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

Animal Welfare Trust Summer Grants

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Welfare Trust is currently seeking applicants for our 2015 Student Grant Program. The grant provides up to $5000 per recipient for graduate students to work on an independent research project under faculty supervision or for an unpaid position within an established organization. Internships can be for a summer, semester, or year-long duration. Applications are due on March 1, 2015. Animal Welfare Trust believes that we can make a meaningful contribution to animal welfare by encouraging students to work on projects that facilitate positive reform for animals. Details about the grant program, the application process, and information on past recipients can be found on our website.

Our particular areas of interest are farm animal welfare, humane education and pro-vegetarian/vegan campaigns (though by no means are we limited to these areas). Please pass this announcement on to any students you think may be interested and feel free to cross post as well.

If you have any questions, please contact me.
Thank you!

Ali Berman
Animal Welfare Trust
141 Halstead Avenue, Suite 301
Mamaroneck, NY 10543
914-589-6778
ali@animalwelfaretrust.org
www.animalwelfaretrust.org

On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

Continue reading

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

What the 2014 Farm Bill means for animals

Seth VictorFarm Bill

Although the Farm Bill is a comprehensive and nuanced piece of legislature that keeps food on our tables, perhaps the most notable part about this year’s version is something that is not in it: the “King Amendment”, a criticized hypocritical measure,  did not make the final cut, due in part to a large outcry against stripping states of their ability to regulate their own agriculture. As The Huffington Post reports, industrial agriculture was checked on several other fronts as well, including measures that would have loosened corporations’ requirements for labeling animal products. It is also now a federal crime to attend or take a child under the age of sixteen to an animal fighting event. There are other very important aspects of the law, such as the reduction of Food Stamps and a drastic curtailing of farm subsidies. Still, when looking at what was at risk directly affecting animals, this one counts as a win.

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow”: A Call to Veganism?

Maeve Flanagan

             Recently, Chipotle released an animated short film designed to draw attention to the perils of processed food, while, of course, trying to get people to play the company’s new online game.  Chipotle, which was primarily owned by McDonalds until 2006, is known in the industry for its efforts to use organic ingredients and naturally raised animals in its menu.  The short film is certainly touching- there are images of adorable animated cows packed in tight crates and chickens being pumped with what are presumably hormones.  The main character, the Scarecrow, is working in a food processing factory as a repair man and gets a first hand look at these horrifying practices.  The Scarecrow returns home to his charming cottage to find that a pepper (could it be a chipotle pepper?) has grown in his garden.  He works hard in this newly

Chipotle scarecrowblossoming garden until he has enough food to open a stand in the city where he once worked.  But there’s something missing from the Scarecrow’s new restaurant- meat. Continue reading

New Jersey Gestation Crate Bill …

Megan Hopper-Rebegea

Gestation_crates_5On May 14, 3013, the New Jersey Assembly passed NJ A.3250 / S.1921, a Bill to Ban Cruel Confinement of Breeding Pigs by a vote of 60 to 5 in the Assembly and 29 to 4 in the Senate.  The legislation prohibits the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in crates that do not allow the animals to turn around.  If the legislation had been signed by Governor Chris Christie, it would have made New Jersey the tenth state to outlaw these types of gestation crates.  A.3250 / S.1921 would require that breeding pigs be able to at least stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs.  Continue reading

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