Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

Continue reading

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.'”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.'”

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical. Continue reading

Workers Caught Harming Hens

More on the Sparboe mess…:

George Buchanan
  Sparboe Farms, which runs facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota, that supply both Target and McDonalds with eggs, was dropped by the two companies due to animal cruelty. A group called Mercy for Animals filmed “hens crammed in crowded cages, workers burning beaks and one, trying to shove a bird inside the pocket of a co-worker, apparently for fun. Another worker presses his thumb against the back of a chick’s neck until it breaks

The egg supplier, Sparboe Farms, was also sent a warning letter earlier in the week by the FDA, which “found ‘serious violations’ after visiting five of the companies’ production facilities, including failure to have and implement a written Salmonella Enteritidis prevention plan and failure to prevent stray poultry, wild birds, cats and other animals from entering poultry houses.”   Both PETA and The Humane Society have complained, and released videos of the inhumane treatment that occurs at these poultry facilities in years past. But, perhaps with huge corporations such as McDonalds and Target pulling their accounts from egg suppliers, like Sparboe Farms, other suppliers will take notice and not only set standards that conform with anti-cruelty laws; but will also keep an eye on their employees to ensure the treatment that cost Sparboe Farms the lucrative accounts of McDonalds and Target, does not take place at their egg supplying facilities.    Continue reading

McDonald’s and Target Drop their Relationship with their Egg-Supplier, Sparboe Farms

Heather Schlemm

            Mercy for Animals revealed an undercover video of five egg producing farms in three states that both McDonald’s and Target purchase from. Mercy for Animals had its people hired at Sparboe farms and wired them with hidden cameras from May 23rd to August 1st to document the animal abuse occurring. Sparboe Farms is one of the nation’s largest egg suppliers and has facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado. Target Corp. was purchasing from the Litchfield Minnesota one and has now agreed to pull all eggs from this farm off its shelves. Target claims to have just been made aware of the facilities conditions and that is why they are immediately stopping their purchases. McDonald’s had purchased from the Vicent, Iowa plant for all its west locations and now says it will never work with Sparboe again. McDonald’s and Target released full statements on their decision to stop using Sparboe. Continue reading

Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Cartons should be Regulated

Sheila Rodriguez

Most Americans care about the welfare of farmed animals. Egg companies

Image courtesy of Compassion Over Killing

know that, and many market their eggs with labels claiming the hens were treated well. What consumers don’t know is that many of the animal welfare claims on egg cartons are meaningless.

In my article, The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels, I argue that egg consumers have a right to know how hens are raised. Most hens are packed eight or nine birds to a cage. The cages are so small that hens are unable to stretch a wing. The overcrowding causes them to fight, so their beaks are cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. The fewer than 5% of eggs in theU.S. that are not produced under these conditions are from hens that were not even allowed outside. Continue reading

Odd Animal Laws, Odd Culture

This is a guest post by Kenji Crosland, a writer for TeachStreet.  Teachstreet is a website that provides online and local classes, including classes on law and pet training classes.

In the effort to preserve a certain semblance of order certain laws (don’t steal, don’t kill) have been universal since Hammurabi, although the punishments for disobeying these laws have varied greatly. Laws concerning animal cruelty, however, are unique in that they are not necessarily “required,” to keep the peace.  For a society to establish animal cruelty laws it needs to reach a certain level of moral development.  These laws, just like the humans who created them, however, aren’t perfect, and those imperfections can give us insights into a particular culture.

These days, India and countries in Europe seem to be the most progressive, while others like China are slowly adding laws to the books.  The US is a study in contrasts: while some states are on the progressive side, there are others that are far from it.          Continue reading

Finding the Factory Farms

David Cassuto

We’re often told (because it’s true) that 10 billion animals are killed for food in this country every year.  The implications of that number for climate change, water and air pollution, and animal suffering are well-documented and appalling.  But most of us have never seen a factory farm.  Agribusiness counts on the “out of sight, out of mind” effect to keep the population quiescent and, for the most part, the strategy works.

So where are those 10 billion animals?  Continue reading

Turkey Pardons (reprised)

David Cassuto

As I sat down to type some Thanksgiving thoughts, I found myself returning to what I wrote a couple of years ago, back when this blog was first beginning.  I’m still saddened and bewildered by the idea of pardoning turkeys.  And, since not many people read the blog back then, I offer those now two-year old thoughts back up again for your consideration.

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery. I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow. But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.          Continue reading

U of Maryland Clinic Wins Important Procedural Victory in Lawsuit Against Perdue

David Cassuto

A while back, I blogged on the attempt by members of the Maryland legislature to strip funding for the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic because of the clinic’s lawsuit (representing numerous plaintiffs) against Perdue and some local chicken producers.  The suit arose from the chicken operation’s  runoff  (allegedly) befouling the Chesapeake Bay.  Perdue spun the suit as an assault against family farming.  Members of the legislature flew into a tizzy and excoriated the clinic for helping its clients pursue their rights under the Clean Water Act.   Thankfully, rational minds prevailed and the threat to kill the clinic’s funding was itself killedContinue reading

Some Further Thoughts on Ohio

David Cassuto

I’m back in the northern hemisphere, missing the tropical juices and proximity to the beach but enjoying my family (human and non), my friends, and my deck with its accompanying martinis.  I’ve also been pondering the Ohio deal I blogged about before getting on the plane last week.  As you may recall, the ballot initiative in Ohio containing important agricultural reforms has been indefinitely postponed in exchange for a number of concessions.    Continue reading

A Deal in Ohio — But at What Price?

David Cassuto
In Ohio, HSUS, the ag industry and the state government have made a deal.  In exchange for HSUS not supporting a fall ballot initiative on animal welfare issues, the Ohio government and animal industry will take action on exotic animal importation, veal calf housing (they will “transition to group housing”), other livestock issues, and the puppy mill industry.       Continue reading

Some Measurable Poultry-Related Success in the U.K.

David Cassuto

A while back, I relayed some info about the `Quash the Squash´ campaign by the RSPCA in the UK aimed at improving the lot of chickens.  Apparently, the campaign was/is very successful.  Despite the recession, British consumers are increasingly willing to spend more money on `higher welfare´chickens.  And, more importantly, they are buying less chicken in general.  Excellent trends, both.  Particularly the latter.  Read more about it and take a brief poll here.

Gluttony

Seth Victor

            Gluttony is the big sin, the flagship of cruelty against animals, and because of that it is the hardest for me to put into original words. So many advocates before me have written so well about the consequences of over consuming animals. The message is simple, and is articulated best by Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is a message aimed at fixing American health problems, which stem from our poor diets. In becoming better eaters, we will also become better stewards to animals. The poor treatment of factory farmed animals is a disaster, and it leads to the downfall of our health, our environment, and our economy, to say nothing of the animals who live in hell because of our dietary indulgences. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are an apt topic for any of the sins, but I’m sticking with the obvious one.  That the omnivore’s dilemma is the biggest and most oppressive issue in the animal rights world should come as no surprise to any of this blawg’s regular readers. For those of you just visiting, take some time read this post. Or this one. This one, too. It’s kind of a big deal.                Continue reading

The CAFO Hothouse

David Cassuto

The Shameless Self-Promotion Desk kicks into high gear with this from the email:

Today, on Earth Day 2010, the Animals and Society Institute is pleased to announce the release of our sixth policy paper, titled “The CAFO Hothouse: Climate Change, Industrial Agriculture and the Law.” Written by David N. Cassuto, a professor at the Pace School of Law, the paper is a very timely overview of how government policies and agribusiness interests have combined to create inhumane and unhealthy conditions within our nation’s food supply, and what that means for our planet’s future.

“The CAFO Hothouse” describes, in thorough but easily digestible detail, how CAFOs (“concentrated animal feeding operations,” commonly known as factory farms) have replaced smaller family farms in the last few decades, the direct and indirect impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions, and how better policies and practices would help mitigate the resulting environmental damage and improve conditions for billions of farmed animals.

This paper is the first in our series to address agricultural issues, and is part of our overall mission to use science-based arguments to promote more responsible public policy.

Here’s an Excerpt:    Continue reading

Ohio Issue 2 Aftermath

David Cassuto

Reports of the death of animal advocacy in Ohio in the wake of last fall’s passage of Issue 2 have been greatly exaggerated.  Ohioans for Humane Farms has begun the process of getting an initiative on the ballot that would:

1. Require the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish minimum humane standards for certain farm animals within six years after adoption of the amendment. The minimum standards would:

  • Prohibit a farm owner or operator from tethering or confining any calf raised for veal, pig during pregnancy, or egglaying hen, on a farm, for all or the majority of a day, in a manner that prevents such animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending his or her limbs, or turning around freely. This prohibition would not apply during certain times set forth in the amendment, including, but not limited to, during veterinary treatment, certain livestock exhibitions, and scientific or agricultural research. Continue reading

It’s a Girl!

Kate Blacker

Meet my new edition, Rhonda.  She was rescued by Farm Sanctuary and lives in upstate New York.  I think she has my eyes.  You, too, can sponsor a turkey just in time for the holidays.

I admit it is a bit cliché to talk about turkey cruelty on Thanksgiving.  But it is also quite an exercise in gratitude to reflect on the life and death of a Thanksgiving turkey.  I am thankful for not having my toes chopped off.  I am thankful no one will trim off a piece of my face or neck (unless I elect to have such work done and I don’t mind paying the taxes).  I am grateful that my eyes and lungs do not burn in agony as I live out the rest of my days breathing in ammonia and standing in my own waste (and the waste of everyone around me).  I am not so overdosed with antibiotics and hormones that my little legs break underneath the immense weight of my unnaturally oversized body.

Yes, our Thanksgiving turkeys are mutilated at birth and tortured to death.  Their lives are replete with pain, misery and even sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be thankful for when I compare my life to that of the turkey.  And don’t be deceived; the life of a natural/organic turkey is no better.  You can check out some “free range” turkey farm pictures here.

Maybe we don’t need to kill turkeys in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe we can capture the spirit of Thanksgiving by having compassion for one another and by treating everyone with a little kindness.

A Day of Reckoning

David Cassuto

Halloween is my birthday.  That fact alone likely would not merit the holiday’s mention here.  I note it because only this year – some forty-odd years into my marking of the day– did I stop to consider what makes this holiday unusual.  First, my son, Jesse, whose tastes seem to be rather typical for his age group, debated for weeks whether to dress up as Genghis Khan or as John Dillinger.  Other candidates on the slate include the Grim Reaper and an assassin.  This approach seems atypical of our cultural observances.

A second unique characteristic of Halloween lies with the fact that it does not revolve around the consumption of animals.  Easter and Christmas require hams, Thanksgiving involves turkeys, Passover needs a sheep shank and chicken soup, and July 4th is about barbecue.  The list goes on.  American festivals are meal-based and animals pay a mortal price for our food-related revelry.  Except, that is, during Halloween.

Continue reading

Cooped Up for another Decade

Angela Garrone

Photo from Monroe County Humane Association

Photo from Monroe County Humane Association

An important bill concerning animal rights issues was signed into law this week in Michigan.  As most of those who follow animal rights issues, specifically the treatment of animals that are processed and used in the food industry, California was the first state to ban the use of battery cages (or laying cages) in 2008.  California has also banned the use of veal crates and gestation crates.  This week Michigan has followed suit.  On October 12, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed HB 5127, which mandates pen sizes for veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows.  The law was created in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, which has a nationwide campaign to stop the use of battery cages, as well as gestation crates. (See Michigan’s Humane Society webpage for a complete list of other proposed Michigan legislation to protect animals, as well as feedback from the Humane Society.)  Michigan is now the second state to ban battery cages, the fifth to ban veal crates, and the seventh to ban gestation crates.

Continue reading

Ohio Humane Societies Come Out Against Issue 2

David Cassuto

This just in: Ohio’s largest Humane Societies have come out against Issue 2.  You can (and should) read the full skinny at Cleveland.com but here are some choice excerpts:

As Nov. 3 approaches and the debate over Issue 2 escalates, Ohio’s two largest humane societies and smaller ones, including Geauga Humane in rural Geauga County, today announced their opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment.

They join the state farmers’ union, organic food proponents and environmental groups opposing the plan to create a livestock board that would determine how billions of cows, chickens, pigs, sheep and goats are treated here.

The Cleveland Animal Protective League, Geauga Humane and Capital Area Humane serving Greater Columbus say Issue 2 would not be good for farm animals, as the 13-member appointed board would include just one humane officer.

Continue reading

Michigan Farm Animal Welfare Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

David Cassuto

The Michigan legislature has passed a bill that would give animals used in agriculture some breathing and living space.  Among other requirements, the bill requires that:

A FARM OWNER OR OPERATOR SHALL NOT TETHER OR CONFINE ANY COVERED ANIMAL ON A FARM FOR ALL OR THE MAJORITY OF ANY DAY, IN A MANNER THAT PREVENTS  SUCH ANIMAL  FROM DOING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(A) LYING DOWN, STANDING UP, OR FULLY EXTENDING ITS LIMBS.
(B) TURNING AROUND FREELY.

The bill also creates an “Animal Care Advisory Council” that is similar in many respects to the one proposed in Ohio’s Issue 2 (see Laura’s post for more on Issue 2).  It bears noting, however, that Issue 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment whereas the Michigan legislation, if enacted, would be a simple statute.  You can read a legislative analysis of the Michigan bill here.

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Ohio’s Issue 2

Laura Schierhoff

In February, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) met with members of Ohio’s livestock industry to discuss passing humane legislation in that state.  HSUS had its eye on Ohio to pass legislation to ban the use of poultry cages, veal crates and gestation stalls.  Agribusiness in Ohio knew this was not such a far fetched idea, given California’s Proposition 2 landslide ballot-initiative win last November.  Proposition 2 banned the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.  (Arizona and Florida have also passed similar measures.)  The meeting was said to be “extremely cordial” according to a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau.  However, with the fear of something like Proposition 2 going on the ballot in November, big agriculture in Ohio was scared.

Continue reading

Post Prop 2 — The Struggle Continues

826eggIn case you were wondering whether the passage of Proposition 2 would make factory farmers go quietly into that good night… Welcome to the brave new world of “colony cages.”

–David Cassuto

On Animals, Death & the Media

chickens-734793A Cal-Maine industrial egg facility in Texas caught fire last Thursday.  The facility was damaged but fortunately, no one was hurt.  Oh yeah, and 800,000 hens died.

Stephanie, over at Animal Rights – Change.Org, lays bare the media’s indifference to animals.

–David Cassuto

The Continuing Impact of Proposition 2

In the wake of Prop 2, lawmakers in California have apparently been bitten by the animal protection bug.  Legislation is working its way through both chambers that would ban tail-docking of dairy cows, ban importation of eggs from out-of-state facilities that use unacceptable battery cages, abolish large-scale puppy mills, and increase the penalties for poaching wildlife.   There are also initiatives afoot in Maine and Ohio to ban veal and gestation crates and we may soon see a similar initiative in New York.  Full story here.

–David Cassuto

Hog CAFOs and the Swine Flu Outbreak — You Do the Math

hogssm21 Flying below the media radar (at least in the United States) is an apparent link between a Smithfield Farms hog confinement facility in Veracruz, Mexico and the swine flu outbreak.  Although it has received little attention here, the issue has gotten significant coverage in Mexico.

Initial reports linked the disease’s vector to flies that reproduce in contaminated pig waste although that theory apparently does not withstand close scrutiny.  Others link it to a vicious cycle of wild ducks drinking contaminated water from sewage lagoons, landing and excreting in  “farmed” fish ponds, whose water then gets drunk by confined chickens,whose feces gets mixed into the feed to confined pigs, who then excrete the contaminants back into the sewage lagoons,which then gets drunk by the ducks, ad infinitum.

Even if it turns out that Smithfield’s facility did not spawn the virus, however, that conclusion would change little.  Adding massive confinement facilities with poor sanitation to an impoverished rural community with poor infrastructure is a recipe for disaster.  If not now then soon.

Hat tip to Daily Kos for breaking the story.  See also the OC Progressive.

David Cassuto

Kristof on Animal Rights

Yesterday’s New York Times featured an Op-Ed column by Nicholas Kristof on animal rights. The piece is titled “Humanity Even For Nonhumans”. Here’s an excerpt from the column:

“In recent years, the issue [of animal rights] has entered the mainstream, but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the suffering of animals, the question remains where to draw lines. I eagerly pushed Mr. [Peter] Singer to find his boundaries. “Do you have any compunctions about swatting a cockroach?” I asked him.

“Not much,” he replied, citing reasons to doubt that insects are capable of much suffering. Mr. Singer is somewhat unsure about shellfish, although he mostly gives them the benefit of the doubt and tends to avoid eating them.

Free-range eggs don’t seem offensive to him, but there is the awkwardness that even wholesome egg-laying operations depend on the slaughtering of males, since a male chick is executed for every female allowed to survive and lay eggs.

I asked Mr. Singer how he would weigh human lives against animal lives, and he said that he wouldn’t favor executing a human to save any number of animals. But he added that he would be troubled by the idea of keeping one human alive by torturing 10,000 hogs to death.

These are vexing questions, and different people will answer them differently. For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.

Yet however we may answer these questions, there is one profound difference from past centuries: animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.”

You can read the rest of the column  here.

- Luis Chiesa

Large Eggs, Small Eggs, No Eggs

David Cassuto

This article about how the British Free Range Egg Producers Association encourages consumers to eat smaller eggs has been getting a fair amount of play (including this post at Feminist Law Professors).  The producers note that (for obvious biological reasons) it is harder and more painful for a hen to lay a large egg than a small or medium sized one.

One could hardly quibble with the notion that laying large eggs causes more stress to the hen.  It bears emphasizing, however, that this recommendation comes from the British Free Range Egg Producers Association.  Whatever one thinks of the efficacy of free range (some varying views, here, here and here), both in the US and abroad, the practice has at its goal a less stressful environment for the hens (though it still involves the mass killing of male chicks).  If one is consuming factory farmed eggs, the size of the eggs doesn’t matter a whit.  The hens that lay the eggs live in battery cage hell for as long as it takes for them to become utterly spent, following which they get discarded like garbage (except that there are so many of them it has created a disposal problem).  Worrying about egg size when the animals endure conditions whose cruelty defies the imagination is like worrying about a blood blister on a sucking chest wound.

Prop 2 and a Divided California

number-21

Today’s New York Times includes this article about a renewal of interest in a division of California into two states – coastal counties in one and inland counties in another. According to the Times article, this latest iteration of the state subdivision movement arises out of farmers’ angry responses to Proposition 2, a state ballot initiative passed by California voters in 2008.  Here’s how the Times describes Prop 2 (here):

Proposition 2 . . . banned tight confinement of egg-laying hens, veal calves and sows.  While many food activists and politicians in the state hailed the vote as proof of consumers’ increasing interest in where their food comes from, the proposition’s passage has angry farmers and their allies wanting to put the issue of succession to a vote, perhaps as soon as 2012.

The farmers interviewed for the article represent just some “farmers’ perspectives.” In pitting “farmers” against “food activists and politicians,” the story leaves out growers interested in organic farming and locally grown products.  There are farmers who want to reduce animal suffering.  The National Black Farmers Association, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Family Farm Defenders, and Farm Forward all supported Prop 2.  The Times story got sensationalists quotes (one farmer describes supporters of Prop 2 as “think[ing] fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose”), but the Times didn’t tell the whole story.  That’s because quotes from people who think that “chickens should run loose” don’t play into the historic (and romantic) American archetypes of the pioneer-farmer.

– Bridget Crawford

FDA Reversal on Off Label Antibiotic Use: A Big Picture View

Here’s a newsflash:  Neither Laura Bush nor Condoleeza Rice think the Bush Presidency has been the worst in history.  Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to rethink…

In other less newsworthy matters, the FDA has reversed itself and decided to permit “off label” prophylactic use of cephalosporin antibiotics for industrial, confined “food” animals.  Off label use refers to administering a drug for purposes other than those for which it was tested and approved.  The FDA approved cephalosporin for treating respiratory illness in cattle and pigs as well as for a variety of human illnesses.  However, the animal industry had been making widespread use of it in other animals and for other uses.

Faced with the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance, the FDA had determined in July that using one of a dwindling number of effective antibiotics prophylactically and for other non-approved purposes in animals did not make sense.  It announced a ban on such behavior beginning on November 30th but withdrew the ban four days before it was to go into effect.  Apparently, Big Food and its allies were concerned that eliminating off label use would cause animals to suffer needlessly.  Read about their compassion here.  Of course, empathy does have limits.  For example, the possibility of not confining the animals in such close proximity apparently did not merit discussion.

Cynics among us might view the campaign to quash the rule as part of a coordinated campaign by Big Food and Big Pharma to maintain the profitability and preeminence of industrial agriculture despite ever-increasing human health risks and ongoing, routinized animal torture.  Those cynics might also view the FDA’s capitulation as a glaring example of agency capture.

But then, that’s the same kind of cynicism that causes people to misrepresent the Bush Presidency as a catastrophic failure.  As Secretary Rice observes, “historians who are now making judgments about the Bush administration and its Middle East policies aren’t very good historians.”

That must be it.

Hat tip to the Marler Blog for its disturbing and informative post on the cephalosporin issue.

David Cassuto

Sherry Colb Responds to My Post on Proposition 2

I received an e-mail from Sherry Colb (Cornell Law School) in response to my recent post disagreeing with Professor Francione’s views regarding California’s Proposition 2. She kindly gave me permission to post it on our blog. As usual, Professor Colb’s comments are thoughtful and informative. Here’s her e-mail:

—————————-

Hi Luis.

We have not met, [but] I was delighted to see your new animal blog. The more attention the issue of animal concerns gets, the better. I respect your disagreement with Gary Francione on the California proposition issue, though I think my inclination is to agree with Gary because of the opportunity costs – in lost chances to foster and encourage veganism – associated with large movements to make relatively modest changes in what is a shockingly inhumane world of animal agriculture. I have so often heard people say – when they go to an outstanding vegan restaurant – “if I could eat like this every meal, I would consider becoming a vegan.”

If the Humane Society invested in vegan restaurants and education, more people who find the prospect of veganism frightening or impractical (but ethically attractive) might consider changing. [This is important] because the cruelty that produces eggs and milk is really not better (and can often be even worse) than the cruelty that produces meat. It is not the egg or milk itself that suffered, obviously, but the hens and dairy cows that produce the eggs and milk (and who are kept in horrendous conditions even on “organic” farms and who are killed for meat when their production levels drop) and – perhaps more significantly – the male offspring of hens and dairy cows (the male chicks who are buried alive, gassed and otherwise cruelly killed as babies and the male dairy cows who are robbed of their mother’s milk and then killed as youngsters for veal). Milk simply cannot be produced without impregnating cows, and their male offspring are considered a waste of resources to be quickly slaughtered. I recently had the privilege of visiting Farm Sanctuary, and even though they do press these legislative propositions, their core message is to encourage veganism. The tour guide there had a very compelling line about dairy products – in every glass of milk, there’s a little veal. [Although] we do not know each other, I was eager to reach out because there are so few friends of animals among legal academics.

Good luck on the blog.

Best,

Sherry

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Why We Should Support California’s Proposition 2: A (Brief) Reply to Professor Francione

Several weeks ago, Professor Gary Francione urged people not to vote for California’s Proposition 2 next Tuesday (for a discussion of Proposition 2, see Suzanne McMillan’s post here). He grounded his view on the following arguments: (1) that Proposition 2 will do nothing to alleviate animal suffering in the short or long term, as it will not come into effect until 2015, and once it becomes operative it will seldom be enforced because it is riddled with exceptions, (2) that its adoption will result in increased animal exploitation because it will make the public feel better about the way that factory farmed animals are being treated, and (3) “it is important for animal advocates to send a clear message to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups to stop promoting measures like Proposition 2″.

I respectfully disagree for three reasons. First – contrary to what Francione contends – it is impossible to know ex ante whether the adoption of Proposition 2 will result in a decrease of animal suffering in the short term. While it is true that the measure will not come into effect until January 1, 2015, it is unliklely that factory farms will wait until New Year’s Eve 2014 to change their practices to conform to the new law. Some will surely begin confining their animals in a way that allows them to fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely well before the 2015 deadline. As a result, we should expect to see animal suffering in California increasingly diminish during the next several years, even if some of the suffering that the measure is designed to prevent won’t be eliminated until after 2014. Furthermore, even if it turns out that animal suffering is not reduced meaninfully until Proposition 2 comes into effect, that is no reason to vote against it. A law that requires farm owners to confine their animals in spaces that allow them to move more freely is better than what we have now, even if it will not become operative for several years. Professor Francione’s contention that the law will not significantly reduce animal suffering in the long term because it is riddled with exceptions is difficult to understand. As was pointed out in an Editorial of the San Francisco Chronicle that urged voters to reject Proposition 2 because it could destroy California’s egg producing industry, “more than 90 percent of [the State's] 20 million egg-laying hens are kept in the battery cages that would be outlawed under Proposition 2.” This seems to be an accurate estimate, as the measure provides exceptions for scientific or agricultural research, veterinary practices, transportation, state and county fair exhibitions and during the act of slaugthering the animal. While these exceptions certainly allow for the confinement of a significant number of animals in crates and cages that do not allow them to move freely, they do not reach a majority of the 20 million egg-laying hens that are kept in battery cages in California. Therefore, it is odd to claim that Proposition 2 will not substantially decrease animal suffering because of these exceptions. Even if we conservatively predict that only half of California’s egg laying hens will be confined in a larger space due to the new law, we will be able to reduce the suffering of about 10 million animals. While not a perfect outcome, this would surely be a welcome development.

Francione’s claim that the adoption of Proposition 2 will lead to increased animal exploitation because it will “make the consumption of animals more acceptable” is akin to claiming that laws banning restaurants from using trans fat will meaningfully increase the demand for french fries and fried chicken because they make their consumption more healthy. The hard truth is that a great majority of people will continue to eat factory farmed products (and french fries and fried chicken) regardless of whether measures banning battery cages (or trans fat) are enacted. Others – like me – will continue to be vegetarians and avoid french fries even if such laws are adopted. Ultimately, laws like this one don’t exert much influence over people’s eating habits. Therefore, I believe that the fear that Proposition 2 will result in increased animal exploitation is overblown.

Finally, Francione’s claim that rejecting Proposition 2 is important because it sends a message to animal advocacy groups to stop promoting such measures is not really an argument against voting against the law, unless one believes that these types of laws do not significantly reduce animal suffering. For the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraphs, I strongly believe that the enactment of Proposition 2 will meaningfully diminish the suffering of animals. Therefore, I hope that Californians support it and commend the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary for promoting its adoption.

Luis Chiesa

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