Progress at the Cost of Our Humanity

Seth Victor

The New York Times this week published an investigation into U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and, perhaps predictably, the results are disturbing. I heartily suggest reading the whole article, but for those in a rush, here are some of the interesting takeaway points:

  • U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is pioneering ways to produce meat more efficiently and cheaply via re-engineering farmed animals through surgery and breeding techniques
  • In pursuing this research, animal welfare has taken a backseat. For example, since 1985, 6,500 out of the 580,000 animals the center has housed have starved. 625 have died from mastitis, an easily treatable infection.
  • Nearly 10 million piglets have been crushed by their mothers each year, not because this is what mothers naturally do, but because they are being forced to have larger litters of weak piglets, and the mothers themselves are artificially larger, kept alive longer to reproduce.
  • For thirty-one years, the Center worked on genetically modifying cows to regularly produce twins, noting that single births were not an efficient way to produce meat. By injecting cows with embryos from other cows that birthed twins, and then injecting them with semen from bulls who sired twins, the Center produced cows that have a 55% chance of having twins, when naturally the chances are 3%. Many of the female calves of twins are born with deformed vaginas, and the artificially large wombs create birthing problems even for single calves. Over 16% of the twins died.
  • Thirty to forty cows die each year from exposure to bad weather, not including storms, in which several hundred more die.
  • 245 animals have died since 1985 due to treatable abscesses.
  • In 1990, the Center tried to create larger lambs by injecting pregnant ewes with an excessive amount of male hormone testosterone. Instead, the lambs were born with deformed genitals, which made urination difficult.
  • In 1989, the Center locked a young cow in place in a pen with six bulls for over an hour to determine the bulls’ libidos. The industry standard is to do this with one bull for fifteen minutes. By the time a vet was called, the cows hind legs were broken from being mounted, and she died within a few hours.
  • The scientists charged with administering the experiments, surgeries, and to euthanize do not have medical degrees. One retired scientist at the Center was quoted saying, “A vet has no business coming in and telling you how to do it. Surgery is an art you get through practice.”
  • “The leaner pigs that the center helped develop, for example, are so low in fat that one in five females cannot reproduce; center scientists have been operating on pigs’ ovaries and brains in an attempt to make the sows more fertile.”
  • Regarding oversight, “A Times examination of 850 experimental protocols since 1985 showed that the approvals [for experiments] were typically made by six or fewer staff members, often including the lead researchers for the experiment. The few questions asked dealt mostly with housekeeping matters like scheduling and the availability of animals.”
  • “The language in the protocols is revealing. While the words “profit” or “production efficiency” appear 111 times, “pain” comes up only twice.”

Continue reading

Environment, Ethics, & the Factory Farm

David Cassuto

PigletBitingCagelgOnce again, the Shameless Self-Promotion Desk whirs into action.  This new piece, forthcoming in the South Texas Law Review, is a transcription of a lecture I gave there last spring.  Here is the abstract:

What are the ethics behind factory farming? What are the ethical implications? This essay (transcribed from a lecture given at the South Texas College of Law) focuses on the environmental implications while defining those environmental implications through the lens of animal law and ethics.

Farms have become factories, and the animals raised in those factories are simply commodities. That is why we cannot have a discussion about Continue reading

The Troubling Path from Pig to Pork Chop

By ANDREW C. REVKIN (x-post from Dot Earth Blog)

In a Mother Jones post, Tom Philpott has aptly summarized the issues raised by a new Humane Society of the United States investigation and video report on the conditions in which pigs are propagated by two big Oklahoma pork suppliers:

The remarkable thing…is how banal it is. No illegal acts like “downer” animals being forced down the kill line with fork lifts, or getting their brains bashed in with a pickax. What we have here is the everyday reality of pigs’ lives on a factory farm, without regulations flouted or spectacular violence committed. It is abuse routinized and regimented, honed into a profitable business model. [Read the rest.]

The Humane Society findings focus on the practice of keeping pregnant sows for months in cages barely bigger than the animal. The group’s Web site notes that laws banning gestation crates have been passed in eight states – Ohio,ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaMaineMichigan, and Oregon – with bills pending in Delaware, Rhode IslandNew Hampshire, Connecticut,MassachusettsVermont, New Jersey and New York.

The group credits many retailers — including Burger KingWendy’s,Subway and Safeway – for moving away from producers that use gestation crates.

6:33 p.m. | Updated below | The Oklahoma Pork Council told the state’s KTOK radio station: Continue reading

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Good article in GOOD Magazine on environmentalism and industrial agriculture featuring an interview w/me.

Going Dutch – National Debate on Factory Farming

Laurens Peters

As is the case in many countries, Holland’s factory farming business has always been largely hidden from the ordinary consumer’s view. This is no small feat in a country that slaughters half a billion farm animals per year. Holland is as densely populated as New Jersey, less than twice its size. Over the past five years however, the number of factory farms (loosely defined as >12,500 pigs, >185,000 egg laying chicken, > 300 milk cows per farm according to Dutch animal welfare organization WakkerDier) has almost tripled, sparking local resistance and debate.   Continue reading

Do You Know What It Means for a Vegan to Miss New Orleans?

Douglas Doneson

No matter how many cups of Yerba Mate I drink or how many lamps I turn on (or off) to get the right lighting, I can’t focus on my law school work. After living in New Orleans for close to six years my body knows Mardi Gras is approaching. It knows I should be there. Anyone who has been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras knows that once the thought of Mardi Gras comes to mind, so many good memories are recalled and flow throughout the brain.

One memory that always comes to mind is the amazing food New Orleans has to offer.  This is a funny thought for me because I am vegan. I actually stopped eating meat, while working at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 2007. But for some reason when I think about New Orleans, food is always the first thought that come to mind. Not surprisingly, New Orleans has a pretty small selection of vegan restaurants.  One of my favorite qualities of New Orleans, its stagnancy, is also its worst enemy.  Continue reading

One Million Pounds of Cow Flesh Recalled

David Cassuto

That’s 2,300 cows.  Killed for absolutely nothing.  Well, not nothing — to get blamed for making people sick.  I wonder if anyone would have gotten sick if no one had pumped them full of antibiotics and corn and then killed them.

Full story here.