Sunday, October 19, 2008

Californians to Vote on Prop 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act

This November, voters in California will vote on Proposition 2, a ballot measure that would greatly reduce the suffering of animals raised for food. As factory farms look to generate more and more profit, the animals they house are granted less and less space to live in. Factory farms can cram pigs, cows and calves, and chickens into cages and crates so small that the animals can not even turn around, spread their wings or limbs, or exhibit any of their natural behaviors. These animals can be confined in such cramped quarters for their entire lives. If you saw a neighbor's dog housed in the way our farm animals are, you would likely call the police or the SPCA, so why we do allow such inhumane treatment of animals we raise for food?

Free Range Studios created this short video to support Prop 2, and you can even see Hillary Duff say four words I never expected to hear pass her lips--"Center for Food Safety"--in another supporting video.

What is a Factory Farm? The government calls these facilities Concentrated (or Confined) Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a CAFO as “new and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the number of animals specified” in categories that they list out. In addition, “there’s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season.”

According to the EPA, a large CAFO includes 1000 cattle (other than dairy, which is 700), 2500 hogs over 55 pounds, or 125,000 chickens (as long as a liquid manure system isn’t used). A liquid manure system is when the animal’s urine and feces are mixed with water and held either under the facility or outside in huge open air lagoons - these manure systems create a lot of pollution (which many times taxpayers end up paying for). The chickens they refer to are chickens other than laying hens – laying hens must number between 30,000 - 82,000, depending on how the manure is handled.

A medium factory farm (CAFO) has between 300-999 cattle other than dairy (200-699 if dairy), 750-2,499 hogs if 55 pounds or more, and 37,500 to 124,999 chickens (other than hens that lay eggs) if the facility doesn’t use a liquid manure handling system.

Factory farms cut corners and drive family farmers out of business when they put profits ahead of animal welfare and our health. Factory farms have put our health at risk by keeping animals in overcrowded, inhumane conditions. Cramming tens of thousands of animals into tiny cages fosters the spread of animal diseases that threaten human health. Low doses of antibiotics are administered regularly to animals in a preemptive move to ward off the diseases bred by unnatural, unsanitary conditions. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are regularly added to the feed of livestock and poultry that are not sick—a practice with serious consequences for our health; Bacteria that are constantly exposed to antibiotics develop antibiotic resistance. This means that when humans get sick from resistant bacteria, the antibiotics prescribed by doctors don’t work. In addition to preventive medicines, animals are fed hormones and antibiotics to promote faster growth.

Factory farming also hurts our environment and rural communities. The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new factory farms because of the devastating effects these operations can have on surrounding communities. Factory farms often spread waste on the ground untreated — contaminating our waterways, lakes, groundwater, soil, and air.

Prop 2 is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, and the California Veterinary Medical Association. For more information on Prop 2, visit the Yes on Prop 2! website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Banksy hits New York with Pet Store and Charcoal Grill

As if anyone needed any more convincing of the strange genius that is Banksy, the Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill may well do it. In his first attempt at using animatronics, Banksy brings to the West Village a visual smack in the face about factory farming, where our food comes from, and how we treat the animals that provide it.

From fish sticks swimming happily in a fishbowl, to hot dogs in terrariums, to baby chicken nuggets eating barbeque sauce, Banksy's "shop" is unnerving to say the least. Banksy was quoted by the Wooster Collective on the exhibit:

"I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming, but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing."

For you New Yorkers, or those of you excited enough to go, Banksy's Pet Shop will be open 10am to Midnight daily through Halloween. The shop is located at 89 West 7th Avenue.

Photos and Video from the Wooster Collective

Thursday, August 7, 2008


rBST Marketed as Posilac Was Considered Flagship Product of Agricultural Biotechnology

Center for Food Safety and Other Consumer and Farm Groups Declare a Victory for Consumers in “Milk Wars” Over the Use of the Artificial Growth Hormone

Washington, DC, August 6, 2008 – Today, the Center for Food Safety and other consumers and farm groups declared a victory for consumers in the ongoing ‘milk wars’ when the the Monsanto Company announced this morning that it was “pursuing a divestiture of its dairy product, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), in the upcoming months.” This decision by the biotech giant to drop its line of artificial bovine growth hormones, Monsanto’s first biotech product, comes after a nearly five-year decline in use of rBST, which was marketed under the name “Posilac”.

“What’s happened today could be a great victory for the American consumer,” says Andrew Kimbrell, founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Monsanto has recognized that consumers have made a choice to avoid milk made with genetically engineered growth hormones, and that the dairies and markets that serve their needs are not buying milk made with their product. They have clearly judged the time right to get out of the failing artificial growth hormone business.”

In 1994, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone, the FDA also said that the following label statement, in proper context, is acceptable: “from cows not treated with rBST.” Last year, Monsanto asked FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to declare these labels to be misleading. In August 2007, the FTC wrote to Monsanto, “The FTC staff agrees with FDA that food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST.”

Subsequent attempts by Monsanto to ban such labeling at the state level have met with strong resistance from local consumers, advocacy groups, farmers and dairies. Earlier this summer, an overwhelming public backlash forced Pennsylvania Governor Rendell to rescind an order from his Dept. of Agriculture to remove labels from milk identifying it as produced without use of rBGH. A similar rule put forward in Ohio is now under legal challenge by groups representing farmers, dairies and consumers (the Center for Food Safety is a co-plaintiff).

“When Monsanto failed to get the federal government to remove “rBST-Free” labels, they went after states like Pennsylvania and Ohio to ban labels, but they’ve been fought every step of the way,” said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. “They have clearly seen and understood that public demand is in favor of transparency and truth when it comes to what’s on our plates.”

Scientists and physicians have long raised questions about the long-term safety of consuming milk from cows treated with rBGH, concerns stemming from the milk’s increased levels of insulin-like growth factor, another powerful hormone. Regulators in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all 27 nations of the European Union have banned rbGH due to adverse effects on animal health. Cows injected with the hormone show increased risks for infertility and lameness as well as for udder infections, which are treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic use on animals is a major cause of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a major public health threat.

Numerous polls show that there is widespread consumer demand for milk produced by cows not treated with artificial hormones and the market is responding to that demand. A June 2007 Consumer Reports National Research Center poll of over 1,000 people nationwide found that 76 percent of consumers were concerned with dairy cows given synthetic growth hormones and 88 percent agreed that milk from cows raised without synthetic bovine growth hormone should be allowed to be labeled as such.

Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone business has been in decline since 2002, according to a recent USDA report. The number of dairy cows injected with rBGH dropped from 22.3 percent of all U.S. cows in 2002 to 17.2 percent in 2007, a nearly 23 percent drop. This trend in response to market demand continues: in 2008, many more dairies have announced that are going rBST-free.