Speak Out for Farmed Animals Week is an online week of actions for ALDF supporters. Advocacy for Animals will be blogging each day this week to report on the activities of other supporters and on farm-animal issues. You can find out more by visiting the ALDF Blog to get ideas for how you can do your part, and check back with us throughout the week.
Jennifer Molidor of ALDF writes:
Animals suffer unspeakable cruelty in industrial agriculture (“factory farms”) and on smaller farms, too. When it comes to the law, farmed animals are vulnerable, unprotected, and exploited as the meat, dairy, and egg industries trade horrific cruelty for high profits. This is also true at facilities that take advantage of well-meaning consumers by calling themselves “humane.”
Investigations and industry whistle-blowers have revealed abuse so horrific most people can’t stomach even hearing about it. The horrors revealed by undercover investigations are the number one reason people give for not consuming animal products. After seeing what these animals go through, many people choose not to contribute to the problem.
Farmed animals can’t speak up for themselves. Their suffering is hidden behind closed doors to shield industry from public outrage. These animals are closely quartered, kept in filth, tortured, sliced, diced, and served up like objects, and they deserve all of us to speak up for them and demand better laws.
Browsing Posts in Animals in the News
by Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy
Earlier this month, Farm Sanctuary joined forces with five other nonprofits—Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, Farm Forward, Mercy for Animals, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—in submitting a 38-page petition for rulemaking to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), calling on the agency to stop almost entirely ignoring the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (HMSA).
We did this because the HMSA is grossly neglected by the agency charged with enforcing it, so that animals are being tortured in U.S. slaughterhouses, even though there are USDA inspectors on site who could stop it. This petition is focused on stopping illegal cruelty and does not imply that there is any such thing as “humane slaughter”—we see those terms as inherently contradictory.
Our petition asks that:
- USDA’s definition of “egregious” as applied to the HMSA be codified in regulation;
- USDA ensure that all violations of HMSA result in at least a “Noncompliance Record” (NR) to document the violation;
- USDA ensure that all egregious violations of HMSA result in at least a plant suspension;
- USDA refer reckless and intentional cruelty for criminal prosecution;
- USDA create a structure for closing down the worst slaughterhouses completely.
by Jessica Knoblauch, Senior Content Producer
— Our thanks to the organization Earthjustice (“Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer”) for permission to republish this article, which was first published on September 14, 2015, on the Earthjustice site.
The blue whale is one of the largest animals ever known to have lived on Earth, but despite its heft, this magnificently oversize marine mammal can’t withstand the biological blows caused by Navy sonar training and testing.
Today, the blue whale got a break from these harmful sounds. For the first time ever, the U.S. Navy has agreed to put vast swaths of important habitat for numerous marine mammals off limits to dangerous mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of powerful explosives.
The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. Ocean noise is one of the biggest threats to the health and well-being of marine mammals, which rely on sound to “see” their world. For years, scientists have documented that high-intensity, mid-frequency sounds wreak havoc on the aquatic environment, causing serious impacts to marine mammals, such as strandings, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death.
by Susie Coston, National Shelter Director for Farm Sanctuary
It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. As we honor those individuals—human and animal—who lost their lives in the storm, we also pause to remember hundreds of chickens whose lives were saved.
Katrina and Farm Animals: By the Numbers
725: Chickens saved by Farm Sanctuary in the days following Katrina. All of them were brought to our New York Shelter for care. They had a variety of health problems—some caused by the storm’s aftermath, many simply the result of standard industry practice. Their problems ranged from septic joints to severe digestive issues, from gangrene to broken toes. One had a large head wound; another was found with her eyes swollen shut. Many had gone days without food or water. The sick and injured birds received care ranging from treatment with painkillers, steroids, and antibiotics to major surgery.
200+: The number of birds that were taken in by other sanctuaries or adopted by private individuals. The compassionate people who took in these chickens not only provided lifelong care for animals who had suffered so much—they also made it possible for us to say yes to many more chickens in need. (If you are interested in providing a permanent, loving home for a farm animal, please consider becoming a part of the Farm Animal Adoption Network!)
635 million: The estimated number of farm animals being raised for food in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi when Katrina made landfall. Millions of them died.
9: Years that KC, the last of our Katrina survivors, lived after her rescue.
6: Weeks a typical “broiler” chicken lives before it is killed for meat.
by Michael Markarian
It’s not just Europe where ground beef and meatballs could be tainted with horsemeat.
It could happen here in America, too, according to a recent study conducted by researchers in Chapman University’s food science program and published in the journal Food Control. The study tested a variety of fresh and frozen ground meat products sold in the U.S. commercial market and discovered that 10 out of 48 samples were mislabeled—and two of those samples contained horsemeat.
This appears to be the first extensive research on meat species testing in the United States since 1995, and the first serious look at the issue here in this country since Europe was rocked with a horsemeat scandal in 2013. The U.S. products containing horsemeat came from two different online specialty retailers. One product was labeled as bison and listed its country of origin as Canada, while the other product was labeled as lamb and listed its country of origin as the United States.
It’s one more reason for the U.S. Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S.1214 and H.R.1942, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.,and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. And a reason for Congress to maintain the current prohibition on spending federal tax dollars to resume horse slaughter operations in the United States, as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last month. continue reading…
by Lora Dunn, ALDF Staff Attorney
Three years ago, in State v. Nix, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that each animal subjected to abuse counts as a separate “victim” of that crime, rejecting a defendant’s attempt to merge all 20 of his animal neglect convictions into just one count. While the Oregon Supreme Court initially agreed with this ruling, it ultimately vacated the Nix case on procedural grounds. To many who follow these issues, vacating the “Nix rule” was a tough blow to absorb.
But today, we have great news: The Nix rule is once again good law. In affirming multiple convictions in a cat hoarding case (State v. Hess), the Court of Appeals adopted the Oregon Supreme Court’s rationale as published in the original Nix opinion and ruled that each animal qualifies as a victim of cruelty. In short, the rule in Oregon for crimes involving multiple animal victims is now crystal clear: Defendants may not avoid accountability for inflicting mass suffering via merger of convictions.
While ALDF had a hand in helping with both the appeal in Nix and the prosecution of Hess, there are many people whose exceptional work resulted in this great outcome, specifically: Oregon Humane Society for its outstanding work investigating the Hess case; Jacob Kamins (then a Multnomah County DDA and now serving as Oregon’s dedicated animal cruelty prosecutor) for his tenacious trial court work in prosecuting Hess; and Assistant Attorney General Jamie Contreras for her stellar written and oral advocacy in both Nix and Hess appeals.
By Christopher Ketcham
The American West faces its fifteenth year of low rainfall, sparse snowpack, and warming temperatures in what climatologists believe is only the beginning of a climate-change-induced megadrought that may last a century or more. Major cities across California recorded historically low precipitation levels in the last two years. At least 78 percent of the state is now categorized as suffering “extreme drought,” including the state’s Central Valley, the nation’s most productive agricultural region. California hasn’t been this dry in 1,200 years.
We tend to blame the exurban sprawl dweller for water waste. The profligate of the cul-de-sac, he obsesses over car washes, floods the Kentucky bluegrass on his lawn, tops off his swimming pool, takes the kids to water parks, and tees off at green golf courses tended among cacti. He is the wrong object of our ire, however. Personal and industrial consumption for drinking, washing, flushing, watering the lawn, detailing the car, and cooling nuclear plants, accounts for less than 10 percent of water use in the eleven arid states of the West.
We’d do better to look at what we eat when casting about for villains of the water drama. Food production consumes more fresh water than any other activity in the United States. “Within agriculture in the West, the thirstiest commodity is the cow,” says George Wuerthner, an ecologist at the Foundation for Deep Ecology, who has studied the livestock industry. Humans drink about a gallon of water a day; cows, upwards of 23 gallons. The alfalfa, hay, and pasturage raised to feed livestock in California account for approximately half of the water used in the state, with alfalfa representing the highest-acreage crop. In parts of Montana, as much as 90 percent of irrigated land is operated solely for the production of livestock feed; 90 percent of Nevada’s cropland is dedicated to raising hay. Half of Idaho’s three million acres of irrigated farmland grows forage and feed exclusively for cattle, and livestock production represents 60 percent of the state’s water use. In Utah, cows are the top agricultural product, and three-fifths of the state’s cropland is planted with hay. All told, alfalfa and hay production in the West requires more than ten times the water used by the region’s cities and industries combined, according to some estimates. Researchers at Cornell University concluded that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein. It is a staggeringly inefficient food system.
One obvious and immediate solution to the western water crisis would be to curtail the waste of the livestock industry. The logical start to this process would be to target its least important sector: public lands ranching. The grazing of cattle and sheep on hundreds of millions of acres of federally managed land has been a fact of western rural life for over 100 years. It is considered an almost sacred profession. Yet its impact on the economy is actually quite small. According to University of Montana economist Thomas Power, public lands ranching produces just $1 out of every $2,500 in income and one out of every 2,000 jobs. Of concern to the steak lover: If this form of ranching ceased to exist tomorrow, the effect on the price and availability of beef would be negligible.
Grazing cattle and sheep in this arid landscape is the single most important cause of erosion and desertification on a public domain whose trees, rich soil, and grasslands function as ecosystem watersheds. “Livestock production, along with its coddled baby sibling, public lands ranching,” says Jon Marvel, founder of the Idaho nonprofit Western Watersheds Project (WWP), “is responsible for the largest single human use, degradation, and pollution of public watersheds in the western United States.” Stockmen cause over 95 percent of all western public land “dewatering”—when streams go bone dry—by diverting the natural flow to water cattle or grow hay. According to Marvel, a single cow on public land can deposit over a ton of waste on the ground every month, with a high percentage of that waste seeping into surface water. A single cattle feedlot in Idaho, located a mile from the Snake River, produces more untreated solid and liquid waste every day than four cities the size of Denver. “Every stream on public lands grazed by livestock is polluted and shows a huge surge in E. coli bacterial contamination during the grazing season,” says Marvel. “No wonder we can’t drink the water.”
Marvel, who retired from WWP last year, spent two decades haranguing and suing the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the government bodies that are supposed to regulate ranching on the public domain. “Forest Service and BLM staffers see their job as the protection and enabling of ranchers. They are the epitome of what is meant by agency capture.”
Paul X. Johnson
The influence of public land stockmen over government is an outlier in the annals of regulatory capture. Big Pharma, Big Defense, and Wall Street buy Congress with cash. But no wads of campaign contributions come from American stockmen. Yet, as Marvel puts it, “Western politicians always sit up and listen when they see a big cowboy hat and shiny belt buckle walk into their office.”
“It’s cultural capture,” says Debra Donahue, a professor of law at the University of Wyoming and author of The Western Range Revisited. “The ranching industry has captured the American imagination. And they have been given a special deal at great cost to the American public.”
The public lands livestock industry receives upwards of $500 million per year in state and federal subsidies for grazing fees, fence construction, road building and maintenance, forage improvement, and water diversions such as dams, pipelines, aqueducts, and stock ponds. Wildlife Services, a unit within the Department of Agriculture that implements hunting and trapping policies, slaughters hundreds of thousands of animals each year to aid stockmen: coyotes, wolves, beavers, prairie dogs, mountain lions, black bears, and other “pests.” Property tax on private ranch lands in Idaho is pegged at one-tenth the rate at which other lands are taxed. Ranchers receive below market-rate loans, and enjoy sales tax exemptions for the purchase of farm vehicles, tractors, andother equipment for raising hay. In 2013, the Obama administration directed the BLM to assess ecological damage caused by human activity in the western United States. Livestock was exempted from the study.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
A rancher drives his truck delivering hay in California’s Central Valley. Normally, at this time of the year the fields would be covered in grass, but the western U.S. states’s worst drought in decades has reduced the land to a parched moonscape.
The cultural presence of cowboys in western state legislatures and Congressional delegations is ubiquitous. Local livestock associations act as political incubators, stacking the seats on county commissions, launching cattlemen into state legislatures, state and federal administrative positions, and into Congress. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush won the presidency while carrying the cowboy flag: Both owned ranches and had a penchant for Stetsons.
Congress has been especially kind to public lands ranchers in the last year. Legislators attached a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act that exempted livestock permittees on public lands from review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Legislators further hamstrung federal land regulators by giving the secretaries of the interior and agriculture sole discretion to authorize environmental assessment of grazing permits. It also excluded the “trailing” of livestock from environmental review altogether, which effectively waived analysis of most domestic sheep operations.
Lawmakers from the western congressional caucus in the Republican-controlled House are now clamoring for new dam building and other water reclamation projects—at a time when the beneficiaries of irrigation in the West still owe $1.6 billion to the federal government for past efforts. “Dams and debt—it’s just another welfare subsidy,” says Marvel.
Everyone knows that climate-created drought in the West is made undeniably worse by livestock production. We are trying to bend the natural landscape to our will by raising a water-loving animal in the desert. The dewatering of streams and rivers for irrigation is the reason so many fish and amphibians in the West are endangered. The majority of dams that block the migration of salmon and steelhead are built primarily for irrigation water storage so we can grow alfalfa. “The capture of the West’s landscape by the cattle industry may be one of the biggest ongoing mistakes of our history,” says Wuerthner. And for what? To protect a mythological hero called the cowboy. Time to smash this idol of the American West and move on.
Christopher Ketcham, a freelance writer based in Colorado, is a fellow at the American Independent Institute.
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