United Egg Producers and the Humane Society, working together?
From the New York Times:
Egg Producers and Humane Society Urging Federal Standard on Hen Cages
The groups said they would ask Congress to pass a law enacting the new standards, which they said would be the first federal law addressing the treatment of farm animals and would pre-empt efforts in several states to set their own standards.
The proposed federal standards would include cages that give hens up to 144 square inches of space each, compared with the 67 square inches that most hens have today. They would also include so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior.
The two groups met in the middle: HSUS was pushing for a complete ban on cages, and United Egg Producers has been trying to boost its image after secretly-taped footage showing sub-par farm conditions went public, and last year’s egg-related salmonella outbreaks. Also, now that individual states are passing differing hen welfare laws, it’s becoming more appealing to egg producers to have a single federal law to follow.
Note that this is just an agreement to work together to try to get a federal hen protection law created; and if the law is enacted, its timeline for full adoption is a whopping 18 years. There are still possible roadblocks: buy-in from UEP members is required; other livestock groups may fight the law to protect their own industries from regulation; and even if the law makes it to Congress, it may not pass. But the first step in changing a situation is awareness that the situation needs to change, and by partnering with HSUS, the UEP has admitted that it is aware that its chickens should be treated more humanely. And hopefully the commotion around this effort will increase consumer awareness of the plight of other factory farm animals, in addition to laying hens. Sure, they are baby steps, but at least they are steps forward!
How can we not write about an article that uses the words “scramble” and “egg” in the title?
Animal rights groups disagree, scramble to define ‘humane’ in egg debate
Oregon just passed a law requiring laying hens to be moved out of battery cages and into colony cages, with perches, scratching pads, and nesting boxes, by 2026. Some animal rights groups argue that the law should have eliminated cages completely, but proponents of colony cages claim that hens prefer to live with a smaller group where they know each other and have a pecking order.
New footage was released today from an undercover camera in a pig factory farm in Iowa:
Company’s Farm Practices in Question After Video Is Released
First of all: what is wrong with these people? Who can callously throw a piglet? And encourage others to do so? Who can justify cutting tails and castrating pigs without painkillers? How can someone make a career of doctoring animals and claim that a gestation crate is humane?
Secondly: how can one’s political allegiances override one’s basic human sensibility? The bill-supporting politicians are supporting animal abuse. The article says the politicians did not watch the video. Perhaps the way to think the abuse isn’t so bad is to ignore it, pretend it’s not real, stay in a state of denial by not looking at the proof. Disgusting.
On a brighter note, at least some of the grocers are doing the right thing and suspending shipments from the company that distributes pork from the offending farm. Kudos to Safeway and Kroger.
In the news today:
Chipotle to double its use of local produce
Chipotle says it will increase use of local produce
Chipotle expects to use more than 10 million pounds of locally-grown produce this year, instead of the previously-forecast 5 million pounds. The restaurant is already the leading restaurant company in serving naturally-raised meat.
News from the NRDC blog: Senate votes overwhelmingly to end corn ethanol subsidies —
- The amendment will end three decades of subsidies to the corn ethanol industry and save taxpayers several billion dollars.
- The VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) [cost] taxpayers $6 billion this year alone and [gave] almost nothing in return in domestic ethanol production or industry jobs above and beyond what is already mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard
- [The VEETC] comes at the expense of developing the new and cleaner advanced biofuels we need to create jobs, increase our energy security and address global warming.
We wanted to see if Michael Pollan had written anything recently about ethanol subsidies, and read this article from 2006:
- The way we grow corn in this country consumes tremendous quantities of fossil fuel: Every bushel of corn grown in America has consumed the equivalent of between a third and a half gallon of gasoline.
- Corn receives more synthetic fertilizer than any other crop, and that fertilizer is made from fossil fuels — mostly natural gas.
- Corn also receives more pesticide than any other crop, and most of that pesticide is made from petroleum.
- To plow or disc the cornfields, plant the seed, spray the corn and harvest it takes large amounts of diesel fuel
- To dry the corn after harvest requires natural gas.
- Distill[ing] the corn into ethanol, an energy-intensive process that requires still more fossil fuel. Estimates vary, but they range from two-thirds to nine-tenths of a gallon of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol. (The more generous number does not count all the energy costs of growing the corn.) Some estimates are still more dismal, suggesting it may actually take more than a gallon of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of our putative alternative to fossil fuel.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, it will cost U.S. taxpayers $120 for every barrel of oil saved by making ethanol.
- The federal government offers a tax break of 54 cents for every gallon of ethanol produced
- At the same time, the government protects domestic ethanol producers by imposing a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol
- Ethanol is just the latest chapter in a long, sorry history of clever and profitable schemes to dispose of surplus corn: there was corn liquor in the 19th century; feedlot meat starting in the 1950’s and, since 1980, high fructose corn syrup.
This all reminds us of a t-shirt we saw recently: http://www.goodjoe.com/Store/Product.aspx?id=66. It’s not clear from the creator’s description if she is making a statement about the large quantity of corn products found in the composition of the average American body…
Animal treatment awareness is increasing among Chinese citizens:
Activists are pushing for the passage of the China Animal Protection Law, which has been languishing in the legislature for almost 2 years. The law would be China’s first comprehensive animal welfare law, and would include protections for food animals.
A heightened awareness of animal rights illustrates a cultural shift in China. From AFP:
“Compared with their parents’ or grandparents’ generations whose only concern was putting food on the table, the younger generations have the luxury of thinking more of other so-called ‘unessential’ things such as travel and companion animals,” said Li.
“When I was back in China in the 1980s, ‘animal protection’, ‘animal welfare’ and ‘compassion for non-human individuals’ were never phrases in China. Today, all these terms are known to many over there,” he added.
“The younger generation shall be a mighty force against animal cruelty in China.”
E coli outbreak: German officials identify beansprouts as likely source
From the article:
Scientists suspect the source of the contamination may have been poor hygiene either at a farm, in transit, or in a shop or food outlet.
This encouragement to eat locally-sourced food isn’t a suggestion to avoid German beansprouts specifically, but rather a suggestion that cutting down on the number of middlemen involved in the journey of your food from farm to plate decreases the likelihood of contamination somewhere along the way.
Iowa may be on the verge of passing a bill to make illegal the production, distribution, and possession of video or picture footage taken inside a factory farm without the owner’s permission.
Because factory farms are under-regulated and closed to the outside world, undercover investigators from animal rights groups sometimes take a job at a farm, only to document any health or animal treatment violations to release to the authorities and the public.
That sort of publicity is obviously not in the company’s best interests, but it IS in the public’s best interests: unsanitary conditions in factory farms can lead to outbreaks of food poisoning; and it’s in the animals’ best interests to have their living conditions improved. Happier animals also produce better food, but that’s a different argument.
Big agriculture is a huge industry in the Midwest, so it makes sense that legislators are pressured by lobbyists and constituents to support factory farming. According to Food & Water Watch, Iowa ranks first in the country in number of factory-farmed layer hens (averaging 1.3 million hens per farm–more than double the national average), first in factory-farmed hogs, and fourth in large cattle feedlots. Florida and Minnesota are considering similar bills. These bills are detrimental to food safety, and therefore public health, and should not be passed.
This quote from a New York Times article sums it up nicely:
“If they have nothing to hide and they are operating ethically, they should have no fear,” [Senator Matthew W. McCoy, Democrat of Des Moines] said.
The Paleo diet and its relatives preach the importance of choosing free range meat and animal products over factory farmed options, for health reasons. Unhealthy, stressed animals have toxins and sickness flowing through their bodies, which are then transferred to humans upon consumption of the meat, eggs, or dairy products the animals produced. The Paleo argument tends to focus primarily on “think about what you’re putting into your body” and less on “think about the treatment of the animals.” However, FitFemaleForty has a reprint of an article written by Jeremy Gordon, a CrossFit instructor, that addresses the humane treatment of livestock to a Paleo audience.
The article presents some horrifying information about the effects of a grain diet on a cow’s digestive system. The grain raises the acidity in the digestive tract of the cows, who were built to eat grass only, which can lead to an abscessed liver and the introduction of E. Coli. From a nutritional standpoint, the fatty acid composition of the meat is negatively affected, and fat soluble vitamin content decreases.
Factory farmed meat eaters who aren’t concerned about the treatment of the animals could be swayed to change their ways based on the descriptions and evidence in this article.
From the McGill Daily:
This article gives a nice breakdown of the standard categories that vegetarian’s reasons for not eating meat usually fall into: health, environment, and animal cruelty.
The health issues related to eating red meat have long been known. E. coli and salmonella are in the news more and more often. The average meat eater probably doesn’t think about the link between MRSA and other bacteria-resistant infections, and meat consumption. The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals leads to stronger bacteria, to the point that known antibacterial drugs are useless in fighting off these infections. More and more people are getting sick from feces contamination on meat, as well: modern machines that tear apart the animals can spray the contents of the intestines onto the meat.
Factory farms are huge polluters, contributing more than 20% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and polluting waterways which leads to killing massive numbers of fish with animal excrement. Forests are clear cut to make way for farms or land to grow corn for livestock feed.
Nobody can deny that animals are abused in factory farms. Apparently there is a legal loophole allowing farms to participate in “common practices” without consequence, so if most other farms are abusing animals, it’s okay. Animals drop dead due to illness and injury, or are killed for being sick or too small. In addition, the article points out the psychological hardships and injuries inflicted upon workers.
Here are a few of the horrifying factoids from this article:
- 99% of the 10 billion animals slaughtered each year are factory farmed
- it’s estimated that the average American eats the equivalent of 21,000 ENTIRE animals in his lifetime
- the majority of antibiotics pumped into farm animals are banned in the EU
- the FDA reclassified feces from dangerous contaminant to “cosmetic blemish”
- nearly one-third of the planet’s surface is used for livestock