Posted: July 28th, 2008 - 6:31pm
by Michelle Mazur
I’ve never been much of a fan of cooking shows. The chefs talk, they cook, they even sometimes teach poor food safety. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has taken the typical format of a cooking show and added an extra twist; audience members witness the killing of the chicken used in the meal. Animal rights groups and poultry farmers are outraged over his new television show “Jamie’s Fowl Dinners.”
"I don't think it's sensational to show people the reality of how chickens live and die at the moment. It may be upsetting for some people but that's how things are. And if seeing some of the practices helps to change the shopping habits of just 5 per cent of people watching, then it will be worth it.”
Channel 4 factual entertainment boss Andrew Mackenzie said: "Jamie's simple message, in quite an overt way, will be: 'If you know what happens to a chicken before arriving on your plate, would you change the way you think about chicken? Would you still eat it?'"
Oliver had criticized Sainbury’s supermarket over its involvement on his show and has since apologized for it. It appears that his main goal to is encourage people to purchase free-range and organic chicken raised in less intensive facilities. However I found that most of the program depicting the slaughter of chickens seems to push people towards vegetarianism rather than purchasing their chickens from another source. You be the judge.
The new policy states "that the AVMA supports a change in veal husbandry practices that severely restrict movement, to housing systems that allow for greater freedom of movement without compromising health or welfare."
The former policy consisted of only a few points on living conditions, including that the area the calves are kept in permits them to stretch, stand, and lie down comfortably.
"This is encouraging on two levels," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA chief executive officer. "First, we are proactively seeking to improve the welfare of veal calves, and second, the resolution still affords the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee the opportunity to do a comprehensive analysis of the science and to consider all relevant perspectives of veal calf production."
The confinement of veal calves and other farm animals is one of many issues that animal activists are passionate about. Currently the Human Society of the United States is leading a campaign in California to pass legislation know as Proposition 2. Prop 2 is aimed mostly towards egg-laying hens, pregnant sows, and calves raised for veal in order to improve their living conditions. Perhaps the steps taken by the AVMA with new veal calf policies will help to continue their campaign.
One day after I was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture, I learned of the illegal acts of inhumane handling that took place at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company in Chino, California. I immediately called upon the Office of the Inspector General and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to determine how this happened and what could be done in the future to ensure that animals are treated humanely.
The 60-day enhanced surveillance period concluded on May 6 and while we are still analyzing those results, today I am announcing that USDA will begin working on a proposed rule to prohibit the slaughter of all disabled non-ambulatory cattle, also know as "downer cattle." In other words, I am calling for the end of the exceptions in the so called "downer rule."
Last year, of the nearly 34 million cattle that were slaughtered, under 1,000 cattle that were re-inspected were actually approved by the veterinarian for slaughter. This represents less than 0.003 percent of cattle slaughtered annually. As you can see, this number is minimal.
The current rule, which focuses on cattle that went down after they have already passed pre-slaughter inspection, has been challenging to communicate and has, at times, been confusing to consumers.
To maintain consumer confidence in the food supply, eliminate further misunderstanding of the rule and, ultimately, to make a positive impact on the humane handling of cattle, I believe it is sound policy to simplify this matter by initiating a complete ban on the slaughter of downer cattle that go down after initial inspection.
FSIS will draft a proposed rule to remove the exception that allows certain injured cattle to proceed to slaughter. This action is expected to provide additional efficiencies to food safety inspection by removing the step that requires inspection workforce to determine when non-ambulatory cattle are safe to slaughter.
The decision to ban all non-ambulatory cattle from slaughter will positively impact the humane handling of cattle by reducing the incentive to send marginally weakened cattle to market.
Cattle producers, transporters and slaughter establishments alike will be encouraged to enhance humane handling practices, as there will no longer be any market for cattle that are too weak to rise or walk on their own.
The Independant (UK) ( had an assortment of free range egg articles yesterday, including one from Joanna Lumley. Doug says that Joanna Lumley is famous; in a Coronation Street kind of way, I guess.
Lumley writes that: Sixty-two per cent of hens in the UK still endure life sentences of frustration and deprivation in the battery cage. How can we let such cruelty continue? For the past two years, Compassion in World Farming has been engaging with the corporate world, persuading big players to abandon battery eggs and pledge to use eggs from more humane systems – at least from barn-kept hens, though free-range is best.
Celebs getting involved with poultry standards isn't a new issue in the UK: back in January, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall took part in documentaries discussing poultry-raising standards and urging the public to switch to consumption of a more humane product. Soon after the documentaries aired, Joanna Blythman (Jan 13, 2008) wrote that she didn't see the latest celebrity chef campaign yielding any better results [than past efforts]:
The current round of public breast-beating on factory-farmed poultry provokes a sense of déja vu. If Britain really was concerned enough to support more progressive farming methods with its purse, then we would have seen an improvement in animal welfare by now.
But Blythman was apparently wrong. In February it was reported that sales of factory-farmed chickens slumped post-documentary campaign to raise awareness implore consumers to pay more to improve the animals' welfare. According to the Independent (Feb 28, 2008):
Sales of free-range poultry shot up by 35 per cent last month compared with January 2007, while sales of standard indoor birds fell by 7 per cent, according to a survey of 25,000 shoppers by the market research company TNS.
Celeb endorsements of food issues isn't strictly a British tactic either. Pam Anderson was famously linked to PETA animal welfare protests at KFC outlets a few years ago and maybe the threat of these protests resulted in Burger King's animal welfare systems? In a Burger King press release PETA Vice President, Bruce Friedrich was quoted as saying “The BURGER KING brand’s influence has moved the entire animal industry. The availability of cage free products is growing, a credit to BKC’s leadership on the issue.” California, hot bed of US celebrity action will be voting on animal welfare legislation, "The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act" which would mandate roomier housing for pregnant sows, veal calves and laying hens.
The message to the food industry is that celebs (no matter how minor, or how British) can make a stir (whether around animal welfare, local diets, food safety, etc.) and really affect purchasing habits. So be prepared and find a way to work alongside them on the issues; you can't ignore them.
Dr. Raymond has spoken: the U.S. Department of Agriculture needs neither videocameras nor more inspectors to police slaughterhouses after the country's largest beef recall earlier this year.
Everything is just fine.
Raymond, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's undersecretary for food safety (right, on the left, at Marler's food safety bash last week), told a House subcommittee that USDA has enough food inspectors after hiring more than 190 last year and videotaping meat plant operations would be costly and practically difficult to implement, adding, "It's not as simple as a camera," and that the agency was "not stretched too thin." Raymond's response angered House members, who said the recall of beef slaughtered in the Hallmark/Westland plant in Chino, Calif., showed a need for improvements.
The beef was recalled after the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video showing the mistreatment of sick cows at the Westland/Hallmark plant in Chino, Calif.
And unlike 12th century France, USDA has access to the same video technology that a single undercover worker -- not the five USDA inspectors on-site -- was able to use to bring down a large corporation. Producers and processors who say their food is safe should be able to prove it. Producers and processors who say they treat animals humanely should be able to prove it.
Julie Schmit reports in USA Today Tuesday that the abuse of non-ambulatory cattle at a California slaughterhouse has renewed calls for a ban on the slaughter of such animals, and newly released government records show such mishandling in past years was more than a rare occurrence.
The Animal Welfare Institute, an animal-protection group, said that more than 10% of the humane-slaughter violations issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the 18 months ended March 2004 detailed improper treatment of animals that couldn't walk — mostly cattle.
The finding, drawn from USDA records the institute recently received in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, is included in a report to be released Tuesday on humane-slaughter violations. It comes as the USDA steps up checks on conditions at the nation's 900 slaughterhouses following abuses at Westland/Hallmark Meat, now at the heart of the biggest beef recall ever.
An undercover animal-rights worker at the plant used a video camera to document workers moving downed cows with forklifts, sticking them repeatedly with electric prods and spraying water down their noses to make them stand, allegedly to get them to slaughter (below).
The USDA called the actions "egregious violations of humane-handling regulations." American Meat Institute (AMI) spokeswoman Janet Riley called them an "anomaly."
But the USDA records obtained by the Animal Welfare Institute describe 501 humane-handling or slaughter violations that occurred at other slaughter plants. At one plant, a downed cow was pushed 15 feet with a forklift. Other companies were cited for dragging downed but conscious animals, letting downed cattle be trampled and stood on by others and, in one case, using "excessive force" with a rope and an electric prod to get a downed cow to stand, the enforcement records say.
As I wrote in Feb., the city leaders in Toulouse, France, figured out by 1184 that selling the meat of sick animals was forbidden unless the buyer was warned.
In the Middle Ages, violation of regulations ranged from fines to flogging to banishment._Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. will be flogged in the media and the two-year recall should effectively banish the company.
But unlike 12th century France, USDA has access to the same video technology that a single undercover worker -- not the five USDA inspectors on-site -- was able to use to bring down a large corporation. Producers and processors who say their food is safe should be able to prove it. Producers and processors who say they treat animals humanely should be able to prove it.
Posted: February 19th, 2008 - 8:57pm
by Doug Powell
I spend several hours each day editing news, writing, tapping away at the computer. I do most of this on my living room couch, usually with some sort of TV on in the background. Earlier today, there was a semi-decent movie on, which then went straight into 1985's Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I glanced up now and then, just cause it was so terrible.
"We urge swift investigation and action so that the public confidence in our food supply is not lost and a message is sent that mistreatment of animals will not be tolerated by anyone. … (The case) represents one of the worst violations of food safety laws in the country and one of the most egregious cases of animal cruelty I've ever seen. Because the State of California has no jurisdiction in this matter, my administration stands ready to assist the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this investigation in any way possible. … If these allegations are proven to be true and an isolated case, we expect full criminal prosecution. If this is a willful and broad-based corporate practice, we urge you to shut the plant down and pursue full prosecution of those involved."
Posted: February 19th, 2008 - 7:31pm
by Doug Powell
The undercover investigator behind the biggest beef recall in U.S. history -- who will admit he is a vegan -- told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview Monday, that his six weeks at a Chino slaughterhouse that supplied meat to school lunch programs and supermarkets throughout the U.S. provided an abundance of evidence of abuse.
"It was so blatant, so commonplace. It was so in-your-face . . . they were pushing animals we felt never should have qualified for human consumption."
The investigator said most of the animals slaughtered at Hallmark/Westland were former dairy cattle -- many, he added, already weak and emaciated when they were trucked in.
On his first day, a cow collapsed on its way to the slaughter box, and two workers immediately jumped into the chute. One grabbed the cow by its tail and the other shocked it with electrical prods. When that failed, workers killed the cow on the spot, hooked a chain around the animal's neck and dragged it all the way into the slaughter box on its knees.
The undercover said he saw weaker animals being prodded upright, or having water shot into their nostrils before shakily walking to slaughter. Some downer cows were hauled with chains. He said a supervisor would order his men to "get them up! Get them up!" when cows seemed too sick to walk.
Posted: February 6th, 2008 - 2:45pm
by Doug Powell
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has shut down a meat processing company after concluding workers committed egregious acts of animal cruelty.
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that the move came nearly a week after the Humane Society of the United States released video showing employees of the Westland Meat Co. tormenting cows that were too injured or weak to stand.
When the video was released last week, the USDA suspended business with the company, sent a team of investigators to the Chino plant and ordered schools across the country to stop serving beef from the company to children.
An employee of the Humane Society of the United States worked undercover inside the company for about six weeks in the fall, secretly recording what went on.
His video shows what appear to be crippled cows dragged with forklifts, sprayed in the face with a high-pressure water hose and poked in the eye with a stick.
The images sparked concern not only from animal-welfare advocates, but from food-safety experts, who feared the company might have used the tactic to prod sick animals to slaughter in violation of state and federal regulations.
So-called "downer" cows, or those that are not able to get up, are more likely to produce beef contaminated with foodborne illnesses such as mad cow disease, E. coli and salmonella.