ). Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will reintroduce legislation to give the USDA the authority to temporarily close plants that repeatedly fail E. coli inspections and also increase its power to trace and recall food (see: ).

On October 13th, J&B Meats Corporation in Illinois announced a voluntary recall of 173,554 lbs of ground beef and the Arko Veal Co. in Georgia recalled some 1,900 pounds, both for possible E. coli contamination (see: ).

Chicago Tribune, Stephen J. Hedges, October 13, 2007,1,4891135.story?ctrack=5&cset=true



“Livestock are a leading source of greenhouse gases. Why isn't anyone raising a stink?” asks the Los Angeles Times in an October 15th editorial. Although farmed animal production is largely blamed for global warming and other major environmental problems (see: and: ) “politicians almost never discuss it, and environmental…groups seem unaware of its existence,” notes the Times. “It is extremely hazardous for politicians to take on the U.S. beef industry,” the editorial explains, going on to state that: “legislating food choices is an unpopular and nearly impossible task, so it's unlikely any candidate will endorse a national vegetarian movement to fight global warming any time soon.” Pointing out, however, that feed crop subsidies keep the price of meat low, the Times exclaims: “U.S. agricultural policy is overdue for changes.”

Other efforts to reduce problematic emissions are discussed, such as developing new varieties of grass and genetically altering cattle, and alternative manure storage and disposal methods are considered, with the Times urging regulation of ranches and dairies. The editorial agrees with a recent report in Lancet that such approaches probably won’t suffice and that reducing meat consumption would be more effective [see: ]. Environmental leaders would be more credible if they pointed out that eating less “red meat” is the most important thing that Americans can do to fight global warming, the editorial admonishes, declaring: “a campaign urging people to do so is clearly in order.”

Referring to the U.S. Department of Agriculture checkoff programs (see: ), the editorial states: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture assesses ranchers, dairymen and producers of other commodities to pay for marketing campaigns to promote their products, raising millions of dollars a year and turning such slogans as ‘Got Milk?’ and ‘Beef: It's What's for Dinner’ into national catchphrases. This isn't quite tantamount to a government-mandated campaign to promote cigarette smoking, but it's close. The government should not only get out of the business of promoting unhealthful and environmentally destructive foods, it should be actively discouraging them.” The Times advises: “Eventually, the United States and other countries are going to have to clean up their agricultural practices, while consumers can do their part by cutting back on red meat.”

The Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2007,0,1365993.story?coll=la-tot-opinion&track=ntothtml



Scientists consider the billion pounds of waste produced by Maryland chicken farms to be the cause of 10% of the pollution running from the state into the Chesapeake Bay [the largest estuary in the U.S., see: ]. The 1972 federal Clean Water Act gives states the responsibility to clean up the nation's waterways through the issuance of permits. In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told states to begin issuing permits to large chicken farms. Following a legal challenge, the agency is revising its rules but said states can still issue permits for the farms. At least a dozen states now require the same type of pollution control permits for large chicken farms as they do for factories. Farms with such permits have a lengthy list of rules to follow, are to be inspected annually, and face fines of up to $32,500 per violation per day for allowing manure into streams. Additionally, they are subject to public hearings prior to opening or expanding, their records are available for public scrutiny, and citizens can sue them for environmental violations. While Maryland requires these permits for dairy and pig farms, the state’s $1.6 billion poultry industry -an economic and political force that employs some 16,000 people to produce and sell 567 million birds annually- has repeatedly defeated attempts to mandate them for poultry farms.

Maryland does require that large farms have management plans for minimizing the amount of waste spread as fertilizer on land. (See item #8 of The maximum penalty for not having them is $350.) However, it has no requirements for how poultry facilities should limit runoff, and farmers who raise chickens or use poultry litter as fertilizer receive minimal or no oversight from the state. The Maryland Department of Agriculture, which has a primary mission of helping farmers, is also responsible for making sure they have fertilizer plans. The agency said it is trying to check up on about 10% of the state’s 6,273 large farms to make sure they have the required paperwork. Visits are announced in advance, and no testing is done to detect if pollution is escaping. The state has announced that it plans to require permits for large chicken farms and inspections by the Maryland Department of the Environment. The agency is determining how to legally define poultry pollution, and has said it will issue regulations requiring permits by the end of the year. The poultry industry vows to oppose industrial pollution regulations on the grounds that farms don’t pollute like factories.

The Baltimore Sun, Tom Pelton, October 14, 2007



The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, a coalition that includes federal agencies and professional medical associations, announced on Oct. 4th that women of childbearing age should eat at least 12 ounces of seafood every week, including fish who can have high levels of mercury. Since 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency have cautioned these women against eating more than 12 ounces of fish a week, and advised them to avoid those high in mercury due to its harmful effects on fetuses and young children. The Coalition based its advice on that of the Maternal Nutrition Group (MNG), which relied on recent research that showed the benefits for babies of omega-3 fatty acids and other substances in fish trumped the risks of mercury.

The Coalition subsequently acknowledged that the National Fisheries Institute provided $1,000 to each of the MNG’s 14 members, an additional $500 to each of its four executive committee members, and $60,000 to the Coalition’s education campaign. “We are appalled,” said Dr. Frank Greer of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a member group of the Coalition. His organization does not believe the preponderance of science supports the Coalition advice. “Plus it’s paid for by the National Fisheries Institute, which is a real conflict of interest,” Greer said. Several other Coalition members also disavowed the advice, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “We receive money for an educational message and we stand behind that message,” said the Coalition’s executive director, “We saw an important health message that is a priority and thought the latest science should be included.” The FDA stands behind its warnings about fish. The fish industry has given money to other groups to promote fish consumption, including $45,000 the U.S. Tuna Foundation gave to the University of Maryland to create a website disputing the government’s warnings about mercury in fish:

The New York Times, Marian Burros, Oct. 17, 2007



The Animal Welfare Trust is accepting applications for its 2008 Student Internship Grant Program. The grant provides funding for graduate students to work on an independent research project under faculty supervision or for an unpaid position within an established organization. Internships can be for a summer, a semester, or year-long in duration. Devoted to all areas of animal welfare, AWT’s primary areas of focus are factory farming and farm animal welfare issues, pro-vegetarian campaigns and humane education. (AWT is a sponsor of Farmed Animal Watch.) Applications must be received by March 1st, and recipients will be notified by April 1st. Additional details, including information on past grant recipients, can be found at:

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Compiled and edited by 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.