Senate passes Humane Slaughter Act Resolution
On July 31, 2001 the Senate passed by unanimous consent Senator Peter Fitzgerald's (R, IL) excellent Resolution, S. Con. Res. 45, calling on the Secretary of Agriculture to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act (see AWI Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 3). According to the Resolution, full enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 would "(i) prevent needless suffering;" and "(ii) result in safer and better working conditions for persons engaged in the slaughtering of livestock." S. Con. Res. 45 states that public demand for passage of the Act "was so great that when President Eisenhower was asked at a press conference if he would sign the bill, he replied, 'If I went by mail, I'd think no one was interested in anything but humane slaughter.'"
The House of Representatives must now act on the companion Resolution, H. Con. Res. 175, introduced by Congresswoman Constance Morella (R, MD), Congressmen Christopher Shays (R, CT) and Elton Gallegly (R, CA).
USDA Brass Hinders Slaughterhouse Inspections
A full-page advertisement in The New York Times describes the hideous cruelty to cattle at IBP (the world's largest meat packer in Wallula, Washington), based upon affidavits obtained by Gail Eisnitz of the Humane Farming Association (HFA). (See also AWI Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4.)
The affidavits document the enormously increased slaughter line speed, which often results in the torture of animals who have not been stunned successfully before moving down the line to be skinned and have their legs chopped off. Washington State's Prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against IBP-even though he admitted that crimes had occurred.
HFA obtained videotapes at the plant showing that the animals were conscious because no employee or US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector was permitted to stop the line. Employees feared being fired if they stopped the production line for live, struggling cattle, and the USDA had permitted the plant to erect a wall blocking the inspector's view into the killing area. In addition, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), a new meat inspection program highly praised by the Secretary of Agriculture, removed all inspectors from plants' killing areas. In 1978, the Humane Slaughter Act gave USDA meat inspectors the authority and duty to stop the line if they saw an animal cruelly slaughtered, whether because of equipment failure or human callousness.
At a press conference, union officials representing all 7,000 USDA Inspectors indicated that they would like to go back to the days in which their work was effective because they were able to stop the slaughter line to prevent animal suffering. Other meat inspectors' union officials happened to be meeting at USDA with Tom Billy, head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, when Mr. Billy learned of the press conference. Instead of responding to inspectors' complaints Mr. Billy threw the inspectors out of his office on the grounds that they failed to support Mr. Billy's famously industry-oriented positions.
>Relief in Store for Sows and Gilts in the European Union
While United States agribusiness corporations continue to build pig factories, dooming even more animals to a miserable fate, the European Union is preparing to phase out two of the most cruel devices used in raising animals for food. In June 2001, the Agriculture Council of the European Union released a draft amendment to Directive 91/630/EEC that, when finalized later this year, eventually will give pregnant sows and gilts* great relief from the narrow crates that prohibit them from walking or even turning during their nearly 4-month pregnancy, and from the neck collars and chains that similarly restrict their movements.
The amendment prohibits new construction of or conversion to the tethering system for sows and gilts. In this system, the sow or gilt wears a neck collar that is attached to the floor by a chain roughly 2 feet long; bars on either side of the animal prohibit her from turning around. Tether systems already in use would be prohibited from January 1, 2006. The amendment requires that sows and gilts-who are social animals-be kept in groups from 4 weeks after breeding until one week before the expected time of farrowing, rather than be kept individually. No new or reconstructed gestation crate systems could be installed after January 1, 2003. Existing gestation crates would be prohibited from January 1, 2013.
Other elements of the amendment require that a) sows and gilts kept in groups be fed using a system that ensures that each individual can obtain sufficient food, even when competitors for the food are present; b) to satisfy their hunger and given the need to chew, all pregnant sows and gilts be given a sufficient quantity of bulky or high fiber food as well as high energy food [AWI note: intensively kept pregnant sows are typically fed a restricted diet comprised of a feed concentrate]; c) sows be given at least a partly solid floor, rather than a fully slatted one (the width of slat openings is regulated); d) sows kept in groups be given straw or other manipulable materials; e) minimum pen dimensions and/or space requirements are required for sows and gilts and for pigs from weaning to market weight.
The lengthy phase out period for the barbaric gestation crate is regrettable, as is allowing sows and gilts to be kept in narrow crates, unable to walk or turn, during the first four weeks of pregnancy and while farrowing. Nevertheless, the EU is poised to turn pig farming in a more humane direction and bring relief to affected animals.
The Carolinas Say No to Hog Factories
At the end of June North Carolina's Governor, Mike Easley, signed a law extending the state's moratorium on construction or expansion of hog factories and their hog waste cesspools. The prohibition, which began in 1997 and would have expired July 2001, will remain in effect until September 1, 2003. South Carolina legislators, concerned that the hog factories would move to their state, also have banned new hog factories.
Residents of North and South Carolina are fighting against growth of industrial hog factories, which produce a huge volume of hog sewage that pollutes the air and water. Numerous studies document the negative consequences of living near hog factories, including a 1999 study conducted by the University of North Carolina School of Public Health that found a significant increase in upper respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms in people living near these operations. Though the report did not address it, the health consequences of intensive factories are clearly deleterious to the pigs themselves, who are subjected to the appalling conditions twenty-four hours a day for their entire lives.
North Carolina has about 2,400 hog operations with a total of 9.5 million animals, and South Carolina has approximately 300,000 hogs, with most located just over the state line from North Carolina.
12,000 Pigs Die in Utah Hog Factory Inferno
Over 12,000 pigs were burned alive or died from smoke inhalation in a fire at Circle Four Farms in Cedar City, Utah. The media and Circle Four are treating this devastating tragedy as merely a momentary business setback, completely ignoring the intense suffering of thousands of animals. One of the more callous statements was from Mike Marshall, a veterinarian with the Utah Department of Agriculture who said, "It is incredibly unfortunate, [but] if we like eating them, we have to put up with the risks of raising them." Yet after a tax write-off and insurance claim settlement, Circle Four will be up and running again with its same cruel practices.
Circle Four, which owns 55 hog factories in Utah and markets under the brand name "Farmer John" is no farm; it is an intensive animal factory subsidiary of the largest pork producer in the world, Smithfield Foods. There were no alarms, sprinklers or onsite workers to save the animals when the four large buildings were engulfed in flames.
The public, state officials and the federal government must step forward and reject the intensive and inhumane practices that led to this devastating event. The owners of Circle Four should be prosecuted for their neglect, and every effort made to prevent the rebuilding of this and any other inhumane animal factory. Utah should follow North and South Carolina's leads in enacting moratoriums on new hog factories.
CAPTION: Half of the pigs that died in the fire were less than one month old. USDA
Waterkeeper Alliance Keeps the Pressure on Smithfield
Smithfield Foods chairman, president and chief executive officer, Joseph W. Luter III, is feeling the pressure from the Waterkeeper Alliance, headed by environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for his company's cruel treatment of animals and environmental destruction. He recently announced that Smithfield has "no current plans to significantly increase the size of its herd" in the US because, "there are enough hogs in this country. If we had unlimited opportunity to expand, we wouldn't."
Waterkeeper Alliance currently has four lawsuits pending against Smithfield for its pollution in North Carolina and Florida. Kennedy said that "Our intention is to sue every one of Smithfield's facilities if we have to…Luter is an outlaw stealing from the public, he raises the standards of living for himself by lowering the quality of life for everybody else.''
Luter did say that Smithfield will increase output in Poland and Mexico. Following Smithfield's rejected attempt to implement US style hog factories in Poland by Polish union leader Andrzej Lepper and AWI, the company is trying another tactic. Smithfield wants to develop a system of "contract growers" who will provide land, buildings, equipment and labor to raise Smithfield's "low-fat" piglets provided by Animex, a Polish subsidiary of Smithfield, acquired in 2000. The growers will deliver the pigs back to Animex in exchange for new production technologies and financial support. Animex would receive substantial return on their investment while Polish contract growers would become dependent on the corporation.