AWI Quarterly

Elephant Seals Hot Iron Branded

 

Elephant Seals Hot Iron Branded

Hot iron branding has caused terrible pain to animals, both wild and domestic. Photographs of branded elephant seals, with hot iron brand marks covering a significant part of the animals' sides (both sides so scientists can read the number easily) were published in the Sydney, Australia Mercury.

According to the March 29th Mercury, "The evidence collected shows the brands have created large weeping and infected wounds on many seals." The Parks and Wildlife Director, Max Kitchell, said, "a significant number of seals were left with horrific injuries which could be life-threatening."

The brandings, part of a 10 year population study, have now been mercifully stopped by the Macquarie Island government.


Random Source Dog and Cat Dealers Under the Microscope

ALTHOUGH NO ACTION WAS TAKEN on the Pet Safety and Protection Act in the last Congress, the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill and the FARM bill were adopted; both include language regarding random source Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for experimentation.

They call for an independent review by a panel of experts to determine how frequently animals sold by Class B dealers are used, and make recommendations regarding such use. In addition, the Agriculture Committee leadership in both the House and Senate called for a Government Accountability Office study on the subject.

In response to Congress's call for action, the National Academies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) formed a committee to "address the use of Class B dogs and cats in research funded by the National Institutes of Health." The 10-member committee representing a broad spectrum of individuals, from vocal opponents of Class B dealers to scientists who purchase and use such animals, is expected to issue its report this spring. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been tasked by Congress to review any recommendations proposed and report how they may be implemented to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Most of the committee's deliberations have been private, but during two half-day public sessions, an array of people spoke, including Cathy Liss of the Animal Welfare Institute. Liss provided a statement, showed footage from dealer premises, presented extensive documentation and answered questions based on her 28 years of random source dealer experience.

Two representatives from a licensed Class A dealer facility (a breeder of purpose-bred animals), gave an impressive presentation describing their ability to provide a wide variety of animals and services to the research industry. The breeding facility is able to meet the research demands for dogs and adapt as these needs change. Unlike random source dogs, the health status and genetic background of Class A animals is known.

Another detailed presentation was given by a genetic expert on cats from the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity. He described how to breed cats to ensure genetic diversity, emphasizing that it can in fact be done.

The USDA's Animal Care staff gave two separate presentations and has submitted data to the committee. One chart notes that from November 2007 to November 2008, 2,863 dogs and 267 cats were sold by Class B dealers to research facilities. Currently, just 11 such dealers remain. Compared to historical figures, these numbers clearly represent a dying industry.

Recently, Animal Care has revised the manner in which it conducts tracebacks intended to assess the accuracy of dealer records identifying from whom they purchase their dogs and cats.

Tracebacks are an extensive and costly process, yet they cannot provide assurance that the dealers' transactions involving animals were legal. A significant loophole in the AWA is that any person who claims to have bred and raised a dog or cat can sell the animal for profit. Dealers can exploit this loophole knowing it is virtually impossible to disprove their claim.

The suggested machinations to tighten controls and provide oversight of Class B dealers are mind boggling. Based on the evidence provided, it seems inconceivable that the committee can justify a research need on scientific grounds to use any dogs and cats obtained from these dealers. While the vast majority of researchers get their animals from other sources, it is time for the foot-draggers to follow suit.

Dogs at a Class B dealer facility.

Ducks-Yet Another Animal Factory Victim

As the old adage puts it, ducks are not adapted to exist without access to water, but that is exactly what 24 million ducks being raised in deplorably inhumane conditions on duck factories throughout the US are being forced to do each year.

Part of the ducks' sensitive upper bills are cut off, as shown above at Grimaud Farms, causing excruciating life-long suffering. (Viva!USA)


The most common ducks in these factories descend from the largely aquatic Mallard. They can never fly or swim and live in filthy sheds crammed together with hundreds of other ducks. They are denied access to sufficient water for bathing and preening, which is essential to their health. Such deprivation often results in serious eye problems and eventual blindness. They can barely walk because of bone deformities caused by slatted or wire mesh floors.

One of the cruelest practices is bill trimming or "debilling," which destroys the ducks' ability to fulfill their natural instincts to preen and forage for food. The very sensitive top portion of the bill is burned off with a stationary blade or cut off with a knife or scissors without anesthesia, in an attempt to prevent pecking and cannibalizing of other ducks in the overcrowded shed. According to Sarah Stai, a Muscovy duck expert from the University of Miami, this practice does not necessarily address confrontation among Muscovy ducks, which are known to fight with their feet and wings.

According to lauren Ornelas of Viva!USA, the organization responsible for exposing the cruelty perpetrated on ducks, the largest supplier of factory raised ducks in the US is Maple Leaf Farms headquartered in Indiana, which produces about 15 million ducks a year. Grimaud Farms, located in California and is a major producer of Muscovy factory-raised ducks, processes as many as 8,000 ducks a week. Muscovy ducks are the only modern domestic duck not descended from the Mallard. Their wild counterparts are strong flying birds that inhabit wetlands near wooded areas, using trees for roosting and nesting. Despite misrepresentations by duck factory operators, the Muscovy duck is indeed a species of waterfowl and does require full body access to water.

Colored Wild Muscovies are drastically different than their domestic cousins  raised for food. (USDA)


Grimaud contacted the University of California at Davis to evaluate its duck husbandry practices. A summary of the study released by Ralph Ernst, Extension Poultry Specialist at the UC Davis, confirmed that Grimaud is indeed an industrial duck factory. The report justifies Grimaud's practice of bill trimming and confinement as a "carefully planned program for duck husbandry that considers the welfare of the ducks under their care." Mr. Ernst's writings clearly demonstrate his support and promotion of the cruel methods employed by those in the intensive animal factory industry.

Based on the initial review and findings at Grimaud, Mr. Ernst is developing a set of guidelines for raising ducks. AWI received a draft copy of the UC Davis study from Grimaud for review and comments after requesting to discuss the issue. Following consultations with avian veterinarians from the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and the Muscovy duck expert at the University of Miami, AWI determined that the study, if enacted as written, is far from humane.

If you shop in any of the following stores please urge them to stop selling ducks raised in cruel and inhumane duck factories such as Maple Leaf and Grimaud Farms: Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Kroger's, Albertson's, Safeway, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods/Fresh Fields.

Grimaud-Full of Foie Gras

Grimaud is not only the leading supplier of Muscovy ducks in the US, it also provides ducklings to Sonoma Valley Foie Gras, one of only two foie gras producers in the US-the other being Hudson Valley Foie Gras. However, this relationship does not end with the ducklings. Grimaud then markets the final Sonoma Valley Foie Gras product. Even though Grimaud claims not to be involved in the inhumane process of force-feeding the ducks, they do handle almost every other aspect of this cruel business.

All Laboratory Animals Deserve Protection

The federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 set minimum requirements for handling, housing, and care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs in the premises of dealers and in laboratories. In 1970 the Act, renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), was amended to extend protection to all species of warm-blooded animals. However, the regulations promulgated for enforcement of the law arbitrarily excluded birds, mice and rats from the definition of animals, thus denying these species the protection to which they are entitled. There are no concrete figures, but it is generally agreed that approximately 95% of all animals used for research and testing are birds, mice and rats. The vast majority of laboratory animals have been left outside the law!

Birds, mice and rats used for experimentation do not benefit from the routine, unannounced inspections conducted by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary inspectors. When USDA veterinarians inspect research facilities they specifically overlook the care of birds, mice and rats. Nonetheless, from time to time, inspectors have noted horrors during their inspections including the following:

"During the inspection of the unmarked paper bags in the freezer, I discovered a moribund Long-Evans rat that was barely breathing. The frigid condition of this animal and the fact that it was surrounded by chewed plastic bags containing other dead rats, indicated that it had been in the freezer for some time, possibly a day or more. The rat slowly recovered as it warmed.

"Had this incident occurred involving a species covered by the Animal Welfare Act, the University would be liable for serious violations of sections pertaining to the IACUC [Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee], euthanasia, provision of appropriate veterinary care, and training of personnel. The fact that the animal confined in the freezer was a rat and therefore not a covered species in no way diminishes the seriousness of this egregious lack of humane care for this animal. To me, this disturbing event raises grave concerns regarding the function of the IACUC and the delivery of veterinary care."

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation et al., USDA settled the case last fall by agreeing to initiate the process for extending the AWA's coverage to these other animals. Shortly thereafter, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), a long-standing opponent of the AWA that represents research facilities and animal dealers, interceded.

Dr. Henry Foster, founder and chair of Charles River Laboratories, Foster's attorney son, and Frankie Trull created NABR in Trull's living room more than 20 years ago. Foster made clear the commercial value of promoting use of the maximum number of laboratory animals: "If you read the papers, everything seems to have carcinogenic effects. But that means more animal testing, which means growth for Charles River…so you can see why we continue to be enthused and excited" (The Wall Street Transcript, May 21, 1979). Charles River has continued to expand since that time, recently opening a Gnotobiotics operation producing about 2,000 female mice per week and a new facility the company describes as "dedicated to the contract breeding and management of genetically engineered (transgenic, knockout and mutant) mice and rats." If the Act encompasses birds, mice and rats, in addition to providing humane care and treatment, researchers will have to consider alternatives to the use of these animals—this objective conflicts with animal dealers' interest in maximizing the sale and use of animals in experimentation.

Regrettably, NABR convinced US Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to attach a mandate to USDA's annual appropriation from Congress preventing the agency from conducting any activity related to birds, mice and rats during this fiscal year!

Much of the biomedical industry appears to be rallying behind NABR and, unfortunately, we anticipate a sustained effort by NABR and their cohorts to deny basic protections to the millions of birds, mice and rats subject to experimentation in the United States each year.

National Gathering Calls for Humane, Sustainable Hog Farming

On January 11, 800 people from across the US and Canada packed the New Bern, North Carolina Riverfront Convention Center to discuss strategies for combating pig factories and promoting humaneness and sustainability in pig farming.

The "Summit for Sustainable Hog Farming" was organized by Nicolette Hahn, Senior Attorney for the Water Keeper Alliance, Rick Dove, Board Member of the Water Keeper Alliance and Gary Grant, Chair of the North Carolina Hog Roundtable. The day-long event included presentations from fishermen, environmentalists, religious and labor leaders, family farmers, scientists, public officials, attorneys, community activists, and animal welfare advocates.

Poignantly, neighbors to industrial pig operations described from personal experience how pig factories fouled their houses and backyards with stench and toxic gases so intense they became ill. In chilling testimonials, they detailed incidents of intimidation, even threats of violence and death, which they received from pig factory owners or operators.

The Summit's animal welfare discussion featured presentations by Paul Willis and Sue and Kelly Ryan, family farmers who allow the pigs they raise to behave naturally, in accordance with the Animal Welfare Institute's Humane Husbandry Standards for Pigs. A video prepared by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) in cooperation with the Water Keeper Alliance showed the Ryan family farm and emphasized the value of preserving the culture of humane family farm husbandry that is being decimated by animal factories. Mike McConnell, Chairman of Niman Ranch, urged attendees not only to fight against the growth and pollution of pig factories but also to press their grocers to carry meat from humane, sustainable family farms rather than factories. Niman Ranch is the first marketing company to require that farmers whose hogs they purchase follow AWI's humane husbandry standards. Actress Rosemary Harris, winner of a Tony, an Emmy and a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nominee, spoke on behalf of animals in a video presentation recorded in Los Angeles where Ms. Harris was filming the movie "Spiderman." Ms. Harris called on consumers to insist on meat from humane, family farms, saying that it is the plight of the sows confined to crates, unable to walk or turn around, that moves her most. A North Carolinian herself, Ms. Harris urged North Carolinians to take the lead in prohibiting animal factory practices, just as Sweden has done in Europe. Marlene Halverson, humane farming consultant to AWI, described the long history of ethical approaches to farming with animals in Sweden and their potential for serving as models for humane, sustainable farming in the US. AWI's Farm Animal Advisor, Diane Halverson, showed how factory production of pigs violates the nature of pigs, and how this leads, inevitably, to environmental and human health catastrophes. The suffering of animals in factories was also addressed in Rick Dove's video presentation which included footage of gross cruelty to pigs in a North Carolina factory, where workers beat and dismembered conscious sows. In Mr. Dove's words, "If we solve all of the environmental problems dealing with industrial hog raising, including stopping pollution, gaining restitution for pollution and solving the neighborhood odor and health problems, but we don't solve the issue of humane treatment of animals, then we haven't solved the problem of hog factories."

A captivating keynote address was given by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who, in addressing the extreme confinement and physical abuse suffered by pigs in factories, said: "The way that we treat animals—somebody at sometime is going to be punished for that—we as a nation or somebody. Because you can't treat another work of the Creator with the kind of indignity that we are allowing to go on in this state or others without there being some kind of karmic retribution at some point in history. I think all of us understand that, and particularly the family farmers here who understand the notion of stewardship and how an animal should be treated with dignity if we want dignity for ourselves."

The Metropolitan AME Zion Church Choir, Washington, N.C. opened the Interfaith Prayer Service that followed Mr. Kennedy's address. Sister Evelyn Mattern of the North Carolina Council of Churches led the crowd in this prayer by St. Basil the Great (329-379): "O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers and sisters the animals, to whom you have given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised our high dominion with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to you in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for you, and that they love the sweetness of life."

Water Keeper Alliance

The Water Keeper Alliance is the umbrella organization for the fifty-eight River, Sound and Bay Keepers located throughout North and Central America and Europe. The Water Keeper Alliance protects and restores waterways—including those ravaged by pollution from animal factories—using a variety of methods, including litigation. To learn more about the Water Keeper Alliance or to view presentations delivered at the Summit, visit the organization's website at

www.keeper.org.

North Carolina Hog Roundtable

The North Carolina Hog Roundtable is a coalition of state-wide, community, and neighborhood organizations, with over 65,000 members collectively, that are working toward reform of corporate pig raising. The Roundtable focuses on pig factories' threats to public health, the environment and property values and has a particular concern for the disproportionate impact of industrial pig operations on poor and minority communities.

    


Photos:  Pigs on industrial farms are confined to metal crates so small they cannot even turn around. Unnatural conditions in the factory thwart a pig's natural instincts, and stereoptypies, repetitive behaviors such as bar-biting shown at left, are common.
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