Animals in Agriculture

Voters Reject Factory Farms

AWI Quarterly Fall/Winter1998-1999: Farm Animals


VotersReject Factory Farms
Anti-Factory FarmCandidates Win, Struggle Against Factory Farms Continues

by Tom Garrett

In 1998, the proliferation of hog factories, which has embroiledstate legislatures and county commissions for much of the decade,reached center stage as a national issue. On November 3, in thewords of the Wall Street Journal's Bruce Ingersoll, "Pigpolitics became big politics."

In the two states where the hog factory came directly beforethe people, the verdict was unequivocal. In Colorado, Initiative14, which places hog factories under moderately severe regulation,was approved by over 60% of the electorate. South Dakota AmendmentE, which bans corporate farming in the state altogether, gained59% of the popular vote despite a massive infusion of corporatecash and opposition from the state's Republican governor.

Lauch Faircloth was defeated by JohnEdwards (D, NC). Faircloth, according to CounterPunch (November1-15, 1998) "was part owner of Coharie Farms, the 30th largesthog producer in the country. Faircloth owned more than $1 millionworth of stock in two slaughterhouses. In Congress he attendedto the interests of the pig men as chairman of the Senate Subcommitteeon Clean Water, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety."Environmentalists and small farmers across the state worked hardto defeat Faircloth. The Sierra Club flooded the airwaves withads linking Faircloth to water pollution and pfiesteria.

   
 Progress or Retrogression? Above Left: A relaxed group of pigs photographed on a family farm, almost a hundred years ago. Above right: Sows in a present-day factory farm. They can't even turn around in their 22-inch-wide gestation stalls. They express their desperation by attacking the bars that imprison them.

In Iowa, where hog factories haveblighted northern counties and driven most of Iowa's traditionalhog farmers out of business, the hog issue played heavily in DemocratTom Vilsack's crushing upset of Republican gubernatorial candidateJim Lightfoot. In neighboring Minnesota, Reform Party candidate,Jessie "The Mind" Ventura's victory sent a seismic shockthrough the American political establishment. The governor-electsupports a temporary moratorium on new hog factories.

Factory farming was also a factorin the unexpectedly severe defeat of anti-environmentalist Republicancandidate Ellen Sauerbrey by Maryland's incumbent governor, ParrisGlendening. Glendening received high marks for his crackdown onMaryland's huge chicken farms following the 1997 pfiesteria outbreakin the Chesapeake Bay area. Environmental protection was a definingissue in the campaign.

Despite political setbacks, the industryblitzkrieg shows no sign of abating. With the producer price ofhogs as Iowa as 9 cents a pound – the same price it was inthe Depression Era – the last of America's family hog farmersare being driven from the business, while corporations are engagedin a brutal battle for control of the hog market. In the meantime,thousands of citizens, from the New Melloray Monastery in Iowato Owyhee County, Idaho, are threatened by the insensate drivefor more, and still more, hog factories.


FIGHTING THE 'NEW FEUDAL RULERS'

Excerpts from the January 3, 1999
Washington Post
article by William Clairborne

"It's ironic when you think about our heritage in South Dakota, "said Johnson, 41, who took over the family farm when his father had a stroke in 1981. "'Our ancestors left the landlords and kings in Europe to come here for their economic freedom, and now we're making the big corporations the new feudal rulers ... Sometimes I think nobody is paying attention while the big corporations are just taking over the whole farm economy and destroying an American way of life. " [Charlie Johnson a farmer from Madison, South Dakota]

The article quotes another farmer:

"The feed comes from out of state, the hogs come from out of state and the hogs are shipped out of state for slaughter, " said Don Hoogestraat, who turned his third-generation family farm over to his son eight years ago. "That leaves us with nothing but the manure, and the farmer becomes a hired hand on his own farm. "

Hoogestmat, a former president of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council who is now critical of the council support of corporate-backed farming, accused big hog-producers of engaging in "planned overproduction" to temporarily drive pork prices down and force more family farms into contract feeding agreements. Earlier this month the price of hogs dropped to a 27-year low of 15 cents a pound in Sioux Falls – half of what it costs to produce – and in some parts of the country prices have dropped to less than 10 cents a pound.

US Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has announced a series of crisis measures, including a moratorium on government loans for new pork production plants. 


Animalsas Units of Production:
Industrial Agribusinessand Sentient Beings

By Ken Midkiff


Traditional farming operationstreated animals as individuals. A farmer knew the personalitiesof his milk cows as well as he did those of neighboring farmers.I knew which of my sows liked to have her back and ears scratched– and which one would try to viciously bite if I approached.When ewes rejected their lambs, we brought them into the houseand fed them from a bottle. As a small child, I knew which ofthe old roosters would attack me (some roosters are just damnedmean) and which could be carried around in my red wagon.

Somewhere between my childhood inthe 1940s and the 1970s, something went terribly wrong in foodproduction. Schools of agriculture and the USDA, taking theirmarching orders from agribusiness implement and chemical companiesstarted preaching the adoption of the Industrial Model. Get bigor get out. Volume of production is more important than quality.

A diversified, sustainable systemof integrated crops and animal production was abandoned in favorof monocultures. Farmers became specialists. Some grew only cornand soy beans. Others developed huge dairy or beef feedlot operations.This move had nothing at all to do with needing to feed the world,and everything to do with concentration of food production, andprofits, into the hands of a few large corporations. Market controlwas the goal. Not many more hogs or chickens are being grown todaythan in the past – only the methods have changed.

Poultry was the first to totallyconvert to the industrial model. Today there are almost no independentpoultry growers, all are either owned by or under contract withlarge corporations. The hog industry is going the same direction.

So what? Well, animals are now raisedin huge confinement structures, crammed in small pens or cages,given antibiotics to combat diseases (that can run rampant insuch stressful conditions). One conveyor brings in food, anothersystem transports out excrement. From a rather idyllic existenceon the family farm to a unit of production, packed in with thousandsof other units of production, animals are now treated as onlya product – much as any other industrial product. Just widgets.

Chickens raised for broilers for massconsumption are now grown in confinement structures that containup to 22,000 birds. Hatching to slaughter is only eight weeks.Those drumsticks at Kentucky Fried Chicken are from a two-monthold chicken. The methods of production are nasty, brutish, andshort.

Hogs are raised in arguably worseconditions. Mortality rates are very high. Sows in gestation stallsand farrowing crates cannot turn around. In the "finishinghouses" where pigs are fed from around 55 pounds to slaughtersize, there are from 1,200 to 2,500 hogs in a building. Emissionsof hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from excrement and urine are sostrong that large exhaust fans must run constantly to remove thetoxic gases from the houses. If the fans shut off for more than15 minutes, hogs begin succumbing to the gases.

In the heat of summer, the overcrowdedconditions in poultry operations lead to massive die-offs. Duringthe record breaking heat-wave last year in Texas, Oklahoma andArkansas, millions and millions of hens and broilers suffocatedin their packed cages. All the media focused on was the monetarylosses were to the owners and growers, not to the miserable deathsof millions of living creatures.

Chickens also suffer from the misfortunesof their owners or growers. In southwest Missouri, a bankruptpoultry house owner simply walked away and left 12,000 hens tostarve and die. Two years later, the skeletons of thousands ofhens remain packed in their little cages in a crumbling poultryhouse overgrown with weeds. A horror story in the best StephenKing tradition – and one that pretty much sums up industrial-strengthhog, chicken and egg production.

Ken Midkiff, formerly a hog farmer,now is the Director of the Missouri Sierra Club


ACall for Strong Enforcement of the Federal HumaneSlaughter Act

In 1958, following overwhelming publicsupport, the Humane Slaughter Act was adopted. In 1978, the FederalMeat Inspection Act was amended to empower USDA inspectors tostop the slaughter line on the spot if any cruelty is observed.Once the line has stopped, slaughter may not legally recommenceuntil deficiencies, whether of equipment, or of abuses by personnel,are corrected. Since that time the public has assumed that thelaw has been enforced. Gail Eisnitz' s 1997 book, Slaughterhouse(see AWI Quarterly Fall 1997), was a rude awakeningto the fact that deregulation had caused enormous speed-ups inthe slaughter line so that animals were no longer being slaughteredin conformity with the law. On the contrary, the book revealedthat fully conscious pigs and cows were being beaten, strangled,scalded, skinned and dismembered in the nation's slaughterhouses.

Two government reports, "Surveyof Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef, Veal, Pork,and Sheep Slaughter, Plants" January 7, 1997) and "SpecialSurvey on Humane Slaughter and Ante-Mortem Inspection" (March1998) provide further documentation of the failure of slaughterplants to handle and kill animals humanely. Many apparent violationsof federal law were found despite the fact that the these inspectionsof slaughter plants were announced in advance, providing ampleopportunity for plant managers to cover-up.

The 1997 report documented excessiveuse of electric prods, slippery floors and hazardous ramps, citing64% of the slaughter plants visited for ineffective use of captivebolt stunners to render animals unconscious and insensible. The1998 report noted that "it is considered inhumane to allowan animal to regain consciousness after the stunning procedure,so the bleeding should be done as quickly as possible after stunning."Yet, 57.6% of the plants permitted a lengthy period of time betweenstunning and bleeding. The report concludes that 28% of the plantsvisited have "serious problems." A detailed resolutioncalling for strong enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act waspresented to the United States Animal Health Association's AnimalWelfare Committee by AWI's Director Cathy Liss. The USAHA representsfederal and state regulatory veterinarians throughout the nationand has done so since its founding in 1897. Seeking to quash attentionto this issue, a representative of the Livestock Marketing Associationobjected to virtually all of the text claiming it could not besubstantiated. The industry representative even objected to textcited from the two government studies, claiming that these studies,too, could not be substantiated. In the interest of obtainingthe necessary votes to adopt a resolution in support of the HumaneSlaughter Act, a compromise version was agreed. The final resolution,which appears in the box, was adopted by the Animal Welfare Committeeof the USAHA. On the following day it was adopted by the fullboard of the Association.


 

 RESOLUTION ADOPTED AT THE OCTOBER 1998 USAHA MEETING

THE UNITED STATES ANIMAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION ENCOURAGES STRONG EN-
FORCEMENT OF THE FEDERAL HUMANE SLAUGHTER ACT BY USDA's FOOD SAFETY AND
INSPECTION SERVICE TO PREVENT ABUSES TO ANIMALS PROTECTED UNDER THE ACT.

(The mission of USAHA is to be a forum for communication and coordination among state and federal
governments, universities, industry and other groups on issues of animal health and disease control, animal welfare, food safety and public health.)


EUBans Sub-therapeutic Use of Drugs

As of January, four widely used growth-enhancingantibiotic drugs will be banned for use in the European Union.

Unlike therapeutic or medicinal drugs,sub-therapeutic drugs are not used to help a sick animal recover,but rather to induce rapid and unnatural growth or keep a stressedanimal from dying while in cruel factory farms. Up to 80 percentof all Europe's cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry are given sub-therapeuticantibiotics.

Britain, Sweden, Germany, and Franceled the campaign to exclude the use of the drugs as growth-enhancers.Three nations, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium abstained from thevote, arguing that the ban will push up the price of meat. Denmarkand Sweden already enforce a unilateral ban on sub-therapeuticdrugs.

Several large agencies, includingthe World Health Organization, The British House of Lords, andthe British National Consumer Council have spoken out againstsub-therapeutic drugs. The Soil Association, representing Britain'sorganic farmers, reports that the use of antibiotics had increasedby up to 150 times in the past 30 years. Their press release reads,"We must create a new climate in which animals are kept inmore natural, less stressful conditions and are routinely treatedwith respect, rather than antibiotics."


FACTORY FARMSDEEMED NOT ORGANIC

Controversy over the labelling of organicanimal products was resolved by a January 14, 1999 decision ofthe US Department of Agriculture. By early spring, stores willhave USDA certified products. The organic label means that animalshave not been confined to the dreadful factory farms wherethey are virtually immobilizedin tiny cages andstalls during their entire lives of painful imprisonment.Instead, the animals must have access to pasture, fresh air andsunshine and not be given growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics.


AWI Quarterly Fall/Winter1998-1999, Vol. 47/48, No. 4/1

Cow Rescue

A Cow Who Took Matters into HerOwn Hooves

Emily the cow was on her way to a slaughterhouse in Hopkinton,Massachusetts in November 1995, when she evidently decided shewould rather be free. The three-year-old, 1,400-pound holsteinheifer bravely leaped over a five-foot fence. For 40 days and40 nights following her daring escape, she managed to live inthe woods around the town, foraging for food and hobnobbing witha herd of deer.

As the escaped cow cleverly evaded capture, people began rootingfor her. Emily's partisans left out hay for her and shielded herwhereabouts from authorities and from the slaughterhouse's employees."Like some bovine pimpernel," reported People magazine,"she was sought everywhere but never captured."

Emily's story excited the interest of animal lovers Meg and LewisRanda, who have given many animals sanctuary at their Life ExperienceSchool, a school for children with special needs in Sherborn,Massachusetts. The A. Arena & Sons slaughterhouse ended upselling Emily to the Randas for $1, reasoning that the cow hadrun off much of her value.

Meg Randa, who took great care to assure Emily that she and herfamily were vegetarians, coaxed the elusive heifer into a trailerwith a bucket of feed. The Randas had their Christmas dinner outsidein the barn with Emily, who now lives, and serves as a teacher,at the Life Experience School.

This cow-rageous Holstein has become quite famous, as her storyhas appeared in countless newspaper and magazine articles, aswell as coverage by CBS and a forthcoming children's book. Thereare rumors of a film being planned, but Emily is keeping quietabout whether she is destined to become a ruminant movie star.

Emily has become something of a cult figure, as sympathizers havepledged in her presence to stop eating meat. She has also beenbovine-of-honor at a human wedding that took place in the Randas'barn.


AWI Quarterly Winter 1996, Vol. 45, No. 1, p. 12.

Birth Intervals in Cattle Raised for Meat: Belief and Fact

by Viktor and Annie Reinhardt

It is commonly believed that calves must be artificially weaned so thatthe cow gives birth at the most frequent possible intervals. We had theunique opportunity to question the justification of this belief by comparingthe reproductive performance of 18 cows who were allowed to raise theircalves beyond the age of natural weaning with the reproductive performanceof 96 other cows who were subjected to the traditional forced weaning managementsystem. Both categories of cows lived on the same ranch, in herds of approximately50 animals including two mature bulls per herd.

The calves of the "managed" cows were taken away from theirmothers at the age of about eight months and raised in separate groups.Shortly thereafter, the mothers were also removed from the original herdand re-grouped in other herds. These artificial disruptions of social relationshipswere extremely disturbing for the animals, and it took several days oreven weeks until they calmed down again and established new relationshipswith the members of the new groups.

The calves of the "semi-wild" cows were naturally weaned bytheir mothers: female calves at the age 7-12 months, male calves at theage of 9-14 months. The weaning did not impair in any way the affectionatebond between mother and calf. In fact, the mother-calf bond was the foundationof the herd's cohesive social structure (see photo).

The performance of cattle is usually assessed by calculating the timelapse between two births. This so-called calving interval averaged 388days in the semi-wild cows, versus 494 days in the managed cows.

The difference of 106 days was statistically significant, indicatingthat the performance was enhanced when the calves were allowed to staywith their mother rather than when they were artificially weaned by beingtaken away from the maternal herd.

The better performance of the semi-wild cows could not be attributedto different climatic or nutritional conditions. In contrast to the managedcows, however, the semi-wild cows lived in a stable social environment.It was probably this stability of the social environment that accountedfor the animals' better reproductive performance. Artificially breakingnot only the bond between mothers and their still nursing calves but alsofriendship relationships between the mothers and other herd members, apparently,constituted a severe stress situation for the managed cows which resultedin a depression of their reproduction.

The affectionate mother-calf bond
is the foundation of a cattle herd's
cohesive social structure. A study
by Viktor and Annie Reinhardt
suggests that the bond lasts for
life under natural conditions.
Here, cow Dora grooms her
eight-year old daughter Riese
while grandson Rick is taking
a nap. Photo by Viktor Reinhardt.

Our observations challenge the inertia of tradition, demonstrating thatreproduction of beef cattle is enhanced rather than reduced whencows are allowed to wean their calves at the biologically determined age.Interfering in biological processes may satisfy man's ambition to havecontrol over them, but this is bound to have unforeseen repercussions ifthe biological process is not properly understood. Interfering in the naturalweaning process of cattle not only inflicts avoidable emotional pain butit also unnecessarily diminishes the animal's natural reproductive potential.


AWI Quarterly Spring/Summer 1997, Volume 46, Numbers 2 &3

Comfortable Quarters for Chickens

by Marlene Hoefner, Marion Staack and Detlef W. Foelsch

By Marlene Hölner, Marion Staack and and Detlef W. Foelsch
FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE, INTERNATIONAL RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DEPARTMENT OF ANIMAL BEHAVIOR AND MANAGEMENT, NORDBAHNHOPSTR. 1A, D-37213 WITZENHAUSEN, GERMANY

Neither thousands of years domestication nor the recent extreme selective breeding for productivity have fundamentally altered the behavior of chickens. This has to be kept in mind when suitable housing for chickens is designed. The different behaviors shown by chickens can be categorized as follows:

Foraging behavior includes searching and finding food, scratching, and drinking.

Chickens spend 35 to 50% of the day scratching and pecking for food. A lot of different food items such as seeds, fruits, grass, insects, worms and berries are consumed by chickens if they are available to them. If the animals do not spend a major portion of the day foraging because of freely accessible standardized food, such as meal or pellets, they tend to peck, pull and tear at objects or conspecifics , and often develop feather pecking behavior.



The food trough should be big enough to hold food for one day. It should only be filled 2/3 to ¾ to prevent the chickens wasting food.


A drinking trough is suitable for up to 15 animals.
A container to store greenstuff, if no outside run covered with vegetation is provided, could look like this. The food can be more easily consumed by the chickens than greenstuff (grass, young stinging nettle, dandelion, etc) lying on the ground, and it does not get dirty.
A container with grill should stand in every hen house. The small sham-edge stones are important for digestion in the chickens

 

For resting, sleeping and withdrawal, chickens prefer elevated places, natural trees and bushes. This is why perches should be provided in a hen house. It is sensible to install the perches over a dropping pit so that the animals do not come in contact with their feces.

Chicks and young hens should get perches early in the life so that they learn perching and use the third dimension.

Locomotive behavior includes walking, running, flying and wing flapping.

Studies have shown that hens walk about 1 to 1.5 km (0.6-0.9 mi.) per day and that they fly to and from elevated places if they have the opportunity to do so.

Resting behavior includes standing, lying, sleeping, and dozing. Chickens prefer to sleep on elevated places rather than on ground. Therefore, they should always have access to perches.

Maintenance or Comfort behavior includes preening, stretching, flapping, dustbathing, sunbathing and body shaking. To keep their feathers in good condition, chickens must be able to preen themselves and take dustbaths. They will frequently sunbathe if they are given the opportunity. Daylight controls and triggers may of their physiological processes. It also stimulates their metabolism, plays an important part in the formation of red and white blood cells and vitamin D, and promotes the secretion of hormones necessary for growth and reproduction.

Social behavior includes conspecific-oriented pecking, threatening, chasing, kicking, fighting, avoiding, crouching, vocalizing, and reproductive behavior.

In the wild, hens and cocks of different ages lie in small groups and form a cohesive community. One cock lives in a group with about seven hens. The social structure of a flock depends on physiological, psychological and physical state of each member and is influenced by the appearance of the individuals-for example, whether the hen is ill or injured, is moulting, is brooding or has chicks. A stable rank order is formed within a small group of chickens on the basis of personal preference, threat and avoidance behavior, and factors such as age and the size of the comb.

Social interactions can be friendly (positive), for example a cock calling his hens to a food source, or they can be agonistic (negative), for example one hen chasing another hen away from a limited food source.

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: Issues


Sweeping Changes or Sweeping Under the Rug?

by Henry Spira

Does the recent announcement of sweeping new changes to meat inspectionopen opportunities to push the farm animal welfare issue onto the nationalagenda? Harmful bacteria kill more than 4,000 people a year and sickenfive million. The new policy calls for a more scientific approach to detectingE. coli and salmonella in meat and poultry. But just like the old policy,the focus remains on dealing with effects and ignoring causes. It coversup the consequences of the stressful conditions in which this country'sfarm animals are raised.

Today's endemic disease in farm animals is not the natural order ofthings. One need only see the filthy and cramped environments in whichtoday's chickens, turkeys, pigs and veal calves are raised to see the reasonfor the epidemic. When living beings are crammed indoors on a thick bedof fecal waste and forced to spend a lifetime choking on ammonia fumes,is it so surprising that the end result is diseased meat?

As the intensity of confinement has increased, so has the prevalenceof food borne diseases. The direct relationship between stress and diseaseis well documented. In humans and other animals.

There's an urgent need to focus on the causes of these illnesses andon prevention. It is universally recognized that prevention is more costeffective and more conducive to promoting well-being than treating diseasesafter the fact.

Such a prevention campaign could begin by examining the connection betweenthe escalating abuses of intensive confinement systems, the parallel demiseof animal health and the increase of food borne illnesses in humans whoeat them.

While our ideal is the non-violent dinner table, we recognize that eatinghabits tend to change slowly. As long as people continue to consider animalsas edibles, we need to relentlessly pressure industry and government todevelop, promote and implement humane standards in the rearing, transportand handling of farm animals. Reducing farm animal suffering would benefitboth the public and the animals.

There's another critical defect which remains unaddressed in the newprocedures. The USDA is mandated, by law, to both assure the safety ofmeat and at the same time promote the meat industry.

The futility of the government taking on conflicting roles was recentlydemonstrated by the ValuJet disaster. Just as in the case of aviation,the government cannot be an advocate for food safety while simultaneouslypromoting the meat industry.

Why the government should spend taxpayer dollars to market meat productsfor a multi-billion dollar industry defies logic. The health risks associatedwith a meat-centered diet are increasingly well documented. Would governmentmoney not be better spent in protecting public health? Current thinkingseems to be that the government should get out of the business of promotingthe airlines. It doesn't belong in the business of promoting meat either.


Henry Spira, Coordinator of Animal Rights International, was awardedAWI's 1996 Albert Schweitzer Medal .


AWI Quarterly Spring/Summer 1996, Volume 45, Numbers 2 &3


Is the Public Ready to Roast the Meat Industry?

by Henry Spira

For decades, the well-being of farm animals has been a largely ignoredissue. So it may come as a surprise that most Americans want animals tobe protected from cruelty. This is the overall finding of a recent telephonesurvey of 1,012 adults by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton,New Jersey, for Animal Rights International.

The survey found that 93% of US adults agreed that animal pain and sufferingshould be reduced as much as possible even though the animals are goingto be slaughtered anyway.

Nine out of ten adult Americans also disapprove of current methods ofraising food animals in spaces so confining that sows and calves can'teven turn around and that laying hens are unable to stretch their wings.

With these concerns, it's hardly surprising that more than eight outof ten people think the meat and egg industries should be held legallyresponsible for protecting farm animals from cruelty. And that 91% thinkthe US Department of Agriculture should be involved in protecting farmanimals from cruelty.

What may well alarm corporate executives is that on top of this, 58%of the public also believes that fast food restaurants and supermarkets,who profit from factory intensive farming, should be held legally responsiblefor protecting farm animals from cruelty.

Too often, in the past, animal protectionists have ignored the 95% ofanimals who do not necessarily rank high in popularity. But, this studyshows that the American public cares about all vulnerable animals. And,as demonstrated by the recent successful campaign to abolish the face brandingof cattle, they are ready to confront and challenge abuses in animal agriculture.

As the public focuses on the horrors of factory farming, smart-thinking,image-conscious corporations, who profit from animal agriculture, woulddo well to respond swiftly and pro-actively. The alternative will almostcertainly be a consumer backlash as animal protectionists begin to launchpublic awareness campaigns. In this connection, we have begun to use thesurvey to talk with major companies such as Campbell Soup, Heinz and PepsiCoabout setting humane animal standards for themselves and their suppliers.This was the successful formula which energized Revlon and the whole cosmeticsindustry in the 1980s.

Pressures on the meat-industrial complex will continue to intensifyfrom all directions. In addition to farm animal well-being issues, intensiveconfinement systems will be increasingly challenged on the grounds of publichealth, protecting the environment, feeding the starving millions and leavingsome quality of life for future generations.


AWI Quarterly Fall 1995, Volume 44, Number 4


Do Animal Protection Laws Dupe the Public?

by Henry Spira

"If, as Mahatma Gandhi states, 'The greatness of a nation and itsmoral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated', the UnitedStates is being left behind by much of Western Europe." So says DavidWolfson in a soon to be published study documenting the fact that presentlaws are of no help to the cruel realities suffered by seven billion farmanimals. Wolfson, an attorney in a major international law firm, suggeststhat while farm animals have no real legal protection, society perceivesthat they do.

As outlined by Wolfson, laws give the perception of protecting farmanimals but, in reality, provide little or no protection. Federal law failsto provide any protection to farm animals on the farm. Moreover, whilemany state cruelty laws still cover farm animals in theory, they are rarelyif ever applied. And most disconcerting is the trend of farm animals beingincreasingly excluded from the reach of state cruelty laws.

At present, 25 states exclude "accepted farming practices"from the reach of such cruelty laws. Nineteen states amended their statutesin the last twelve years. Eleven of these amended their statutes in thelast six years and in just the past year, two states amended their statecruelty statutes to exclude accepted animal agricultural practices. Theresult is that any "accepted farming practice" is legally permitted-- no matter how cruel. Obviously, there would be no need to amend statecruelty laws were there not the fear that accepted practices would be judgedcruel. In effect, Wolfson states, animal agriculture has been left to regulateitself.

Consequently, our legal system appears to acquiesce to dragging a halfdead cow, chained around her hind leg, through the stockyards and keepingcalves deliberately anemic by depriving them of the most basic foods andwater while imprisoning them in wooden crates for their entire short, utterlymiserable lives. "The reality in the US", says Wolfson "isthat our society, through its laws, seemingly condones cruelty to animals."

Is this how the American public wants farm animals to be treated? Muchhas happened in the past few years to suggest that not only are increasingnumbers of people opposed to the routine and needless misery inflictedon seven billion farm animals each year, but that industry and governmentare finally beginning to respond to the public's concerns

Encouraging developments include USDA's rapidly halting the face brandingof Mexican cattle in the wake of widespread public outrage. And the USDAthen following through by placing the issue of farm animal well-being ontheir agenda. Earlier, the American Meat Institute issued groundbreakingguidelines promoting the humane handling and transport of animals. MajorAmerican slaughter houses have recently replaced the shackling and hoistingof large conscious animals. And fast food giant McDonald's has told itssuppliers to adhere to guidelines for more humane treatment of farm animals.

These reforms are encouraging. Still, life for farm animals has neverbeen more miserable. Today, the only limits to increasing the confinementand trauma of farm animals are economic. The only reason they don't crammore laying hens into a cage is because the increased mortality would makeit less profitable. The same thing holds true for the pigs and veal calvesroutinely denied the most basic freedoms to turn around, lie down, andextend their limbs.

The enormous response to our recent campaign to end the face brandingof Mexican cattle suggests that the public will not tolerate animal abuseif it is made aware of the facts. But, as Wolfson notes, the public believesthat "although we eat animals, there are laws which prevent theseanimals from being treated cruelly." In reality, farm animals arebeing subjected to ever more stressful confinement systems and have nolegal protection.

How do we proceed? The public may want to replace or reduceits consumption of meat. At a minimum we can all agree that as long asthe public eats meat, there's a need to refine current methodsof animal agriculture. But in order to make informed choices, we need toknow the realities of confinement systems, transport, handling, and slaughterof farm animals. We also need to understand the lack of legal protectionfor farm animals and the need for a farm animal protection bill. The USDAand producer groups must be encouraged to promote the well-being of farmanimals. Users of the products of animal agriculture need to enforce morehumane standards for their suppliers.

Until the seven billion farm animals do have legal protection, agribusinessesneed to respond rapidly and substantively to emerging public concerns.If they don't, let's place them in the unenviable position of having topublicly defend their right to be cruel.


USDA Reviews Livestock Care and Handling atNation's Stockyards

In October, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Packers and StockyardsAdministration announced completion of its review of handling practices,services, and facilities in US stockyards. USDA conducted the review inresponse to public complaints of cruel treatment of downed animals at stockyards."Downers" are animals who are unable to walk or stand withoutassistance.

USDA sent warning letters to 52 markets, citing practices that mustbe corrected or discontinued immediately. Eighty one downed animals wereobserved at 66 markets. A total of 1,415 markets were inspected. USDA issuedadministrative complaints against two stockyards for the manner in whichthey handled downed animals. In addition, seven warning letters were sentto markets for failure to provide proper care and handling of downed animals.

Downers suffer horribly, particularly during transport. When callingfor support of a 1992 Senate bill requiring the humane euthanasia of downedlivestock, the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Country Today stated: "Withthe exception of a rare injury during trucking to a livestock auction houseor slaughterhouse, an animal that cannot walk off a truck when it arrivesat an auction point or slaughterhouse is an animal that was too ill tobe shipped in the first place."


Henry Spira, who has been active in human and animal rights movementsfor half a century, has coordinated successful campaigns to promote alternativesto the use of animals in laboratories. He has been a merchant seaman, autoassembly line worker, Journalist, teacher, and an activist for civil rightsand trade union democracy. He is now focusing on the plight of seven billionfarm animals and plans to write a column regularly for the AWI Quarterly.


AWI Quarterly Winter 1995, Volume 44, Number 1, p.11


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.

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.

Farm Animals - AWI

News:
The Animal Welfare Institute is pleased to help sponsor the 42nd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology
 

The 42nd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology will be held at University College Dublin, Ireland from 5-9 August 2008. Our aim is to make the congress dynamic with a new approach to workshops that will facilitate the exchange of ideas between participants.  For more information, click here.


New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Appeal in Landmark Farm Animal Welfare Case

Trenton, NJ (July 11, 2007) - New Jersey's Supreme Court has granted a petition to hear a landmark case challenging the state's "humane" standards for the treatment of farm animals. These regulations currently permit numerous inhumane practices, including housing pregnant pigs for months at a time in cramped gestation crates, tethering and confining calves raised for veal until they are sent to slaughter, and performing mutilations without anesthesia—including castration, de-beaking, de-toeing and tail docking.

The Animal Welfare Institute is part of a broad coalition of humane organizations, farmers, veterinarians, and environmental and consumer groups that petitioned the court in April 2007 to reverse a lower court's February 16, 2007 ruling upholding the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's (NJDA) approval of some of the most egregious factory farm abuses as "humane." The appeal goes beyond any previous legal action taken on behalf of farm animals in that it seeks a judicial declaration that many common factory-farming practices are inhumane under New Jersey law.


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.

Please visit www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org, the new website for the Animal Welfare Approved standards program.


Please Help These Chickens

You may think you're looking at rabbits. But according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you're looking at chickens. And chickens, says the USDA, are not really animals.

  • Click here to view this ad recently featured in the New York Times by the Humane Farming Association, Animal Rights International and Animal Welfare Institute.

"Scenes from USDA Inspected Slaughterhouses"

Animal Welfare Institute and Humane Farming Association release new video footage entitled "Scenes from USDA Inspected Slaughterhouses"  To view video click here.

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