Animals in Agriculture

The Dairy Debate: Bovine Growth Hormone


MONSANTO'S GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PRODUCTS MEET RESISTANCE

by Ronnie Cummins

Monsanto has suffered a number of technological and public relations"glitches" over the past few years, including the massive marketplace failureof its billion-dollar flagship product, rBGH. After three years on themarketplace, only 4% of America's dairy cows are being shot up with thedrug. Wall Street analysts told Business Week magazine in 1996 that dueto farmer and consumer opposition (and the fact that rBGH damages thehealth of cows) the drug was a total failure, and that in economic terms itshould be taken off the market. [Editor's note: rBGH has been reliablylinked to health problems that cause extreme suffering to cows, includingmastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. See the Spring/Summer1997 AWI Quarterly for more details.]

In scientific and public health terms, data continues to pile up thatsignificantly increased levels of the human growth hormone factor IGF-1in genetically engineered milk and dairy products constitute a serioushuman health risk for increased breast and colon cancer. In addition,scientific studies have recently been brought to the attention of the WorldHealth Organization that injecting mammals with genetically engineeredgrowth hormones very likely increases their susceptibility to deadly,incurable brain-wasting diseases such as BSE, commonly known as MadCow Disease, or its human variant, Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. Consequentlythe WHO, the European Union, and the Codex Alimentarius areunlikely to ever approve rBGH as a safe drug, leaving the U.S. as the onlyindustrialized nation in the world to have approved rBGH.

Other troubles for Monsanto's genetically engineered products continueto mount: in mid-1996 Monsanto/Calgene's highly-touted "FlavrSavr" tomato was taken off the market, ostensibly because of productionfailures and genetic glitches; Monsanto's entire Canadian geneticallyengineered rapeseed or canola crop had to be recalled earlier this yearbecause of unexplained "technical difficulties"; and up to a million acresor 50% of Monsanto's Bt Cotton crop in the U.S. were attacked bybollworms in 1996, prompting lawsuits by outraged cotton growers whoclaim they were defrauded by Monsanto. Further, dairy cows eatingMonsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybeans are producing milk with differentchemical characteristics (higher fat levels) than cows who are eatingregular soybeans.


Ronnie Cummins is the National Director of the Pure FoodCampaign USA. For more information, write to: Pure FoodCampaign, 860 Highway 61, Little Marais, Minnesota 55614,or call (800) 253-0681.

More on Monsanto

A German activist who forwarded criticisms of Monsanto to anInternet mailing list found himself the target of the giant chemicalcorporation's lawyers—and the company lost.

Last winter, Werner Reisberger received a message from a group ofprotestors who were organizing an anti-Monsanto protest. The protestorscalled Monsanto "A corporation of poisons, genes and swindle." Reisbergerpassed the announcement on to an e-mail discussion list called GENESIS,which concerns food technology. The thin-skinned corporation suedReisberger, even though he was not the author of the message and thediscussion list only had 24 members.

"Monsanto claimed that I offended the company with the word'swindle' and endangered their creditworthiness," Reisberger wrote inEarth Island Journal. "They gave me three days to sign a declarationpromising never again to say, 'Monsanto, the corporation of swindle.'Every time I repeated this sentence, I would have to pay Monsanto100,000 DM ($66,666)."

Reisberger refused to sign, and a German court rejected all of Monsanto'sclaims and ordered the company to pay the court costs. Such hypersensitivelitigation only serves to make giant companies look silly, as Monsantoshould have learned from England's McLibel trial.

AWI Quarterly Fall 1997, Vol. 46, No. 4, p. 10.


Three Cheers for Ben & Jerry's—Anti-rBGH Label Can Be Used

Just when we feared that the large transnational corporations had co-opted the federal government and quelled the spirit of smaller companies, a press release from Ben and Jerry's arrived. They've won a lawsuit enabling them to label their ice cream with the statement: "We Oppose Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. The family farmers who supply our milk and cream pledge not to treat their cows with rBGH."

Up to now, this fight has gone against the cows, the family farmers and the consumers ever since Monsanto persuaded the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the corporation's "Posilac"—genetically engineered rBGH. FDA approved it and even refused to require labeling of milk from cows injected with the drug despite studies, some of which reported a 79% increase in mastitis (infection of the udder) resulting in greater need for antibiotics, reduced pregnancy rates, cystic ovaries and uterine disorders, digestive disorders and lacerations, enlargements and calluses of the knee.

According to Ben & Jerry's CEO, when FDA "approved voluntary labeling in 1994 but left regulation of labels to the states, we began contacting each state to get approval for our label. We sued the largest of them, Illinois, in federal court citing the Constitution's First Amendment protection of freespeech. We have the right to tell our customers what is and isn't in our ice cream."

Since 1994, Illinois has threatened to seize products having an anti-rBGH label, thereby effectively stopping such labeling throughout the country because it is not feasible for nationally distributed dairy products to be labeled differently in individual markets.

A 1996 poll commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture and performed by researchers at the Universities of Wisconsin and Oregon showed that 94 percent of more than 1,900 respondents surveyed nationwide favored labeling that would allow consumers to distinguish between milk fromcows treated with rBGH and milk from untreated cows. Other consumer surveys support this finding.

The FDA issued interim guidelines on voluntary labeling in February 1994, setting forth how labels could be worded so as to be truthful, not misleading, and in compliance with food and labeling law. Most states followed those guidelines, but a handful of states including Illinois refused to permit any anti-rBGHlabeling.

Ben and Jerry's CEO said he feels confident the label approved in this settlement with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago addresses all legitimate concerns that could be raised by any state.

According to the Organic Valley cooperative, which supplies milk and cream to Ben & Jerry's, "The family farmers who make up the Organic Valley Family of Farms are in this business because we love cows. We would not knowingly subject our animals to a drug with side effects that could cause illness, death and create undue stress on the animal. Utilizing any genetically engineered product is counter to what we believe in."

From now on, humanitarians will be able to reject dairy products that don't have the anti-rBGH label and stop the spread of these cruel injections into helpless cows. It is a laudable precedent for other efforts to label products whose manufacture is injurious to animals. legislation on FDA rules regarding labeling is pending in Congress .


AWI Quarterly Spring/Summer 1997, Vol. 46, No.2 & 3, p. 17.


"Bovine Economics"

Having twins is usually a cause for celebration. But for a dairy farmer a cow that bears twin calves can be a bad omen: twin births weaken both the mother and her offspring. One or two sets of twins in any herd is par for the course, but when Lisbon, New York dairyman Jay Livingston discovered 20 sets of twins among his 200 milk-producing cows, it was a calamity. He lost little time in dispatching the 40 calves to the slaughterhouse where they were ground up for bologna and hot dogs. Many of the sickly mothers will soon follow their weakling calves, ending up as hamburger in the school lunch program.

The lot of these cows is more than an inexplicable twist of fate. Livingston had been injecting his herd with Monsanto's new genetically engineered growth hormone known as rBGH-trade name Posilac which promises to increase the amount of milk a cow produces....

For the first couple of months on rBGH "our cows seemed to be doing 0K" [Livingston] says. "Their milk production increased from 40 to 65 pounds per day. Then they just went all to pieces. We had a half a dozen die and then the rest started ''experiencing major health problems, cows went off their feed, experienced severe weight loss, mastitis and serious foot problems....

Dairy Profit Weekly, [an] industry report, quotes Mike Connor, a dairy nutritionist in Black Earthy County, Texas, who said two-thirds of his client farmers are phasing out rBGH. Noting recurrent side effects, he said, "Many concluded that the risk was not worth the benefit" Dick Bengen, an 800-cow dairy producer from Everson, Washington, recently told a Toronto dairy symposium that he had disappointing results using rBGH on his herd, saying that many of the cows with increased milk production require more feed. The extra costs -- a shot per cow every two weeks runs $5.80 -- and the additional feed made the economic gains marginal at best.

Excerpted from "Bovine Economics " by James Ridgeway. The article appeared in the March 28, 1995 issue of the Village Voice.

AWI Quarterly Spring 1995, Vol. 44, No.2 p. 16.


Congress Can Protect Dairy Cows

At a press conference on June 21, 1994, Congressman Bernard Sanders (Ind., VT), with the support of numerous animal protection, family farm, and consumer groups, announced the introduction of federal legislation, H.R. 4618, entitled the "Bovine Growth Hormone Milk Act."

The Congressman recognized that injections of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) make cows sick, citing that "the POSILAC (synthetic rBGH) label lists a variety (20) of adverse side effects." He continued:

It also warns that using synthetic rBGH may result in the use of more antibiotics, increasing the risk of antibiotics ending up in consumers' milk. The FDA calls this a 'manageable risk.' The question is, why are we taking any risk at all for a drug that no one, other than the Monsanto Company, needs or wants.

Congressman Sanders concluded, "There is no need for this inhumane treatment of cows."

Sanders' legislation requires the Secretary of Agriculture to label milk or a milk product intended for human consumption with the warning "This milk (product) was produced by cows injected with synthetic BGH" if it comes from injected cows. Such a label will enable American consumers to select dairy products that involve the least stress and suffering to the cows from which they come.


AWI Quarterly Spring 1994, Vol. 43, No.2 p. 11.


Corporate Greed Targets Helpless Dairy Cows

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its stamp of approval to POSILAC, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), for commercial use. The giant Monsanto Company has spent an amazing $300 million to create and promote this dangerous growth hormone. Cows immobilized in their stanchions must submit biweekly to injections of POSILAC which force them to give unnaturally high amounts of milk. POSILAC's official FDA warning label reveals its threat to the cows' welfare:

  • ...Use of POSILAC has also been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus during the treatment period. Cows injected with POSILAC may have small decreases in gestation length and birth weight of calves and they may have increased twinning rates...
  • Cows injected with POSILAC are at an increased risk for clinical mastitis (visibly abnormal milk). In addition, the risk of subclinical mastitis (milk not visibly abnormal) is increased ...
  • Use of POSILAC may result in an increase in digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloat, and diarrhea ...
  • Studies indicated that cows injected with POSILAC had increased numbers of enlarged hocks and lesions (e.g. lacerations, enlargements, calluses) of the knee (carpal region) and second lactation or older cows had more disorders of the foot region.

Mastitis is a cruelly painful disease affecting the udders of dairy cows. Farmers try to treat it with antibiotics. Increased use of antibiotics for food-producing animals is a major cause of resistance to antibiotics when treating human bacterial infections. In addition, Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, warns that higher levels of "Insulin-like Growth Factor-l" in the milk from treated cows may lead to human breast cancer.

The FDA's bias in approving use of POSILAC is accentuated by its refusal to require labeling of dairy products containing milk from POSILAC-injected cows. The Animal Welfare Institute strongly urged FDA to require such labeling. Compassionate consumers have the right to know that a dangerous product was used on the cows which provided their milk, similar to the right to know that tuna is "dolphin safe" or that cosmetics are "cruelty-free."

FDA contends that such labels would give "misleading implications" and that "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows."

This ignores the clear distinction between products from a healthy animal and products from a sick and suffering one.

This distinction is made clear by dairy farmer John Kurtz who used rBST on his herd. According to Kurtz: "What actually occurred, by the time we finished the second lactation, is that we had none of the cows that received rBST stay in the herd. 100% of the cows failed to conceive during the second lactation, we had 19 death loss, and we had 14.8% 'down cow' loss."

After being analyzed at the University of Minnesota, it was discovered that "these cows had taken so much calcium out of their skeleton, even their shoulder blades had a ripple effect like a ripple potato chip where they had pulled the calcium out of the skeleton to produce milk."

Monsanto, reacting to negative publicity and lack of support among many producers, is beginning to sue companies who refuse rBST-tainted products. Swiss Valley Farms of Davenport, Iowa now faces legal challenge from Monsanto for advertising that their milk is farm-certified rBST-free.

The 12 member nations of the European Union have reject the use of rBST, but they could be forced to accept products from rBST treated cows if the United States challenges the European ban under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Thus this unjustifiable and unnecessary suffering may be inflicted oncows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Widespread public protest is called for to stop the spread of the insidious corporate cruelty. Already an "unexpectedly strong public resistance to a new drug that makes cows produce more milk" was reported on the front page of the Business section of The Washington Post (March 15, 1994). Please make your voice heard. The suffering which cows are forced to undergo simply to increase milk production cannot be tolerated.

ACTION: Urge your supermarket, grocer or convenience store to require certification that the milk, cheese and other dairy products they carry come only from cows that have not been subjected to injections of rBST. Encourage your friends to do the same. For more information and a list of companies whose products are rBST-free, contact: The Pure Food Campaign; 1130 - 17 Street, NW, Suite 300; Washington, DC 20036; 1-800-253-0681.


AWI Quarterly Winter 1994, Vol. 43, No 1, p.20.

Farm Animals: Summer 1999

How Our Food is Produced Matters!
animal factories and their impact

by Chris Bedford

Our food supply is undergoing fundamentalchange with serious consequences for animals, our water, our healthand our nation's family farms. Today, a small group of giant agribusinesscorporations control most of our nation's poultry, beef and porkproduction. To maximize profits, these corporations have imposedfactory production processes on animals, family farmers, consumers,and the environment.

The Animal Factory System

Standardization. Animal factoriesseek to produce a uniform product with predictable costs. To thisend, animals are bred to be genetically similar and to produceas much meat, as fast as possible at as low a cost as possible.For instance, most broiler chickens come from only seven differentgenetic lines. This lack of genetic diversity makes virtuallythe entire nation's poultry supply vulnerable to an epidemic.Overbreeding also produces chickens with breasts so large thatsometimes they can't stand up, causing painful blisters and ultimatelydeath through starvation.

Concentration and confinement. Animal factories concentratethousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of animals into multipleindustrial barns. Large animals, like hogs, are kept in tightmetal cages throughout their entire lives. Industrial hog barnsare often windowless and contain as many as 4,000 hogs, confinedin metal pens built over slatted concrete floors. Factory-farmedpoultry are crowded into long industrial houses containing asmany as 25,000 birds. Hundreds of thousands of egg-laying hensspend their lives in tiny battery cages, which give each hen spaceno bigger than the piece of paper this article is printed on,stacked high in giant barns.

Contract system. Under the factory system, most farmersdo not own the animals they raise. Instead, local family farmersraise animals under a contract which requires them to providetheir labor, pay the energy and water costs and borrow the fundsto build the industrial barns and other facilities. The giantagribusiness corporations supply the animals, the feed and additives.A handful of very large corporations control the animal market.These "Big-Ag" corporations squeeze every last bit ofprofit from contract growers and the animals, forcing farmersto raise more animals for less pay under increasingly dangerousworking conditions.

Poisoning Our Water

One hog produces as much feces as four humans. North Carolina's7,000,000 factory raised hogs create four times as much waste– stored in reeking, open cesspools – as the state's6.5 million people. The Delmarva peninsula's 600 million chickensproduce 400,000 tons of manure a year; manure that contains asmuch phosphorus as the waste from a city the size of Los Angeles,and as much nitrogen as the waste from a city the size of NewYork. When this manure is inappropriately applied to land as fertilizer,as it often is, nutrients run off into waterways, poisoning wholewatersheds with excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Run-offfrom poultry and swine manure has been implicated in the outbreakof Pfiesteria piscicida, a tiny but deadly organism whichhas sickened humans and killed billions of fish along Atlanticcoastal bays.

Animal factory manure may also contain environmental estrogens.These estrogens bio-accumulate and drain into waterways, interferingwith aquatic reproductive cycles. In Israel, this run-off hasbeen implicated in the mass stetilization of fish in the Sea ofGalilee.

Risking Our Health

The animal factory system adds antibiotics and heavy metals,like arsenic and copper, to animal feed to promote rapid growthand prevent epidemic levels of disease among confined animals.Routine use of antibiotics call breed drug-resistant bacteriawhich enter our water and our food chain, threatening human health.

Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk fromthese resistant bacteria. Currently, poultry and hog corporationsfeed their animals sub-therapeutic levels of the latest generationof antibiotics, leaving human populations potentially vulnerableas a result. The US Food and Drug Administration is trying, againststrong industry resistance, to ban much of animal factory antibioticuse. Such use is already restricted in the European Union.

Animal factory production is inherently inhumane. It representsa fundamental violation of nature, with broad consequences forour physical and spiritual health. How our food is raised, matters.When living creatures are brutally transformed into factory unitsof production it desensitizes the human consciousness to the environmentand all of its inhabitants – further alienating us from thenatural processes upon which our lives depend.

We simply must abolish animal factories and pursue more sustainable,humane ways to raise our food.

Chris Bedford is the Chair of the Maryland Chapter of theSierra Club.


Niman Ranch: AWIApproved
good for the pigs, the family farmerand the community

by Diane Halverson

To help end mistreatment of farmanimals, the Animal Welfare Institute is supporting the NimanRanch Company and its network of familyhog farmers who follow humane husbandry criteria developed bythe Animal Welfare Institute. AWI's criteria require that allanimals be allowed to behave naturally. Unlike the crated sowson factory farms, the sows in the Niman Ranch program have freedomof movement, allowing them to fulfill their instinctive desireto build a nest when they are about to give birth. Unlike thefactory farm pigs housed on concrete slats over manure pits, NimanRanch pigs are raised on pasture or in barns with bedding wherethey can live in accord with their natures, rooting for food,playing and socializing. AWI's criteria require that the participantsin the program be independent family farmers, that is, the farmermust own the animals, depend on the farm for a livelihood andbe involved in the day to day physical labor of managing the pigs.This requirement helps to ensure that pigs are raised in modestnumbers, making it easier to know and manage the animals as individuals.

Niman Ranch, which buys the pigs and markets the meat, alsoforbids feeding or otherwise administering hormones or antibioticsand prohibits the feeding of animal by-products. Unlike factoryfarmers, humane farmers in the Niman Ranch program do not relyon antibiotics to mask clinical manifestations of disease or topromote growth; therefore, they do not contribute to the devastatingproblem of antibiotic resistance among humans.

Paul Willis, the farmer who inspiredAWI's involvement in the program, keeps 200 sows and their offspringon pasture or in barns bedded with straw on his Midwest farm.Niman Ranch rewards Willis, and farmers like him, by paying thema premium price. Niman Ranch products are available at 200 finerestaurants in California, at Trader Joe's stores in the West,at Whole Foods stores in northern California, and through theWilliams-Sonoma mail order catalogue. Additional markets are beingdeveloped nationwide. In a 1995 Opinion Research Corporation survey,93% of the adults surveyed believed that animals should be treatedhumanely, even when being raised for human consumption, and three-fourthsopposed confining sows in crates, laying hens in battery cagesand veal calves in crates. The Niman Ranch program gives a growingnumber of such consumers an opportunity to reject meat derivedfrom pigs raised in animal factories and assists in the preservationof humane family farms, thereby helping to set a humane standardin raising of animals for food.


COURT DEFEAT FOR CORPORATE FACTORYFARM

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury recently awarded $5.2 millionin damages to 52 rural citizens subjected to odors, flies andwaste spills from Continental Grain Company's sprawling northernMissouri hog operations. The lawsuit, in which the jury deemedContinental's facilities a "continuing public nuisance,"is one of the first in the nation where farmers and rural residentshave legally and successfully held a corporate hog factory giantaccountable for its degradation of property values and rural qualityof life.


STATE MAKES SWEETHEART DEAL WITHPSF

On July 29, declining to join forces with the DepartmentofJustice/Environmental Protection Agency and a Missouri citizen'sgroup, Missouri's Attorney General filed a consent judgement settlingall of the state's claims against Continental Grain-Premium StandardFarms, including a July 28 spill which dumped over 12,000 gallonsof shog manure into a local stream.

The sweetheart deal allows Continental Grain-Premium StandardFarm to pollute without penalty for the next three to five yearswhile it spends $12.5 to S25 million to research, develop andadopt unspecified "technology" to "reduce or eliminate"its pollution problems. The settlement does not set water or airquality standards to be met by the company.

A federal judge is expected to rule shortly on the July 22Department of Justice motion to intervene on behalf of EnvironmentalProtection Agency in the pending suit by Citizens Legal EnvironmentalAction Network against Premium Standard Farms.


AWI Quarterly Summer 1999, Vol. 38, No. 3

USDA's Ban on Face Branding

FACE BRANDING: GOING,GOING...

by Henry Spira

On May 17th, the Federal Register published the USDA's proposal to end face branding of domestic cattle and bison in the agency's tuberculosis and brucellosis identification program. As you probably know, January 1995 saw an end to face branding of Mexican steers. However, smaller numbers of domestic cattle have continued to be face branded as part of disease control programs. With the current announcement we can look forward to the complete elimination of the face branding of cattle within the next few months.

USDA's Acting Assistant Secretary Patricia Jensen said, "We are committed to continually evaluating USDA identification requirements to ensure that our methods are both humane and effective for livestock disease control and public health purposes." Jensen also said that these proposed regulations are USDA's response to increasing public concern that hot-iron branding on the jaw may cause undue distress to cattle or bison.

Congratulations to all of you who voiced your strong concerns to the USDA. You stopped the proposed expansion of face branding in its tracks. In fact, the USDA was so impressed with your reaction that they moved to eliminate all face branding with speed uncharacteristic of a government agency.

Many of you also voiced strong concern to the USDA about other painful animal agriculture practices. This concern is now empowering USDA officials to place farm animal well-being on the federal agenda. A similar recognition by fast food giant McDonald's recently led the company to publish a statement requiring their suppliers to adhere to humane guidelines for farm animals. Independent experts are suggesting the McDonald's initiative is already making a meaningful difference. There will now be pressure on other major companies to take similar initiatives, including fast food parent PepsiCo, with whom we are now in discussion.

Until very recently, "food animals," who account for 95% of all animal suffering, have not been considered as appealing or deserving of concern as some other animals. But now, increasing numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to direct serious energies towards solving the nightmarish problems of the more than seven billion farm animals in the USA.

Clearly, we now have momentum and enormous opportunities for progress. But not all the news is good news. In future columns, we'll discuss the negative trends, including: how the US is promoting the consumption of a debilitating, high-fat diet in countries that to date have benefited from a largely meatless life-style, and the proliferation of mega factories, where pigs live their entire lives in steel cages unable even to turn around, at a time when such cruel systems are being phased out elsewhere.

AWI Quarterly Fall 1995, Volume 44, Number 2, p. 16.


USDA's Ban on Face Branding: A Good Start!

The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health InspectionService (APHIS), under strong pressure from AWI and other groups, at longlast has made significant progress toward reducing inhumane treatment ofcattle imported into the US from Mexico.

Getting Off the Face

On August 24,1994, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrewits misguided 1993 proposal "to require that spayed heifers and intactcattle imported into the United States from Mexico meet the same M-brandingrequirement" that has been routinely inflicted on Mexican steers.Until now, the USDA required that steers be painfully hot-iron brandedwith the letter "M" on the right jaw to signify the animals'Mexican origin. AWI objected to this attempt to expand a cruel procedurewhich causes extreme pain.

Less noticed in the heat of the Mexican steer campaign is a smallernumber of domestic animals who continue to be face branded as part of USDAdisease control programs. Animal protectionists are now urging the USDAto eliminate face branding across the board as a desirable alternativeto firing up new campaigns.

Under the modified proposal hot-iron branding is no longer mandatory,and all brands must be placed on the right hip rather than the extremelysensitive face of the animal. The mark must be "distinct, permanent,and legible," but it can be applied by freeze branding, which theUSDA will accept under the new proposal as a painless alternative to thehot-iron brand. In 1986, the AWI Quarterly reported on the workof Dr. Keith Farrell who invented and developed freeze branding, a methodwhereby liquid nitrogen rather than red hot iron is applied to the skin.Farrell described the feeling when he freeze branded himself as a "tinglingsensation" without pain. It is widely used for identification of expensivehorses but has been resisted by the cattle industry in the past.

However, it now appears that the National Cattlemen's Association (NCA)supports the modified branding proposal. Live Animal Trade & TransportMagazine, December 1994, quotes NCA comments to APHIS regarding thechange in procedure: "If APHIS determines that moving the 'M' brandwill provide an effective means of permanent identification, then we supportthis decision."

Accepting alternatives to hot iron branding is an extremely positivestep. USDA should now follow up with a seminal breakthrough, prohibitionof hot-iron branding of imported cattle. Without such a prohibition, individualswho currently use hot-iron brands are under no compulsion to change theirinhumane procedures.

Ovariectomy Protocol: Anesthetics at Last

Great progress also has been made in modifying USDA spaying requirementsfor Mexican cattle. The Department's ovariectomy protocol required that"a complete ovariectomy will be surgically performed through a flankincision on each heifer." Remarkably, there was no mention of anesthesia!

Effective July 12, 1994, USDA remedied the protocol's glaring deficiencyby requiring that either local or regional nerve block anesthesia be usedfor the surgery. Also changed was the unnecessary requirement that twopainful brands be applied to these animals: the "M" signifyingMexican origin and a spade mark, like that found on a playing card, indicatingcompletion of the spay surgery. Now, one brand, an "M" with aslash will be placed on the hip, reducing the double cruelty formerly inflicted.The NCA also agrees with this change in procedure.

If adopted, these modifications will make a major improvement in thetreatment of Mexican cattle. USDA clearly is listening to public opinion.


AWI Quarterly Fall 1994, Volume 43, Number 3, p. 12.

Animal Advocates Urge Ireland to End Cruel Animal Transport

Photo from the January 8, 2004 demonstration.


WASHINGTON, DC (January 7, 2004)  On Thursday, January 8th, at 12:00 p.m., demonstrators organized by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) staged a one-hour protest outside the Embassy of Ireland at 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, and delivered a letter to Ambassador Fahey urging Ireland, as new holder of the European Union (EU) Presidency, to lead the way in ensuring new, humane rules on animal transport including an 8 hour total journey limit for cows and other livestock traveling to slaughter or for further fattening.  

Each year roughly three million live animals cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses are transported insufferably long distances across Europe.  The sheer length of the journeys results in stress.  AWI's Wendy Swann notes, "Transporting live animals long distances undoubtedly causes immense suffering.  The animal welfare problems associated with the trade can only be alleviated with drastic changes in the length of time and conditions under which these sentient creatures are shipped."

From Ireland, thousands of young calves are taken by sea and road to the Netherlands for veal production; thousands of older calves are transported also by sea and road to Spain and Italy mostly for slaughter, and in 2003, over 138,000 cattle and calves were transported to Europe and over 35,000 cattle were shipped to Lebanon.  Ireland, who took over the Presidency of the EU on January 1 st , has opposed all proposals to restrict journey length intended to reduce animal suffering, although nine EU countries have supported such a move. 

"Ireland should not contradict the wishes of most EU countries for modest improvements in the transport conditions for livestock from the EU" Swann asserts. "In the summer, animals transported in livestock trucks often suffer from the effects of extreme heat and dehydration and some die.  During long journeys it is also inevitable that animals will become injured.  Ireland must stand up and support these long-needed changes to EU transport regulations."

Joyce D'Silva, Compassion in World Farming's (CIWF) Chief Executive adds; "As an Irish woman myself, I feel such shame that the Irish government opposes radical reform of this appalling trade in animal suffering.  At the moment, lambs can be taken from Aberdeen to Athens just to be slaughtered on arrival.  A trade in chilled meat is such an obvious and kinder alternative.  CIWF's call for change is receiving global support.  It's time for the Irish government and all governments to listen to public concern on this issue."

CIWF and AWI call for adoption of an 8 hour journey limit, a position that has received widespread support from the European Parliament, the Agriculture Council, and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare.

###

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • A media briefing covering the live transport of animals is available from AWI
  • Problems are exacerbated by lack of law enforcement.  For example, the European Commission carried out a series of investigations in EU countries and found that drivers, including those carrying animals from Ireland, frequently did not stop to rest the animals as required by law.
  • With regard to shipments to the Middle East, once animals are unloaded into a non-EU country, there is no longer any control over their welfare.  Investigations by CIWF and the German animal welfare group, Animals' Angels, have shown that EU cattle (including animals from Ireland) are brutally handled and inhumanely slaughtered in Lebanon.
  • In November 2001 the European Parliament adopted the Maat report which calls for a maximum overall limit of 8 hours or 500 km. on journeys to slaughter or for further fattening. In September 2002 at an Agriculture Council discussion, 9 of the EU Member States said they want an 8-hour limit.
  • In March 2002, a major report by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) concluded that welfare tends to get worse as journey length increases and so "journeys should be as short as possible".
  • For betacam or VHS copies of video, further information or photographs contact CIWF's press office on +44 (0)1730 233 904 or +44 (0) 7771 926 005 (mobile). Out of office hours call +44 (0) 7771 926 005.

Smithfield in Poland

Reprinted with permission from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Company and The Washington Post

U.S. Pork Producer Hogtied in Polish Venture

By David B. Ottaway
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 3, 2000; Page A01

WARSAW This pork-loving country seemed the perfect place for Joseph W. Luter III to transplant the industrial pig-farming system that had made his Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc. "the largest hog producer and processor in the world."

Poland had cheap labor, good land and diligent farmers. It also had scores of poorly run packing plants that Luter could take over on the cusp of Poland's possible entry into the lucrative European Union market. Best of all, Luter could escape the environmentalists and regulators who have criticized his operations back home. Luter saw Poland as "the Iowa of Europe."

But shortly after Smithfield purchased a majority stake last April in the Polish meat-packing conglomerate Animex, Luter found Poland to be a hot new front in an old war. The Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute, a grass-roots group dedicated to saving whales, sea turtles and elephants, added Polish pigs to its agenda.

The AWI has been surprisingly successful in thwarting the $5 billion Smithfield empire's plans in Poland, thanks largely to its alliance with Andrzej Lepper, an ultra-nationalist farm union leader who also happens to be a pig farmer. Luter already has scrapped plans to replicate Smithfield's "factory farming" here.

Poland's pork battle demonstrates the globalization of the struggle between American agribusinesses and increasingly assertive U.S. advocacy groups, whose influence far exceeds their size. The AWI has a full-time staff of nine and an annual budget of less than $800,000.

The AWI and Lepper have portrayed Smithfield as the embodiment of dark global forces, a threat to both the 25 percent of the Polish working population still employed on farms and the country's new post-Cold War sovereignty. A key weapon in the struggle is an AWI-produced film titled "A Trojan Pig," which excoriates Smithfield's U.S. operations; thousands of videocassettes have been distributed to Polish politicians.

Smithfield and the AWI have waged an all-out fight for the soul of Polish pig farmers, lobbying hard to shape Poland's farm policies and win governmental and political allies. Lepper has charged that Smithfield tried to bribe him to break off the fight, offering money to help build up his farmers' union, Samoobrona. Smithfield executives deny this, but many Polish farmers, suspicious of big foreign companies, believe Lepper's account.

One of them is Stanislaw Kilianczyk, who operates a commercial hog farm on Warsaw's outskirts. Smithfield's purchase of Animex reminded him of another foreign company that bought out a Polish oil seed firm only to close it and import its own products. Would the American company do the same?

"They will stop buying our pigs," he said. "Farmers will have to sell their land. How are we to survive?"

In fact, Animex officials in Warsaw plan to close three of the company's nine plants to boost productivity. Some fresh pork is already being imported because Polish pigs cannot meet European Union standards, officials say.

David and Goliath

Luter and Lepper, two headstrong adversaries who have never met, seem an odd couple, an American Goliath mismatched against a Polish David. But the two men are more similar than they seem.

Luter, 60, the scion of a Virginia pig dynasty, has proved himself a masterful, boardroom wheeler-dealer who has skillfully exploited wild swings in pig prices to expand his empire.

Lepper, 46, the son of a Baltic Coast pig farmer, has proved himself on the barricades of Poland's stormy political landscape. Some believe that Lepper has skillfully seized the moment to exploit the emotions of Polish farmers caught in a painful transition from communism to capitalism.

The men share something else: Each in his own way has stirred heated passions. Luter, the son of Smithfield Foods's founder, gained fame by creating a vertically integrated production system from "breeding to bacon." He also helped establish uniform swine standards and pioneered a genetically engineered super-lean pig. Run with military precision, his farms produce 12 million nearly identical hogs annually. One $190 million plant in Tarheel, N.C., slaughters 32,000 hogs a day.

But in the process, Luter's Smithfield has become a target for America's struggling small farmers, environmentalists and animal defenders.

Liquefied waste from several of Smithfield's huge hog farms in Virginia and North Carolina allegedly polluted nearby waters. In 1997, Smithfield paid $12.6 million in Clean Water Act penalties. Animal activists say Smithfield inhumanely breeds pigs in narrow cages, while farm activists say its strict contracts with independent farmers amount to a form of modern-day "serfdom."

In Congress, the conglomerate has been blamed for accelerating the demise of the small farmer. Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) recently cited a Smithfield action in his home state: The company bought and closed a pork-processing plant in Huron, S.D., laying off 650 people--10 percent of the town's work force.

Such stories make Polish politicians and farmers nervous.

Another Walesa?

Lepper is every bit as controversial in Poland as Luter is in the United States. The dapperly dressed populist has a bitter-sharp tongue and uses unorthodox tactics. He has organized illegal road blockades and a takeover of the Agriculture Ministry building to protest cheap meat and farm produce from European Union countries. He also has defied repeated orders to appear in court, has sought arrest to gain publicity and currently is awaiting trial for allegedly insulting a government minister.

Some Poles think Lepper aspires to become another Lech Walesa, the Solidarity labor leader who defied the communist regime and emerged to become Poland's first post-communist president. Lepper, in fact, is making a long-shot bid for the presidency this fall.

While polls last year showed that more than 75 percent of respondents sympathized with Lepper's tactics, they have yet to show that he enjoys much support outside the rebellious farming community.

Lepper has seized on Smithfield as a hot-button campaign issue. He tells Poles that Smithfield is a "cancer" that will decimate family farms and create the equivalent of the old communist-run state farms. During an AWI-sponsored strategy conference for Polish farm activists here this spring, Lepper blasted Smithfield in an interview with The Washington Post. He said Smithfield executives had tried various ways to neutralize him. First, they offered "the possibility of working together" and then tried to bribe him, he asserted.

"Your problems can be over; you can have a wonderful life, but just stop your activity against Smithfield," he said they told him. "It is obvious from that offer that it was only money. What else could they offer me?"

Luter's chief American operative here, Richard J.M. Poulson, denies any bribe attempt was made. "He [Lepper] said he'd been offered $1 million," said Poulson. "But when a Polish reporter asked him who, where and when, he couldn't remember." In the Post interview, Lepper again declined to provide details.

Poulson counter-charged that Lepper threatened him during a prickly 40-minute encounter in Poland. "He told me I was going to feel his hot breath on my neck and his fist in my face," Poulson said, deriding Lepper's claims to be a serious pig farmer.

"He doesn't even know how many times his sows give birth in a year, and he feeds garbage to his swine," Poulson said. "Even Haiti doesn't allow feeding garbage to swine."

'10 Cents on the Dollar'

Luter initially regarded Smithfield's hostile takeover of Animex as a real coup--$55 million for assets he valued at $500 million. "Only 10 cents on the dollar," he remarked. With 1998 sales of $400 million, Animex is Poland's largest meat packer and exporter, with offices in seven countries, including Japan and the United States. Luter predicted Animex would be a $1 billion business within a few years.

For Luter, the April 1999 Animex acquisition was a messy affair; it had taken him 18 months of maneuvering to gain a controlling stake. And Animex was a mess. Its plants were functioning at 20 to 25 percent capacity, and some were located far from hog country. Its important Russian market had collapsed, and it was competing within Poland with 4,500 "non-inspected, illegal, small backyard" slaughterhouses that accounted for half the Polish pig market.

At the time of the takeover, Luter said that Polish pig farming reminded him of the U.S. pork industry 30 years ago. "There is very little vertical integration, and hog quality and supply is inconsistent," he said. "Most plants and farms are very small and inefficient, even though the Polish farmers are highly skilled and hard-working."

But Luter said Smithfield would invest $50 million in Animex, and he hinted that another $100 million would be spent to retool the Polish pig industry.

Launching a Campaign

The Animex purchase was only round one for Luter. Smithfield's entry into Poland did not go unnoticed back in the United States. Tom Garrett, 63, the AWI's rural affairs adviser, was tracking the company's every move. Like Luter, he believed Poland was fertile ground--but for a different cause.

Garrett had followed Poland's economic turmoil. Furious over cheap EU meat flooding the market, farmers here had paralyzed truck traffic with roadblocks. They had forced the agriculture minister out of office and persuaded the government to buy their pork at subsidized prices. Lepper had been their standard-bearer.

Polish peasants have a history of stubborn rebellion; even the communists had not dared nationalize their farms. And since 1990, peasant parties had helped to make and break three governments. Garrett reasoned that Polish pig farmers might become a formidable barrier to Smithfield's Polish "invasion."

Early last summer, Garrett devised a plan and took it to AWI President Christine Stevens: Invite Lepper for meetings with distraught American pig farmers and a tour of the ecological consequences of Smithfield-style "factory farming." Stevens loved the idea.

"If we don't stop factory farming in Poland, it's just going to spread all over the world," she said.

So early last September, Lepper headed a 10-member delegation of Polish farm union leaders, humane activists, ecologists and reporters. Garrett and two colleagues, Agnes Van Volkenburgh and Diane Halverson, took them to North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Iowa to listen to the woes of swine farmers. The group saw how Smithfield was using cages so narrow the pigs could not turn around.

By boat, the group surveyed North Carolina's polluted Neuse River and learned of huge fish kills. Then, they were flown over sprawling farms to view the ecological damage. Halverson videotaped the tour, punctuated by Lepper's fiery rhetoric. "We are not going to allow Smithfield factories to exist in Poland, even if we have to blockade the entire country," he told North Carolina farmers.

The AWI shipped 5,000 copies of the video to Poland. Lepper, in turn, sent the video to every town, city and county government in Poland. An attached letter asked them not to give Smithfield building permits. Lepper credits the video with stopping Smithfield "from putting up these factory farms" in Poland.

Garrett and Von Volkenburgh, with Lepper's help, quickly won the support of two key players--Agriculture Minister Artur Balazs, a pig farmer himself, and Adam Tanski, head of the state Agricultural Property Agency.

In a meeting last year with Poulson, Balazs said he strongly opposed factory-style farming "because it is not only a threat to the ecology, but also to thousands of nearby small farmers."

"I looked at their faces and don't think they were happy with what I said," Balazs remarked in an interview.

Compromise Contracts

Both Luter and Poulson are reluctant to acknowledge that Lepper, or the AWI, had any impact on Smithfield's fortunes here. But Luter did concede that the company was "still meeting resistance" strong enough to persuade him that Smithfield's industrial-style farming probably has no immediate future here.

"We are sensitive to the Polish environment," said Poulson. "We don't have the right to impose a system they don't want imposed on them."

Instead, Luter said in a telephone interview, Animex will adopt Smithfield's practice of contracting with independent farmers to breed pigs according to company specifications.

Luter now describes Animex as "our biggest challenge abroad" and assesses company operations in Poland to be "a long pull." Whether Smithfield stays, he suggests, will depend on whether the Polish government makes some difficult political decisions, such as closing the backyard slaughterhouses Animex now competes with.

"The big problem is changing people's mentality," said Luter, who estimated that it might take "a generation to turn it around."

Homegrown Problems

With or without Smithfield, Polish pig farmers are stuck in doldrums of their own.

Hog producer Kilianczyk, who proudly sports a Texas hat and handlebar mustache, was unhappy even before he heard about "the American company." The government has cut all subsidies; feed and energy costs have doubled; EU exports are undercutting Polish hog prices; and the bank is demanding repayment of a big loan.

He leases 240 acres of an old state-run farm, but the government won't let him buy it. He can't afford the feed costs, so he gives his 3,000 pigs carrots, cabbage, onions and mash.

"There's no profit in this," he said. "Just problems, problems, problems."

Copyright 2000, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive and The Washington Post.

All rights Reserved.

Issues and Alternatives in Hog Farming

AWI Quarterly: Summer 1998


The Cruel Corporate Assault on Family Farmers and Their Pigs

"Above gold and silver... more precious than rubies;a race of virtuous and independent farmers; loyal supporters of their country"
—Senator Thomas Hart Benton, 1823

by Tom Garrett

Today, America's system of family farms is in extremis. A successionof economic shocks, beginning in the Eisenhower administration, has sothinned the ranks of family farmers and ranchers that only a beleagueredremnant, aggregating less than 2% of the population, remain on the land.Thomas Hart Benton's "race of virtuous and independent farmers"is being replaced by a new feudalism, governed from corporate boardrooms,in which "contract growers" fulfill the role of serfs, and migrantworkers the role of slaves.

The corporate takeover of agriculture relies on control and manipulationof markets, and a degree of vertical integration unthought of in manufacturingindustries. Its way is being greased by one of the most powerful and unscrupulouslobbies in the nation with corruptive tentacles enmeshing the Congressand federal agencies and penetrating into state governments and legislaturesacross the country.

Gross abuseof farm animals, on a scale and to a degree unimaginable a generation ago,is the distinguishing feature of industrial agriculture. Its dernier criis found in the hog factories mestastizising across the farm belt and intothe intermountain west where pigs live their brief lives in huge, denselypacked buildings suffused with the overpowering stench of liquefied hogmanure. Gestating sows stand on naked concrete slats in a space so tinythat they are unable to turn around. During farrowing, the space allottedthem is so narrow that they must lie on one side, segregated from theirpiglets by bars spaced widely enough apart that the latter can suckle.The piglets themselves, under "segregated early weaning" aretaken from their mothers at only 10- 14 days of age so that the sows canbe re-inseminated without loss of time.

Death losses under such conditions and in an atmosphere laden with hydrogensulfide and ammonia, are understandably high. Twenty million pounds ofantibiotics are fed to farm animals each year. Even with daily, subtherapeuticdoses of antibiotics, without which raising animals in factories wouldbe impossible, vast numbers of piglets fail to survive weaning or fallbehind and are "culled." The annual death rate among sows isreported to average 20%. Those who survive are "used up" andculled after three or four farrowings. Some of these young sows are unableto even walk to their own deaths. The natural life expectancy of a pigis ten years; sows in factory farms rarely exceed the age of two and onehalf.

At Seaboard's huge, vertically integrated hog complex near Guyman, Oklahoma,the death loss—by the company's own admission—has reached 35,000 animalsin a single month. Company officials seem unconcerned. This is not really"wastage" they argue; the animals are taken to the company'srendering plant, ground up and fed to the surviving hogs. This is what"closed cycle" evidently means.

Why can't traditional farms, where there is little death loss and sowsremain productive for years, compete withthis grotesque system? Given a "level playing field" they can.But the field is anything but level. The profit or loss of independentfarmers depends on the producer price; the price of animals "on thehoof." But for corporations like Seaboard who maintain their own packingplants, and—increasingly—sell at retail under their own label, producerprices are irrelevant; the determinants are wholesale and retail prices.The producer price of hogs plummeted 40%, from 59.3 cents a pound in July1996 to 36.3 cents a pound in July 1998. But the wholesale price droppedonly 23% during the same period, from $1.22 to 95 cents and the crash affectedretail prices not at all: pork averaged $2.26 per pound in July 1996; $2.31per pound in July 1998.

Another way vertical integration allows corporations to muscle asidefamily farms is to deny them markets altogether. In recent years, mostof the sale barns and central markets to which farmers traditionally shippedtheir hogs have closed down and most independent packing plants—those operatingwithout a "captive supply"— have been forced out of business.Tens of thousands of small farmers have quit raising hogs simply becausethey cannot sell them.

In the meantime,despite the collapse of Asian markets and consequent glut of hogs, hogfactory expansion continues apace. Huge new complexes are planned for pointsas diverse as southeastern Idaho, northern Texas, the San Luis valley ofColorado, the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Fulton County,Illinois and Platte County, Wyoming, as the corporations with the deepestpockets take advantage of the price crash to seize additional market share.

But for all their money and political influence, factory farmers arevulnerable. Factory farming does not work economically unless many of itsreal costs are imposed on others; to sustain such a system requires a highdegree of political control. At the federal level, where honest enforcementof the Packers and Stock-yards Act and various environmental laws wouldunravel the entire system, corporate dominance is hardly challenged. Buta citizen's revolt against hog factories is gaining strength in communitiesacross the country as normally diverse— even antagonistic—constituenciesunite against the common enemy.

  • In Colorado, where absence of regulation has attracted over twentylarge hog factories, a coalition of farmers, environmentalists and humaneactivists are bringing the issue before the voters in the November election.Initiative 14 would force hog factories to combat stench by enclosing sewagelagoons, require persistent environmental monitoring by both state andcounty authorities, make the owners fully liable for "remediating"damages and give affected citizens standing to go to court, when necessary,to bring about enforcement. Agribusiness corporations have raised millionsof dollars—reportedly including one million dollars from the pharmaceuticalgiant, Pfizer, to stop the initiative. Industry groups such as the FarmBureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council, are in fullhue and cry.
  • South Dakota farmers, led by Dakota Rural Action, have placed an initiativeon the ballot aimed at forcing agribusiness corporations altogether outof the state. Amendment E, modeled on Nebraska's anti-corporate law, wouldban corporate owned farming operations in South Dakota, including feedingcontracts involving corporate-owned animals. This would not prevent privatelyowned hog factories from operating in South Dakota, but Nebraska's experiencesuggests that without pressure from outside investors very few will. TheSouth Dakotans are, once again, facing a flood of corporate money and theRepublican Governor Janklow is inveighing against the initiative.
  • Western Kansas has become a veritable battleground between corporateinvestors and citizens. Fortunately, it is possible, under the Kansas constitution,for counties to decide for themselves whether such development is to beallowed. Public initiatives have been held on the question of hog factoriesin 20 Kansas counties. Only one county, Edwards, voted by 590 to 585 toadmit hog factories. 71.6.% of all the voters participating in the electionsvoted "No." In three of the fourteen counties where commissionersgranted permission for hog factories to come in, outraged citizens forcedthem to rescind the decision.
  • Iowa has traditionally been a bastion of family farming as well asthe largest hog producing state in the United States. It is still firstin hogs, but the number of independent hog farmers has plunged from 41,000to 18,000 in a decade and most of Iowa's hog production is now in the handsof corporations. The corporate takeover has degraded Iowa's environment,created social turmoil, battered the already depressed rural economy. However,the 1995 passage of File 519, eliminating the right of counties to regulatehog factories, and the right of citizens to file suit against hog factories,created an intense backlash. Nine Republican legislators who voted forfile 519 were tossed out by the voters in 1996, and Democrats are countingon the issue to regain control of the Iowa legislature this year. In themeantime, the Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled the provision denying citizensthe right to file nuisance suits against hog factories to be "blatantlyunconstitutional."
  • In Oklahoma, where waste from chicken factories in the eastern partof the state contaminated the Tulsa water supply, citizens finally forceda moderately strong regulatory bill— applying to the state's hog factories—through the state legislature. Moratoriums on new construction remain ineffect in Mississippi and North Carolina. South Carolina, with North Carolina'sghastly example to guide it, passed a sufficiently severe law to deterdevelopment.

"Forget the pig as an animal. Treat him just like any other machinein a factory. Schedule treatments like you would lubrication. Breedingseason is the first step in an assembly line."

—Hog Farm Management Magazine


A Better Way—Hog Farming that Meets the Animal's SocialInstincts

by Tom Frantzen

Farrowing and finishing hogs have been core activities on the Frantzenfarm for over 55 years, spanning my and my father's farming careers.

In 1978, I changed the way hogs were housed and raised at our farm.A room in our barn was remodeled to hold 14 steel farrowing crates withslat floors. A small underground pit was dug to catch the pig's waste.I distinctly remember how those "modern improvements" changedthe very nature of our farm. Slat floors and the stagnant watery manurebeneath it created a repulsive odor. Any activity that stirred this fecalsoup greatly increased the smell. At that time, I thought that this wasjust a part of being modern. Noxious odors were not the only bad featuresof the slat floors and crates. For the next 13 years, I would strugglewith countless animal health problems associated with slat floors.

Above: This hoophouse sow carries
straw into her farrowing hutch,
building a nest for her piglets.
Above right: Sow and piglet
snuggle in deep straw. Right:
Hogs at the Frantzen farm in
their straw-bedded hoophouse.
The pigs root through the straw
bales, creating their own nests
.

Sows in the crates would slip on the (very expensive) slat flooring,causing various injuries. Little pigs suffered knee abrasions from sleepingon the hard floors. Pneumonia and injury-related health problems were common.The finishing pigs that were closely confined in a slat floored pen, asrecommended by modern textbooks on pork production, did gain weight quickly,but they exhibited cannibalistic behavior. Tail biting became a seriousproblem.

In 1994, my wife, Irene, and I spent two weeks touring Sweden with asmall group from Iowa and Minnesota. The trip was organized and hostedby Marlene Halverson of the Animal Welfare Institute and Mark Honeymanof Iowa State University. The farms we visited were employing deep beddedfacilities to provide low stress, humane conditions for their livestock.I was awed by the healthy and content disposition of the stock, and thefarm families too!

Every time I observed my old, crowded, slat floor hog barn and the stressedpigs living in it, I too became stressed. Their social brutality (tailbiting, bar chewing) was caused by failing to meet their basic social instincts.On a hoopbuilding tour, I was told that pigs have three desires: they wantto run around, build a nest, and chew on something. This behavior is impossiblein a metal pen on a slat floor. Early one September morning, I opened thedoor of my grower barn to check on the pigs. One of the pens was coveredwith fresh blood. Their level of stress was so high they became violentlyaggressive toward each other. I could take no more! I announced with abit of profanity that my slat floor days were going to end.

Deep-bedded hoophouse facilities appeared in the Midwest in the mid1990s. It was exciting to observe this development. Not since being onthe Swedish farms had I observed a humane shelter! More exciting yet, wasthe promise of an economical and ecologically sound building. In a hoophouseor structure, straw-bedded pens replace metal crates and slatted floors.The straw bedding mixes with the hog waste which is self composting, createsvery little odor and no ecological hazards.

Plans were set to build three hoophouses on the farm. By September of1997 one of the houses was ready for the pigs. I was very anxious to usethe new facilities. On moving day we bedded the new hoophouse with freshstraw, and lots of it.

One hundred and sixty pigs from the old grower were released into theirnew home. Boy, did those pigs have fun! In the new hoopbuilding they havelots of room to run, straw to chew and heaps of bedding to nest in. Theyran around all day—and even in to the night. The next morning when I wentinto check on them, I will never forget what I found. As I walked up tothe door, it was quiet, very quiet. I peeked into the hoophouse to see160 pigs in one massive straw nest, snoring with great content! I laugheduntil I cried. Their stress was gone and so was mine.

Above left: A family farm
sow and her piglets. Left:
Family games: piglets
climb over their mother's
head. Above: Pigs are
all-weather animals, and
enjoy snow as well as
sunshine.

Our deep bedded buildings are now a year old. We are selling the secondgroup of pigs this fall. We have not observed any social behavior problems.Even when the bedding pack is four foot deep, the odor level is very low.Nutrient losses from rain and snow runoff is nearly nonexistent. Hoopstructurehousing is the most significant development I have observed in moving agriculturetowards practices that really make sense. It took a long time but our pigsfinally have a happy home.


Tom Frantzen is a fourth generation farmer from Alta Vista, Iowa.


Rescue of 171 Pigs Raised in a Factory Farm

What was to be a one way journey to the slaughterhouse turned into atrip to porcine paradise for 167 pigs abandoned in a Washington, DC neighborhood.Tightly packed into a huge, three-tiered, eighteen-wheeled truck trailer,the pigs were being transported from a Rocky Mountain, North Carolina factoryfarm to Hatfield Quality Meats, a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse. The DC Metropolitanpolice who found the terrified pigs contacted the Washington Humane Society,who had the truck towed to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville,Maryland.

The hogs hadbeen on the truck for at least 14 hours before they were finally unloaded.Four of the pigs died of stress while on the truck or shortly after beingunloaded. Only 5 to 6 months old, the pigs already averaged a whopping200 to 250 pounds. Some had unsightly growths and hematomas, most had difficultywalking and all had their tails cut off and large sores on their bruisedand swollen legs. It was clear that their short lives on concrete slatshad taken a permanent toll.

When the operations manager of Hanor Corporation, Inc. (the companythat owned the pigs) arrived at the sanctuaryto retrieve the pigs, he was escorted by a Washington lawyer and a bevyof Montgomery County, Maryland police officers. Poplar Spring presentedthe manager from the Hanor factory farm with a bill of $11,630 for expensesincurred for the pigs' transport, care and feeding. The bill constituteda legal lien in the state of Maryland. After intense negotiation, the manageragreed to write a check to cover the amount. The pigs' lawyer, Laura Nelsonof the Animal Legal Defense Fund, called his bluff and demanded the sumbe either in cash or a certified check. Unwilling or unable to producea secured payment for the pigs, the manager ceded the pigs to Poplar Spring.An interesting footnote: According to police sources, the driver was pickedup the next day by Washington, DC police for driving under the influenceof alcohol. It was also discovered that this had not been the first timethe driver had deserted a trailer full of animals.

Terry Cummings and Dave Hoerauf,
co-founders of the Poplar Spring
Animal Sanctuary sit among the
weary, abandoned pigs who had
never before experienced the joys
of soft bedding to rest on, fresh air
to breathe, freedom to walk on the
ground, or theeel of sun on their
backs.

The hogs will now live out their natural lives as true pigs, in grassyfields with their friends. If you are interested in adopting or sponsoringone of the Poplar Spring pigs, please contact Terry Cummings at PoplarSpring Animal Sanctuary, PO Box 507, Poolesville, MD 20837, (301) 428-8128.


AWI Quarterly Summer 1998, Volume 47, Number 3

AWI on Irradiation

Public Interest Groups Denounce Giant Food's Decision to Sell Irradiated Meat

Groups Urge Chain to Remove Product from Shelves

The Animal Welfare Institute has as one of its primary goals the eradication of animal factories because of their inherent cruelty.  At the same time we are reviving a culture of humane farming.  AWI promotes humane husbandry and works with over 200 family farmers that adhere to AWI's humane pig husbandry standards which allow pigs to behave naturally. AWI, like the humane farmers we work with, strongly opposes food irradiation!

Irradiation is being promoted by corporate interests as a solution to a contaminated industrial food supply.  However, irradiation is not an inherent part of farming, it is only the most recent technological component of large-scale industrial agriculture which is continuously problematic. 

Irradiating meat at the end of production, does not address the real and most importantly preventable causes of industrial food contaminants such as inhumane factory farming practices, dramatic cutbacks in federal food safety inspectors and dangerously accelerated line-speeds at slaughtering and processing facilities.

Knowing that meat will be irradiated, industrial producers will have even less incentive to reform the inherently filthy and inhumane conditions of massive factory farms where animals are viewed as protein production units and death loss is accepted as a cost of production.   Irradiation will do nothing to abolish the cruelty animals suffer in factories such as the confinement of pigs in crates so narrow they cannot turn around and beef cattle forced to stand ankle deep in their own waste.  Irradiation, in fact, will perpetuate and most certainly increase the abuse of farm animals.  Rather than accepting irradiated meat, we ask that consumers demand humanely raised and slaughtered animals.

Irradiation also masks cruel conditions in slaughterhouses.  Federal inspectors are not stationed in, and have little to no access to, those areas of slaughterhouses where most humane handling and slaughter violations occur.  Rather than irradiate meat at the end of production, we call on USDA to station inspectors, on a fulltime basis, for the purpose of enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act regulations at those critical points in the handling and slaughtering process where Humane Slaughter Act violations are most common such as the unloading and handling areas and the stunning and bleeding areas.

Instead of irradiating meat and allowing atrocities in slaughterhouses to continue, line speeds in slaughterhouses must be reduced to 1970 levels or around 40% of current velocities.  Current line speeds prevent animals from being killed in accordance with the Humane Slaughter Act and as a result meat becomes contaminated with feces, urine, pus and vomit.  Irradiation does nothing to remove these contaminants.

Irradiated food perpetuates a system of meat production that relies on the inhumane treatment of animals.  By masking the food safety problems caused by cruel practices and inhumane conditions at massive factory farms and slaughterhouses, irradiation allows industrial agriculture, and its appalling treatment of animals, to continue.  Irradiating meat at the end of a cruel line of production is tantamount to placing a Band-Aid on a surgical wound.  We ask Giant Food and consumers everywhere to reject irradiated products in favor of a humane and safe food supply.

--Wendy Swann, Animal Welfare Institute, Nov. 14, 2002

Scenes from a USDA Inspected Slaughterhouse

*Caution, video contains disturbing images.

Requires Real Media Player. To download visit www.real.com.
Footage provided by the Animal Welfare Institute, Animals' Angels
and Humane Farming Association.

Requires RealPlayer to view.  To download a copy visit www.Real.com

Having Problems? Click here to launch separate RealPlayer.


New Food Seal Sets Highest Standards for Humane Treatment of Farm Animals

Animal Welfare Approved Surpasses Other Seals; First Humane Program to Champion Family Farms and Repudiate Double Standards in Other Labeling Programs

New Standards Supported by Farmers, Top Chefs and Notables Such as Willie Nelson, Rosemary Harris and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Free Ranging Chickens

Virginia Farmer Raises Free RangingChickens

There are still some farmers who believe in treating theiranimals to natural surroundings, notonly in order to raise healthier animals but for ethical valuesas well. On a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley near Swoope,Virginia, Joel Salatin is doing just that with his chickens.

"The long term benefits for society are greater becausewe are treating our animals better. But we don't do it for businessreasons. We do it because it's right." Salatin explained.

Salatin has developed a portable "Eggmobile" contraptionwhich houses 100 laying hens. These hens forage as far as 200yards from their home during the day. They naturally come backto roost so no fences are necessary to keep them contained. Salatinexplained that on the usual "factory farm" laying hensare kept under prolonged lighting to create the illusion of springtime. They are therefore always laying eggs. On the Salatin familyfarm the hens are well aware of what season it is and go throughthe natural winter rest period.

Salatin also raises about 6000 Cornish cross broilers a year.These chickens are kept in 2 foot tall mobile homes thatare moved over fresh grass every morning. About 100 animalsare kept in each house. A pen of the same size on a factory farmwould contain some 1000 to 1500 birds.

Both hens and broilers have a diet that is substantially differentfrom their unlucky relatives on factory farms. Because the hensare free-ranging they are able to choose their own food. Not onlyis this accomplished by natural foraging but Salatin gives themseveral different feeds to chose from as well. He believes, dependingon each individual chicken's health and the time of year, thesebirds will choose the food that is healthiest for them. Sincethe broiler houses are moved to fresh grass every morning, thebroilers also have the same opportunity to choose their own diet.Both hens and broilers obviously get plenty of green material,something that would be unusual on a factory farm and they arenever given steroids or antibiotics which induce unnaturally rapidgrowth. One of the results, and also the reason why it is economicallysensible to raise animals in such a manner, is that the lifespanof a laying hen on Joel Salatin's farm is generally three yearscompared to a normal factory farm lifespan of one year.


AWI Quarterly

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