|Enewsletter • December 4, 2002|
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"Opening this office is another step toward improving Tyson Foods' ability to forecast and shape the many new challenges and opportunities created since Tyson acquired the nation's largest beef and pork company, IBP inc., last year."
Radio Discussion of Animal Issues (real audio)
Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, and Michael Pollan, author of "An Animal's Place," discuss animal rights, liberation, and welfare. These two discussions are excellent clarifications of the relevant positions, including Pollan's backstory.
"Witnessing how animals are treated and then slaughtered for the food industry may make consumers think twice about the amount of meat they eat, Harris said. Hessler said she wants people to think about the ethics and principles involved in slaughtering animals for the fast food industry. Despite these implications, the industry can still attract consumers."
"Vegans may practice their animal-free diets and lifestyles religiously, but they're not practicing a religion. At least not in the eyes of California's courts."
"The rush to embrace a meat-free lifestyle seems to be over - the rate at which Britons are climbing aboard the tofu wagon has slowed. It is said that Madonna, for so long a loud and proud vegetarian, has started to eat meat. It would seem that she is not alone. Now that BSE, e coli and foot-and-mouth scares have eased, the rate at which people are eschewing meat altogether has slowed."
"Food poisoning is becoming harder to treat with drugs like Cipro because poultry producers are using a similar drug made by Bayer Corp. to treat chickens for respiratory disease, federal officials say. The U.S. Centers for Disease will report today that 19 percent of Campylobacter food poisonings last year were caused by Cipro-resistant bacteria, up 5 percent from 2000. And an upcoming report by a University of Pennsylvania researcher indicates the rate of resistant infections reached 40 percent in the Philadelphia area last year. 'It's really an incredible disaster,' said Dr. Richard Michaels."
A nine-month Dayton Daily News (part 1, part 2, part 3, Ill farm, egg farms) examination traced many problems on large farms to lax standards, uneven enforcement and rules that vary from state to state. The Daily News traveled to 11 states and the Netherlands, and compiled a comprehensive database of megafarm regulations in every state. The examination found:
Megafarms are rapidly replacing small and midsized livestock farms. Government statistics show megafarms grew 47 percent from 1982 to 1997, while small and midsized farms declined 25 percent. Put another way, about 2,600 megafarms replaced 339,000 smaller farms.
State after state is overhauling megafarm regulations, but operators can still go years without facing inspections, must violate rules repeatedly to risk harsh penalties and are exempt from many environmental standards. Half the states don't require megafarms to meet air-quality standards and just three states enforce limits on toxic gas from large farms.
Megafarms increasingly operate like factories yet skirt federal government standards designed to protect the public and the environment from industrial pollutants. A federal lawsuit in Kentucky seeks to have 80 chicken houses regulated as industrial plants, claiming their ammonia emissions pose a public health threat. Buckeye Egg reported releasing 3.3 million pounds of ammonia in 2000, ranking it among the state's top factories, power plants and other industrial sources.
Pollution investigations linked to Ohio's livestock farms are on the rise. Livestock farming was suspected in 306 investigations since 1993, up 26 percent from the previous decade. In 2001 and 2002, the state linked 76 incidents to livestock operations – more than from any other source, including oil spills and sewage. An estimated 74,000 fish were killed in those incidents.
At least 24 people in the Midwest have died from inhaling hydrogen sulfide and methane from manure since the 1970s, including fifth-generation Michigan dairy farmer Carl Theuerkauf and four members of his family, who collapsed one by one in 1989 after breathing methane gas from a manure pit. But the death toll from manure may be much higher. Cryptosporidium, a microorganism found in animal waste, killed 104 people and sickened 403,000 others in Milwaukee in 1993 in an outbreak some blamed on manure from nearby livestock farms. A local health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suspected that manure caused seven miscarriages in a small farming community in Indiana between 1991 and 1993 by contaminating wells.
"Big Chicken" often equals less regulation. Twenty-three states exempt dry-litter poultry operations – the bulk of their chicken farms – from regulations that other megafarms must follow. They include Iowa, the nation's top egg-producing state; North Carolina, the top turkey-producing state; and Georgia and Arkansas, the top two producers of meat chickens. The exemption rankles officials in some neighboring states. Oklahoma and Arkansas are embroiled in a border war about pollution run-off from tons of manure flowing from chicken houses in Arkansas to scenic rivers in Oklahoma.
"Yes, we are getting cheap food, but we're being sold a bill of goods," said Don Stull, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas. "If we look at the real costs – costs to the environment, costs of the loss of the family farm and costs to rural communities – what price are we really paying for that?"
The New York Times Sunday Magazine Letters, November 22, 2002
"When Michael Pollan writes about animals, an avalanche of mail follows. This time, hundreds of readers applauded his advocacy of farms where animals first have good lives and then have good deaths. But several couldn't help wondering whether Pollan wasn't having his cow and eating it, too?"
I'd like to thank Michael Pollan for his intelligent
and respectful treatment of the animal rights issue. I particularly
enjoyed the arguments he jotted down as he read Peter Singer's Animal
Liberation, for I did the same thing when I first read the book
as a college sophomore. And while I have ultimately drawn different
conclusions than Pollan has (I could not in good conscience resume
eating meat), turning factory farms into the kind of animal-friendly
operations Pollan writes about would be a major advance.
Something truly exciting is happening in America. The
voters of Florida have just outlawed sow crates, which pig producers
throughout America use to confine pregnant sows so tightly that for
months at a time they cannot walk a single step or even turn around.
The magazine published Michael Pollan's powerful argument against
consuming animal products from factory farms. And several weeks ago,
in The Wall Street Journal, the executive editor of the conservative
Weekly Standard favorably reviewed Matthew Scully's Dominion,
a book by a former speechwriter for George W. Bush that says that
what we are doing to farm animals is simply without mercy. At last,
Americans from all sides of the political spectrum are beginning
to understand that to reduce animals to mere machines for producing
flesh, eggs and milk is ethically indefensible.
As a PETA member for most of my life, I agree with
many of Pollan's conclusions and his efforts to change his own habits
and philosophy. It seems that all we can hope for is a society of
informed consumers who ''dare to look.''
Pollan's thesis is thoughtful, and certainly our domesticated
animals would appreciate the reforms he suggests as a step in the
right direction. But in the end, his arguments are still not much
more than variations on the usual rationalizations made by those
far less compassionate. Perhaps Pollan's new dietary category ought
to be this: excusavore.
Pollan's article was liberating. I think the reality
is that most of us do know what goes on in industrial meat-processing
plants but choose to ignore it. Mass witnessing of slaughter, through
the Internet or television, might change our attitudes.