Animals in Agriculture

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


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

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, 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.

Alternative Systems for Laying Hens

FAWCMajority and Minority Reports

By Ruth Harrison

Scientific evidence against commercialbattery cages for laying hens has caught up with public revulsionof them, and development of alternative systems has been gatheringmomentum in many European countries. In Sweden the start of aten year phase out of battery cages coincides with the end ofa similar phase out period in Switzerland. The European Commissionis producing another report on the welfare of laying hens systemslater this year and work has already started on revisions to theBattery Hens Directive (88/ 166/13C) which, it is hoped, willcontain an appendix setting standards in alternative systems.

Reformers have always faced a classicdilemma. Is it better to be "pragmatic" and go for aseries of minor changes hoping to improve things step by step,or to go for what they deem necessary? It is a dilemma that hasnever failed to divide the animal welfare movement. It is alsoa dilemma that can divide government committees. Such fundamentaldifferences have led to three minority reports from Britain'sFarm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and its predecessor duringthe last twenty-four years, the last of these being on the standardsto be set for loose housed laying hens: "The Welfare of LayingHens in Colony Systems." The majority approach on the Councilwas to seek moderate changes which industry could accommodatenow and then to review the situation in five years' time witha view to making further changes. The minority approach was toseek the radical change that is only possible at the beginningof a new development and set more stringent but long-term goals.The Russian proverb "it is impossible to jump a river intwo steps" epitomizes the differences in approach.

The step-by-step approach may havebeen politically feasible at a time when legislation could bemore easily introduced nationally. but now that Britain is partof the European Community (EC), change is much more complicatedand difficult to achieve. It takes years for all the member statesto reach agreement and many more years to phase in regulations.This is the political reality of membership of the EC, and thepolitical reality which persuaded the minority group on FAWC togo for more stringent standards to be phased in over a suitablylong period. Not only was this more politically expedient butthe group felt that setting long-term goals would offer more stabilityto the poultry industry than a series of short-term changes.

The report highlights space as beingone of the most important welfare factors. The majority reportthen lays down 7 birds/m2 floor space (1425cm2/bird) in deep litterhouses,but when 55% of the birds can perch 15.5 hens/m2 of floor space.The report admits that "there is some evidence to suggestthat hens would benefit from increased space allowance (possiblyup to 2500 cm2/hen)" and recommends a review in five years'time. The minority report sets out the scientific evidence whichshows that 1424cm2/bird lies within the range in which maximumaggression is likely to occur - and also stress and hysteria -and that 2500cm2/bird is nearer to what is needed.

This highlights another powerful reasonfor aiming directly at recommendations indicated by existing scientificevidence and giving producers time to phase them in. If the qualityof the total environment - and of each of the components whichgo to make up that environment – are not good, then the problemswhich confront the industry at the present time – in particularfeather pecking and cannibalism – will be bound to continueaffecting the well-being of millions of laying hens for decadesto come.

In spite of the Premiums which eggs from alternative systems command,work on the systems has been based on the premise that the newsystems must yield a financial return comparable to that frombattery cages, and this has led to a number of undesirable featuresdetrimental to animal welfare.

The majority group on FAWC set standards which continue torely on debeaking and a minimum light level of 10 lux in the house(although they recommend that "routine, non-therapeutic beaktrimming"[whatever that is] should be banned in 1996). The minority groupwere unable to accept any system which relies for its successon either debeaking or dim lighting. The choice of genetic strain,the stocking rate and the quality of the birds' environment shouldbe such that these two major deprivations are unnecessary.

The Ministry's Agricultural and Development Advisory Service'scosting of allowing more space to hens only add 30% to producerscosts - going from cages (stocked at 450cm2/bird - EC standardsfor new cages now and existing cages in 1995) to the strawyardsystem (stocked at 3 birds/m). Space allowance in cages will undoubtedlybe increased, reducing this extra cost to 20% or even less. Itis most important to remember that this extra is in productioncosts and not in retail costs. Indeed the disproportionate premiumscharged on non-battery eggs by retailers could easily absorb thisincrease without any greater cost to consumers.

One of the disadvantages of the timid, 'pragmatic' approachto change is that the science of animal welfare is advancing sorapidly " that recommendations can be out of date almostas soon as they are advanced. This has already happened with someof the recommendations in the majority report. It recommends aminimum lighting level of 10 lux throughout the house whereasit has been shown that dim lighting conditions (>30 lux) havebeen reported to result in more fear responses, particularly whengroup size was large (Hughes & Black 1974). Scientific evidencequoted in the minority report shows that hens keep lights on for80% of the time when given the choice and that the adrenal glandswere heavier of hens kept in dim light. Similarly, the majorityreport recommends 18cm perch space/ bird, but it has been foundby Gregory (pers. communic.) studying perching behavior of birdsusing infra-red photography, that even 20cm/bird is not enoughto prevent birds having difficulty in finding perch space andlanding on it and this could be another cause of bone breakage.

We should not seek to test new systems to the point of scientificcertainty - which in any case is impossible. There is enough evidence.if we axe prepared to give the hen the benefit of the doubt, tosuggest that we can be more generous in our recommendations andnot hold back relying, on further chances in the future. We aresetting the scene for a very long time to come and the more wepermit poor conditions to become entrenched the more difficultit will be to get even minor changes next time round.

References: Broom, D.M. (1992) Theneeds of laying hens and some indicators of poor welfare. (inpress)

Farm Animal Welfare Council. (199 1). Report on the welfareof laying hens in colony systems. Majority report. FAWC Secretariat,Room 2107A. Tolwort Tower, Surbriton, Surrey KT6 7DX.

Rott,M. (1978) Verhaltenstorungen in derGefluegelintensivhaltung- Ursache und Bedeutung der Hysterie. Mh. Vet. Med., 33 455- 458

Siegel, H.S. (1959) Egg production characteristics and adrenalfunction in white leghorns at different floorspace levels. PoultryScience, 38 893-898.

Ruth Harrison is the author of the ground-breaking AnimalMachines publishedin 1964. She served on the British Governments Farm Animal WelfareCouncil from 1967 to 1991.

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.


by Adam Roberts

Farm animals face some of the most abhorrent cruelty inflictedby humankind. Hidden from the sight of most Americans who consumeanimal products, literally billions of animals in U.S. factoryfarms endure unparalleled misery every year. One might think thattechnological advances would result in more humane treatment ofanimals. Unfortunately, for many of these innocent creatures,"progress" means more torture. Happily, there existsa peaceful place for those farm animals who are rescued from theagribusiness nightmare. Abandoned, sick and disabled farm animalsfind serenity at Gene and Lorri Bauston's Farm Sanctuary basedin Watkins Glen, New York.


Founded in 1986 to help end farm animal abuse, the Sanctuary creativelyeducates Americans about treating animals with compassionand tirelessly works to pass legislation to end the sufferingof farm animals. As the name implies, Farm Sanctuary also servesas a haven for some of the abandoned farm animals fortunate enoughto be found by the Sanctuary's caring staff.

In the mid-1950s, Congress addressed some of the evils facingfarm animals in America. Speaking on the bill to establish a nationalpolicy mandating humane methods of livestock slaughter, SenatorRichard L. Neuberger noted: "We have taken for granted, thatthe Eighth Amendment of our Constitution prohibits inflictionof cruel and unusual punishment upon our citizens. Today, thenational conscience is asking why we subject our animal friendsto such cruel and inhumane treatment." Almost 40 years afterpassage of the 1958 Humane Slaughter Act, we still must ask thesame question.

Although the 1958 law represented a monumental effort to amelioratesome of the agony of slaughter, it is not a panacea for all farmanimals' ills. Possibly the most egregious and avoidable inhumanitybefalling farm animals is the way in which non-ambulatory livestock- downers - are heartlessly abandoned to die a slow andpainful death. Animals who lose their mobility -- and, therefore,profitability -- are discarded without pity.

The Sanctuary's initial work to help address the downer issuewas an investigation into Pennsylvania's Lancaster Stockyardsin the late 1980s, where animals too sick to walk or even standwere frequently found scattered around stockyard grounds. Often,cows were left lying for days without water, food or vital veterinarycare. Though pressure from the Sanctuary staff led stockyard representativesto promise reform, little changed. Concluding that all citizensshould know what barbarism hides behind stockyard walls, FarmSanctuary mounted an aggressive educational and media campaignto reveal the "Downside of Livestock Marketing."

Ultimately, Farm Sanctuary became custodian for numerous animalsand the stockyard began taking steps to destroy downed animals,establishing a "no downer" policy. Unfortunately, theproblems continued and Farm Sanctuary, incorporated as a humaneenforcement agency in Pennsylvania in 1992, filed cruelty chargesagainst Lancaster Stockyards for denying adequate veterinary careto a sick animal. They were found guilty.

Lancaster Stockyards is not an aberration, however. Between 1991and 1993, Farm Sanctuary investigations uncovered downed animalsat stockyards in 18 states from California to New York, Texasto Wisconsin: cows dumped in carts of garbage, calves draggedby their ears, and other incapacitated animals simply abandonedto die.

Typically, resisting regulation, indefatigable stockyard and otheranimal facilities' representatives maintain that they could andwould be "self -policing." Farm Sanctuary was rightfullyskeptical of this suggestion. For many of these stockyards, voluntaryadherence to ethical standards of conduct is prompted not by morals,but instead by profitability.

In 1994, Gene Bauston, Farm Sanctuary's charismatic cofounder,lobbied the California legislature to become the first state inthe country to enact legislation to prevent cruelty toward downedanimals. The bill was signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson.

Federal legislation must now be passed following California'swise example. This will be the only way to ensure nationally thatstockyard owners and employees act in the best interests of animals'health and not their own level of convenience and prosperity.

Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has re-introduced the "DownedAnimal Protection Act" (now H.R. 2143) to make it "unlawfulfor any stockyard, market agency, or dealer, to buy, sell, give,receive, transfer, market, hold, or drag any non-ambulatory livestockunless the non-ambulatory livestock has been humanely euthanized."

Passage of such a measure would allow imposition of civil penaltiesof up to $2,500 and criminal penalties of up to a year in prisonfor individuals and/or companies who continue to employ practicessuch as using chains to drag non-ambulatory animals by their brokenlimbs.

Testifying before the United States House of Representatives,Bauston asserted that, "Although the livestock industry hasshown an increased concern over the mistreatment of downed animals,and has taken steps to resolve the problem, it is clear that industrycannot police itself, and that legislation is needed." Throughthe dedicated work of Farm Sanctuary, the disastrous downer sufferinghas gained national attention and could soon come to an end inthe not too-distant future.

Efforts in the national arena, however, stall yearly as agribusinessexecutives with high-priced lobbyists convince elected officialsnot to push forth with this essential legislation.

Inherently, agribusiness industry is to blame for establishingdeplorable conditions using such intensive agricultural systemsthat lead, by their very nature, to debilitated animals. Dairycattle, for instance, are pushed to their physical limits by anindustry thirsty for highly profitable milk and milk products.The cruelty of modern milk production is exacerbated by technologicaladvances such as the use of growth hormones to increase milk output(see Animal Guardian, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1994, for furtherdiscussion).

Thankfully, no such nightmares await cattle at the Sanctuary.Ahimsa was found at a veal calf auction; too weak to stand orlift his head. With emergency veterinary treatment by Sanctuarystaff, he recovered and now is used to teach Sanctuary visitorsabout non-violence.





 (Clockwise from top) Downed calves awaiting slaugher. Jackson in excellent health at the Farm Sanctuary. Roscoe at the Farm Sanctuary. Rhonda, Duane and Tania roosting contentedly at the Farm Sanctuary. An abandoned downer left behind in a slaughterhouse holding area.


Cows are not the only farm animals at risk - pigs also facea cruel fate. In the summer of 1992, Farm Sanctuary investigatorsdiscovered downed pigs in Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Swine cruelty in factory farms is well documented. These social,intelligent animals live tormented lives in close confinement,their normal behavior inhibited by cramped quarters in uncomfortablestalls with concrete floors, forced to breed repeatedly untilbeing sent to slaughter. Hogs in transport are overcrowded purposelyto increase profit, even if hundreds of hogs die in the process.

Everyone faces danger, as numerous factories are polluting otherwisepastoral, peaceful communities throughout the U.S. The Augustissue of Pork '95 magazine describes a hog factory lagoonwhich broke, releasing "an estimated 25 million gallons ofeffluent" which "flowed eight inches deep across a highwayand washed over fields and woods before entering a tributary ofthe New River" in North Carolina. Not surprisingly, thousandsof fish were killed and health authorities warned against humanuse of these waterways. State officials imposed a $110,000 fineon Oceanview Farms for this terrible mishap.

This hog factory disaster is not an isolated case, however. Increasedair pollution from the terrible odor of more hogs in less space,as well as water and other ecological damage from these intensiveoperations, have sounded rallying cries against hog factories.Incensed locals and small farmers have begun fighting the industryand city councils have begun rejecting proposals to build newor expanded hog factories near these towns.

No angry protesters circle Farm Sanctuary, and no poorly treatedhogs live on its sprawling landscape. It's the opposite. In thesummer of 1992, for example, Cameron, Gwideon, and Luna, who wereborn at a stockyard and experienced the death of some of theirlittermates, had Sanctuary volunteers serve as "sow surrogates"to help the piglets recover to be placed in permanent homes.

Vinny was given to the Sanctuary in the winter of 1993. He hadbeen crushed in an intensive environment causing a dislocatedhip and hoof infection. Vinny has recovered fully and is now ableto exhibit both typical behavior patterns of a free pig - andsuch atypical behavior as eating popcorn, playing with his dogfriend or napping on his very own blanket. Pigs like Vinny nowwait for the next rub of their bellies by Sanctuary staff andvisitors.


Also well documented is the harsh handling and housing of poultryfor egg production and general consumption. Stories abound oftortuous debeaking, cramped cages in which birds cannot spreadtheir wings, and their inability to engage in normal social behaviorsuch as establishing pecking orders and engaging in dustbathing.

In the fall of 1993, Farm Sanctuary documented information froma local official at one of the Tyson Foods plants, reporting thatan employee " 'kills sick or injured birds by hitting themin the head with a stick,' and live birds may have been dumpedcarelessly in.a landfill."

Again, animals are helpless at the hands of big business andmost animal advocates are currently ill-equipped to fight on theirbehalf. A Washington Post report on July 23, 1995, concerningTyson Foods, the world's largest poultry producer, shows thatthe company renders over, one million birds per week! With over55,000 employees and an annual revenue of roughly five billiondollars, companies such as this may seem beyond being exposed.

Animal protection organizations like Farm Sanctuary are engagedin a Herculean struggle to require companies to provide birdswith humane treatment. Influencing consumer buying trends awayfrom products made by companies which treat animals thoughtlesslymay impose sufficient market pressure to force a decision formore compassionate care. Again, without a financial incentiveto change, legislation is vital.

Passage of the Humane Methods of Poultry Slaughter Act of 1995would be an important step in granting poultry a less painfuldeath. Currently, poultry are exempt from the Humane SlaughterAct of 1958. H.R. 264, sponsored by Representative Andrew Jacobs(D-NY) would mandate that poultry be slaughtered only when theyare "...rendered permanently unconscious by an electrical,chemical, or other method that is rapid and effective before orimmediately after the poultry are shackled or otherwise preparedfor slaughter" or slaughtered in accordance with Kosher law.

The United Kingdom and Canada have adopted laws for the welfareof poultry during slaughter. The U.S. is one of the few westerncountries that does not protect birds from undue agony in theslaughter process. At the state level, California again led theway for compassionate animal protection legislation, becomingthe first state to enact a Humane Poultry Slaughter Bill in 1991.

Some birds, having endured the hazards of confinement, may nevermake it to slaughter. Carelessly discarded and left to die, FarmSanctuary provides these birds a peaceful retirement.

Clarissa, a former laying hen, was lucky. Sanctuary Newstells her story: "She spent her entire life in a bare wirecage, crammed together with several other hens. For month afterendless month, she could not walk, stretch her wings, or evensit down comfortably." When she was taken into Sanctuary,she "had lost most of her feathers and 75 percent of herbody was covered with bruises. She was also severely malnourished,and unable to walk normally." Thanks to the work of Sanctuarystaff, Clarissa received attention, grew feathers, gained strength,and was given a new chance at a happy life.

Farm Sanctuary's adoption program enables individuals to pay amonthly fee ranging from six dollars per chicken to forty dollarsper cow to help provide necessary shelter and feed for the animalsin the Sanctuary's care. Willing individuals living in an appropriatesetting may also take rescued animals to live with them in "homeadoption."

The Sanctuary even publishes a "Turkey Adoption List"to help promote turkey adoptions, in pairs, to safe homes. Inlate 1994, the Sanctuary rescued 126 turkeys whose overcrowdedcrate fell from a transportation truck. Through the staff's efforts,the turkeys were able to recover and live out the remainder oftheir lives without the threat of cruelty and premature death.

The Bauston's regularly extol the virtues of vegetarian diningand have redefined the notion of having turkey for Thanksgivingas these birds are invited to dine at the table with their humancounterparts during the holiday feast. Further, the Sanctuarysupports vegetarian dinner parties and the opening of vegan restaurants.


Additionally, Sanctuary staff manage to inject some levity intothe heavy subject of farm animal welfare. "Ms. Moo,"Farm Sanctuary's beautiful bovine ambassador, represents millionsof animal advocates to help convince the mega-fast food chain,Burger King, to initiate the sale of a tasty vegetarian burgerat some of its restaurants.

Mr. Bauston successfully helped convince Dennis Tase, presidentof Wienerschnitzel, the nation's largest hotdog chain, to trya vegetarian alternative. Southern California will be the firsttest market.

Farm animal walk-a-thons, a bed and breakfast, a people barn,cow camping and an annual hoe-down all contribute to the Sanctuary'spositive attitude toward farm animals.

Though many animal advocacy organizations identify problemsand promote solutions to miserable situations, few actually engagein hands-on activities to help. Farm Sanctuary gives a name tootherwise forgotten creatures and provides and inspiration forus all to work for the end of farm animal abuse. Everyone shouldfollow their lead.

For those interested in more information, you may contact FarmSanctuary directly at:

P.O. Box 150
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Phone: (607) 583-2225
Fax: (607) 583-2041 
 P.O. Box 1065
Orland, CA 95963
Phone: (916) 865-4617
Fax: (916) 865-4622

Animal Guardian Volume 8, No. 4, 1995, p. 6-9, 15.

Reprinted with permission from the Animal Guardian, DorisDay Animal League

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

Farm Animals: Summer 1999

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

by Chris Bedford

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

The Animal Factory System

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

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

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

Poisoning Our Water

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

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

Risking Our Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Diane Halverson

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Merciless MRSA Strain Alive and Kicking

Disturbing evidence of a potential epidemic has been published in a study by University of Iowa College of Public Health researcher Tara Smith et al this January. The study was the first in the country to document animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant form of a common bacterium that causes deadly infections, though such research has previously been conducted in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.

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