Animals in Agriculture

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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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

Smithfield's Invasion of Poland

by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.


Reprinted from The Ecologist
Date Published: 26/11/03
Author: Robert Kennedy Jr and Tracey Worcester

Fields covered with faeces, children vomiting at school, plastic bins stuffed full of dead pigs. Robert Kennedy and Tracy Worcester experience firsthand the reality of life in Smithfield's Poland.

Ignoring Smithfield's 'no entry' sign, we clambered over wire barriers and wrenched open the ventilation shaft of one of three vast concrete and corrugated iron sheds. The noise was deafening. Five thousand squealing pigs were crammed into strawless compartments inside the recently opened pig factory near the town of Szczecinek in the northwestern Polish province Zachodnio-Pomorskie.

Back outside, effluent from cement cesspits had over-flowed – sending a small stream of brown, stinking liquid into the lake below, which had then frozen over. In a large plastic bin we found 20 dead pigs. When we'd looked the night before, it had been empty.

It seems that the entire operation is illegal. During the communist era, the state farm had employed 44 locals. Officials told us that Prima (a Polish company now owned by Smithfield) had only been given a permit to renovate the derelict farm on condition it guaranteed 15 local jobs. Instead, no locals were employed and 5,000 pigs arrived in the dead of night. Villagers only grasped what had happened when the company began illegally dumping liquid faeces on the snow-covered fields.

People were angry and frightened, but village and township officials told us they were powerless to defend their community as the local government had taken Prima's side.

'If you had informed us of Smithfield's record six months earlier,' they told us, 'we would have refused all permits and prevented Prima from gaining a foothold.' Now they could only ask for our help in challenging the company on environmental grounds.

A few miles north we visited Prima's factory farm at Nielep, where 30,000 pigs are confined. We were met at the compound gate by a tall man in a surgical face mask. Removing the mask, he identified himself as the manager and demanded that we kept away. Responding to our questions about animal welfare, he claimed that although there was no bedding for the pigs, the factory had all the appropriate permits and required number of employees. However, he refused to say exactly how many pigs were impounded, how many died each day or what mix of chemicals were pumped into them. Admitting that he had been taken to Smithfield installations in North Carolina for training, he mouthed the standard company line: 'Our local and national opponents are selfishly concerned with animal welfare instead of feeding the world'.

Local resistance

In a nearby village, a meeting had been convened for local farmers and authorities to hear Tom Garrett of the animal rights advocacy group the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) describe Smithfield's record in the US. People sat in stunned silence as they tried to grasp the impending destruction of their livelihoods and community.

When Garrett had finished, the audience erupted. Many demanded that the local authorities in Poland take control of the country's former state farms and give tenancies to former employees rather than foreign transnationals. Desperate and angry, one old lady confirmed what we had already seen: 'The company has been spreading effluent over snow-covered fields,' she explained. 'People have developed rashes and stomach upsets.' The stench from the effluent had caused vomiting, which threatened the closure of the local school and the destruction of local businesses. To raucous applause, a local politician declared: 'Smithfield must be kicked out.'

This same cry is now being heard all over Poland, with locals signing petitions and farmers forming blockades to get Smithfield out. Across the provincial border from Zachodnio-Pomorskie is Wieckowice, a beautiful village of brick and wooden homes, shrines and long stone barns in the region of Wielkopolska. There we found several dozen local activists carrying signs outside a former state farm owned by Smithfield's Polish subsidiary Animex. The facility has permits for only 500 cows and 500 pigs. It has been reported that it houses 17,000 pigs. The farm is 40 yards from an elementary school where residents say their children get sick and vomit because of the pig odours.

Among the protesters was Irena Kowalak, a dignified woman who served as village mayor for 35 years. She told us she had resigned recently because of intimidation by Smithfield. Andrzej

Nowakowski is the governor of Wielkopolska. Nowakowski said that the local population was unanimously and adamantly opposed to Smithfield and that he refused to give the company permits when it bought the farm two years ago. But six months later Poland's environment ministry overrode him.

Nonetheless, thanks to the governor, Smithfield has not been able to get permits for liquid manure. So the farm uses straw bedding and has not yet devised a plan for disposing of its waste. Fields of wheat surround the pig barns, but they are never harvested because Smithfield is not interested in agriculture. To Smithfield, these fields are a place to dump the notorious wastes of industrial meat production.

A convoy of indignant Wieckowice residents took us out to see the giant pile of pig manure. On the side of a 1,000-acre wheat field was a mountain of pig waste 150 metres long, four metres high and 50 metres wide. 'Seventeen thousand pigs for six months,' a young man said, nodding at the pile. Local authorities have been ordering Smithfield to move the illegal pile for six months, but the company has refused. The night before our visit Smithfield covered its pile with a giant black tarpaulin, which was already inflated and writhing with the internal pressure of methane gas.

Half a mile downhill from the pile, villagers had created a public beach on a 1,500-acre lake where umbrellas shaded dozens of families swimming and playing on a steamy 90º day. Manure residues festered on the shores of a nearby bay into which Smithfield's waste pile drains. An old man with twinkling blue eyes stuck his hand into the water, smelled his fingers and offered us a whiff. 'Smithfield Foods,' he announced.

Governor Nowakowski told us that there is another Smithfield factory, in Sedziny, that has 4,500 pigs but a permit for only 1,000 cows. He said his assistants were now inspecting the facility. 'But,' he explained, 'the legislation is very difficult for the local government to enforce [without state support].' Unfortunately, the federal government is not supporting the Wielkopolska authorities.

Nowakowski is not the only local politician begging for federal help. Zofia Wilczynska is a deputy in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland's national parliament. Wilczynska has complained to the federal government that a Smithfield operation in Polczyn Zdroj is endangering the northern Polish town's 400-year-old health spa. Right over by Poland's northeastern border with the Russian Federation enclave of Kaliningrad (former East Prussia) another health spa, in Goldap, is also threatened by pollution and odours from a Smithfield site.

The day after our visit to Wieckowice, a member of a parliamentary agriculture committee told us that the Polish government had recently conducted an investigation of 16 Smithfield farms (14 owned by the corporation and two owned by front groups it controlled). The agricultural ministry found that every one of the farms had broken Poland's veterinary, health and construction laws. Yet when Smithfield lacks proper permits, or is caught breaking the law, it is fined, laughably, just a few hundred dollars.

Sometimes Smithfield just buys officials off. A hundred miles north of Wieckowice, the mayor of the Western Pomeranian village Wierzchowo gave Smithfield permits for two enormous farms after the company paid his wife approximately $4,000 to perform the environmental impact assessment.

Local communities devastated

The economic impacts of Smithfield's production methods are devastating local communities and markets. When Smithfield took over Animex, the latter's three principal farms near Goldap employed 60 employees. Following the farms' conversion to automated pig factories, only seven of these workers remain.

Smithfield says it wants to produce 6 million pigs in Poland each year. Polish peasants currently rear 20 million pigs per year, and a quarter of them will have to lose their livelihoods to make way for Smithfield. The corporation is already squeezing the small farms. In Western Pomerania we found that the region's small slaughterhouses had already been closed, and that the remaining Smithfield-owned slaughterhouse would not slaughter pigs from small farms. The same will soon apply to the rest of Poland. Once Smithfield controls the slaughterhouses and has eliminated local markets, it will be able to control prices and, ultimately, the farms.

Avoiding the monoculture in Poland

Instead of reinventing itself to mimic the failed systems in Europe and the US, Poland should celebrate its assets and sell them to the world. Polish meat tastes much better than factory meat. Polish sausage is world famous. Consumers like knowing that their meat is from animals that were humanely raised in ways that are good for the environment, supportive of family farms, and free of dangerous hormones, antibiotics and chemicals. But all these things make quality meat more expensive than factory meat. And when the consumer sees free-range pork that does not look much different to a Smithfield cut, they will choose the cheaper product. The answer is branding.

When Europe opens its markets to Poland, the Poles should establish a market for their produce by using branding to draw attention to their traditional values. The AWI has offered the Polish government to help brand the country's pork internationally. The institute specialises in helping small farmers by finding consumers who are willing to pay a premium for produce that is healthy and raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics and hormones.

Anybody who pays a premium for Polish meat will be getting a good deal. Some of the meat and sausage that we gorged on in Poland was among the best we've tasted. Pork of the kind produced by traditional Polish farms is widely recognised to be tastier and juicier than confinement pork of the sort produced by Smithfield.

If Poland is going to flourish rather than flounder, the nation needs to recognise its enormous strengths and start believing in itself. The words 'produced in Poland' should become a standard for high quality. This is no easy challenge. But the easy way out, signing a contract with Smithfield, is not the solution.

A last bastion of tradition in Poland

Poland is an oasis of traditional farming in a world dominated by agribusiness multinationals. Around 2 million Poles, about 18 per cent of the country's population, are farmers or members of farming families. That's as many as the rest of central Europe put together.

The Polish landscape is not yet marked by the vast monocultures of row crops that are typical of the US. Currently, Poland is a country of picturesque farm villages, with farms that average five hectares and modest homes of wood, timber and fieldstone. Typically, each farmer has a horse, a couple of cows and some pigs and chickens. Animals are raised free range and humanely. And Polish farmers rotate a variety of crops in the traditional way that fosters healthy soils.
Many Polish farmhouses still have occupied stork nests on their roofs. The country hosts 25 per cent of the world's white stork population – some 50,000 pairs. – more than the whole of western Europe combined. Elsewhere in the continent the bird has been exterminated by modern agriculture practices: liquid manure and pesticides effectively wipe out the fish, frogs, crabs and insects that storks eat. In Denmark, for example, there are only six pairs left.

Poland has large stands of timber as well as the last sanctuaries of European bison and Europe's last clean-flowing unregulated rivers. It has purer soils than anywhere else in Europe. Its land is uncontaminated by pesticide and fertiliser residue and almost entirely free of the heavy metals caused by industrial smokestack pollution throughout the rest of Europe.

Smithfield's Tasteless Enterprise

Millions of years of natural selection have endowed pigs with back fat to regulate their body temperature. But Smithfield gets more money from meat than from fat, so the company has bred its own strain of super-lean pigs with almost no back fat. They are highly-strung and unable to survive normal outside temperatures.

Food professionals say this extreme leanness has dramatically diminished the quality of US pork. Food magazine Saveur described the pigs of modern confinement agriculture as being so skinny that they look 'like dachshunds'. While applauding traditional farming methods of the kind used in Poland, The New York Times Magazine stated: 'The pork industry has managed to engineer a pig with almost no fat at all. And this is why most modern recipes for pork involve some kind of liquid – putting the meat in a marinade before cooking, basting it while cooking or braising it in broth. If you simply grill a mass-market pork chop, it becomes inedibly dry.' The Times went on to say that free-range pork 'is rich when sliced and sautéed, fine textured and robust in flavour. It needs nothing more than seasoning with salt'. The dryness and poor taste of confinement pork have become so bad that many major pork companies are now 'enhancing' their pork: adding water, flavoured liquids, or even stock to their tray-pack and prepared meats, and using red food colouring to improve its drab appearance.

Financing the Slaughter

Financial institutions like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) use EU taxpayers' money to subsidise companies like Smithfield. The result? Small farmers disappear, food quality deteriorates, animal welfare suffers. Although it claims to be 'environmentally sensitive', the EBRD has joined with the Polish banks BRE and Rabobank Polska to provide a $100m loan to Smithfield's Polish subsidiary Animex.

The EBRD's 'project summary' states: 'Follow-up investigations of [EBRD] environmental staff and discussion with Smithfield management responsible for such issues demonstrated that the [Animex] facilities comply with the national requirements for environment, health and safety.' Yet the evidence suggests that the EBRD is consciously and deliberately backing a corporate takeover of Polish agriculture. The bank's press releases and 'transition impact' statements are full of talk about 'restructuring Poland's agribusiness and food industry'. The EBRD refers, for example, to the 'restructuring of the meat-processing sector' and 'the consolidation of the agribusiness sector'.

The reality is that Poland, like the rest of the modern world, is about to bury an ancient culture based on community living, family and land stewardship for the benefit of future generations. As Tom Garrett of the Animal Welfare Institute has lamented: 'There is no salvation to be found in industrial agriculture owned and controlled by foreign multinational corporations. There is only damage.'

For more information about the EBRD's involvement in Poland: www.bankwatch.org/issues/ebrd/animex/manimex.html.

HOW TO BYPASS SMITHFIELD PRODUCTS

As Smithfield buys local companies to front their operations, it is difficult to trace its products. The surest way of avoiding them is not to buy from supermarkets but to buy organic or locally produced pork from local butchers or farmers' markets instead. To find information about local producers, visit: www.localfood.org.uk or www.bigbarn.org.uk.

In the UK Smithfield's pork products are marketed under the brand name PEK. However, it is more than likely that Smithfield meat is also ending up in mass-produced products like pizzas. So, while not buying PEK-branded products is good, not buying anything containing non-organic pork is better.

Contribute to or join the AWI (www.awionline.org/membership); it is the only humane organisation fighting the cruelty of pig factory farming in Poland. But the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside is also doing important work. See its website at www.icppc.sfo.pl.

Robert Kennedy Jr is the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots coalition dedicated to protecting water systems from pollution; Tracy Worcester is the associate director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (www.isec.org.uk), a non-profit organisation that aims to protect cultural and biological diversity

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

From Sweden to Iowa: Seeking Humaneness, Sustainability and Democracy in Agriculture

Northfield, MN -- The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, famous for bringing world-renowned musicians and romance to the rural Midwest, will be the site of an unprecedented gathering on Friday, April 5, 2002. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance, will be the keynote speaker during an all-day program on the urgent need to revitalize a culture of humane, environmentally-sound, independent family farming in Iowa, Minnesota and throughout the U.S.

The "Summit for Sustainable Hog Farming", sponsored by the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, with support from the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations, brings together family farmers, scientists, attorneys, animal welfare advocates, fishermen, environmentalists, religious and labor leaders and public health activists, as well as citizens who suffer from living near animal factories.

At the special invitation of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Professor Bo Algers, Head of the Department of Animal Health and Environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, will focus on Sweden's experience in his presentation "Animals in Food Production: Sustainability and Democracy". Sweden captured the world's attention in 1986 when, at the request of Swedish farmers, it prohibited the routine use of antibiotics in raising animals for food, and again, in 1988, when Sweden required that all animals, including those used for food, be allowed to behave naturally. These statutes hastened Sweden's phase out of systems that impose extreme confinement and deprivation on animals used for food, and Sweden's progress toward a safe, ethical and sustainable food production system.

To help combat the extreme and unnecessary cruelty inherent in pig factories, the Animal Welfare Institute has established humane husbandry standards for raising pigs. Niman Ranch, a California-based marketing company famous for supplying high quality meat to fine restaurants, requires that the farmers from whom it buys pigs adhere to the Animal Welfare Institute standards. Bill Niman, co-founder of Niman Ranch, will discuss his company's mission and successful marketing to hundreds of restaurants and stores nationwide. Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill, uses Niman Ranch pork exclusively in his restaurants. Mr. Ells will discuss Chipotle's philosophy and experience with marketing the products of healthy husbandry in his presentation "How a Simple Burrito Can Make A Difference."

Iowa pig farmers Paul Willis and Colin Wilson will describe their family farms, managed according to principles of humaneness and sustainability. Mr. Willis, who also serves as manager of the Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa, and Mr. Wilson, along with 180 other independent family farmers, adhere to AWI's husbandry standards and market pigs for a premium to Niman Ranch. Minnesota farmer Paul Sobocinski, program organizer with Land Stewardship Project, will discuss grassroots efforts to fight concentration in agriculture and promote humane, sustainable pig farming.

Registration for the Summit commences at 8:00 a.m. and the formal program begins at 9:00 a.m. The registration fee of $25.00 includes all programs and meals. Mr. Kennedy's address, at 7:00 p.m., will be free and open to the public. For more information, call Waterkeeper Alliance attorneys Nicolette Hahn or Jeff Odefey at 914-422-4410 or Animal Welfare Institute Farm Animal Advisor Diane Halverson at 507-645-8434, or visit the Waterkeeper Alliance website at www.waterkeeper.org. The Animal Welfare Institute website can be found at www.awionline.org. The full agenda for the Summit is attached.

The following is a complete list of the Hog Summit speakers, listed in the order they will appear:

Ms. Nicolette G. Hahn, Senior Attorney, Waterkeeper Alliance

Brother David Andrews, Executive Director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference (Iowa)

Mayor Kirk Kraft, Mayor, Clear Lake (Iowa)

Ms. Janice Weber, Producer/Director, JWCreative Solutions, Ltd.(New York)

Dr. Mike Duffy, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. Kendall Thu, Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University (Illinois)

Dr. Melva Fager Okun, Coordinator, North Carolina Keep Antibiotics Working campaign (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert Cook, Citizen activist and former hog confinement worker (Iowa)

Dr. David Wallinga, Director, Antibiotics Resistance Project, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (Minnesota)

Dr. Michael Appleby, Vice President for Farm Animals and Sustainable Agriculture, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (Washington, D.C.)

Dr. Michael R. Burkhart, Associate Professor Department of Geologic and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. John Downing, Professor of Limnology, Department of Animal Ecology, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Ms. Martha Noble, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Washington, D.C.)

Mr. Ken Midkiff, Director, Sierra Club, Clean Water / CAFO Campaign (Missouri)

Mr. Paul Sobocinski, Farmer and Program Organizer for Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota)

Mr. Tom Frantzen, Hog Farmer for Organic Valley (Iowa)

Mr. Charlie Speer, Partner, Payne & Jones (Kansas)

Mr. Daniel E. Estrin, Counsel, Kennedy & Madonna (New York)

Ms. Anne Wiowode, Director, Mackinac Sierra Club (Michigan)

Mr. Harlan Hansen, Former hog farmer and County Supervisor, Humboldt County (Iowa)

Mr. Hugh Espey, Rural Project Director, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa)

Dr. Stephanie Seemuth, Family Physician (Iowa)

Dr. Jan Flora, Professor, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Mr. David Osterberg, Associate Clinical Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa (Iowa)

Ms. Diane Halverson, Farm Animal Advisor, Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Dr. Bo Algers, Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Sweden)

Ms. Theresa Marquez, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Organic Valley (Wisconsin)

Mr. Steve Ells, Founder & CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill (Colorado)

Mr. Bill Niman, Founder, Niman Ranch (California)

Mr. Terry Spence, President, Family Farms for the Future and cattle farmer (Missouri)

Mr. Gary Hoskey, Hog farmer and President, Iowa Farmers Union (Iowa)

Ms. Marlene Halverson, Farm Animal Economic Advisor to Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Mr. Colin Wilson, Hog farmer and Immediate Past President, Practical Farmers of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Paul Willis, Hog farmer and Manager, Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Jim Braun, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Bryan Burgess, Citizen activist cattle rancher (Alabama)

Mr. Don Webb, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (North Carolina)

Mr. Chris Petersen, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Lisa Bechtold, Citizen activist and farmer (Alberta, Canada)

Mr. Kurtis Kelsey, Citizen activist and farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Karen Hudson, Citizen activist and farmer (Illinois)

Mr. Gary Bierschenk, Citizen activist and crop and hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance Southeast Representative (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance

Comfortable Quarters for Chickens

Second Part

A dustbath is used for care and cleaning of plumage and enhances the well-being of chickens. They prefer to dustbathe in groups. If the dustbath is provided outside, it should be roofed and should give protection from drafts. Quartz sand with charcoal and flowers of sulphur added is recommended as a dustbathing substrate.

Nesting behavior of hens includes nest investigation, scratching and pecking at the nest material, choosing a particular nest and entering it, forming a hollow, laying an egg, rolling an egg under the body, and brooding.

Hens prefer to lay their eggs at sheltered places where manipulatable materials are available. During the pre-laying phase, the hen leaves the flock and looks for an adequate nesting place. She investigates different places or nest boxes before deciding where to lay her eggs. A hollow is formed at the chosen nesting place. After 10 to 30 minutes, the hen gets up and lays an egg which she rolls under her body. She stays in the nest for a short period of time before joining the group again.

Appropriate housing for chickens must take the animals’ species-specific behaviors into account. A room may be readily transformed to suitable housing for chickens by placing a wire-mesh covered dropping pit on one side of the room and installing perches along the wall at different heights over the pit. The horizontal distance between two perches should be at least 35 cm (13.8 in.). The total perch-length is determined by the number of chickens and should be no less than 18 cm (7.1 in.) per animal.


Chickens naturally live in a stable social group. This photo shows a hen with almost-adult chicks and a cock.

A scratching are is an imperative to allow chickens to exhibit species-typical foraging behavior. A thin layer of sand covered by approximately 10 cm (3.9in.) of chopped straw provides a suitable substratum for this purpose. The scratching area should take up at least half of the floor area of the hen house.

Hens need adequate nest boxes, preferably with manipulatable material, like oat husks or chopped straws. One nest box should be provided for each 5 hens. Its dimension should be approximately 40x40cm (16x16 in.). If larger family nests are used, a nesting area of 1 m² (10.8 sq. ft.) per 50 hens is recommended.

Group size should not exceeded 80 animals, as chickens are only able to distinguish between 40 to 80 members of their own species. Stocking density should not exceed 5 birds per square meter (10.8 sq.ft.) of available surface area to avoid stress from overcrowding.

A variety of food should be offered to the chickens. If only meals or pellets are fed, the animals consume their ration too fast and do not spend enough time foraging. Bad habits such as feather pecking can easily develop under such conditions. To prevent this, grain should be provided in racks or in baskets hanging from the ceiling, so that the animals can pull and peck at the contents and keep busy.

  • 1. Water
    2. Used air
    3. Fresh air
    4. Family nest
  • 5. Food trough
    6. Nipple drinker
    7. Litter
    8. Perches
    9. Dropping pit
  • 10. Drainage
    11. Drainpipe
    12. Covered run with basket for greenstuff and extra space gained through use of third dimension

Chickens should have access to a box filled with sand so that they can take dustbaths. Dustbathing is a social activity which is usually performed by several chickens at the same time. The sand box should therefore be relatively spacious, i.e., 80x80 cm (31x31 in.).

A bad-weather run should be provided so that the chickens have exposure to natural daylight and seasonal temperature variations throughout the year. The run should have a roof so that chickens can have access to it even in bad weather, and wire-mesh walls so that the animals are protected from predators. It should be about half the size of the hen house and have a concrete floor covered with a layer of straw and sand.

1. Hen house
2. Gravel or wooden slats
3 & 4. Rotational runs
5. Electric fence
6. Dustbathing places

Gravel or wooden slats in front of the hen house.
SUGGESTIONS FOR AN OUTSIDE RUN
Whenever possible, chickens should be able to use an outside run covered with vegetation. To keep the turf intact, the outside run has to be divided and to be used alternately, otherwise the much-designed green is soon destroyed through pecking and scratching (3 & 4). The area can be divided with an electric fence (5). Ideally, the windward side is sheltered by hedges and structured with trees and bushes that give shade. Low bushes make it possible to put up netting to prevent birds of prey from catching chickens. If the pasture is not evenly used the old grass has to be cut down; it is therefore advisable when planting trees and bushes to make sure that the outside run can be maintained with machines (if big enough). In front of the hen house should be a layer of gravel or wooden slats, with drainage underneath, to assure that at the surface stays dry at this highly-frequented place. Dustbaths near bushes complete the outside run.
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