Animal Agriculture and Its Negative Impact on Climate Change

https://sentientmedia.org/animal-agriculture-climate-change/

One of the most overlooked factors of accelerated climate change is animal agriculture. Could changes to the human diet help us slow down the climate crisis?Reading Time: 6 minutes

Animal agriculture has long left its mark upon the earth. Forests have fallen and grasslands trampled in favor of crops and pastureland. Now, however, this sector’s impacts are being felt in the atmosphere – carrying troubling implications for every living thing on the planet.

The agriculture sector is one of the biggest drivers of anthropogenic – meaning human-caused – climate change. Animal agriculture, which sees the raising and processing of ruminants, poultry, and marine life, accounts for some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses. Global temperatures rise as forest cover decreases, and oceans warm as they absorb ever-more carbon dioxide. 

Yet there are solutions to these problems – among which is the adoption of plant-based diets. It is not too late for the world to take action against the perils of a changing climate, but time for action is now. 

How Does Animal Agriculture Affect The Environment

Practicing agriculture does not necessarily come naturally to us as a species. For much of human prehistory, people lived in societies oriented around hunting and gathering. The earliest signs of agriculture can be dated at around 12,000 years ago, yet since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, agriculture has taken on an entirely new face, adopting intensive practices such as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) which foster truly heartbreaking conditions for farmworkers, animals, and surrounding communities alike. 

Called humanity’s greatest mistake by some due to the resulting hard labor, diminished nutrition, and social inequality brought by agriculture, this system of food production now presents the world with a new quandary: environmental destruction on scales that can no longer be ignored. 

CAFOs produce enormous amounts of waste, which collect in vast open-air lagoons that can be breached by extreme weather events or gradually seep into groundwater. Water pollution from CAFOs can cause algal blooms which can devastate entire marine ecosystems. Air pollution is generated from CAFOs as manure is vaporized, sending toxic wafts through the air to surrounding communities. 

Vast fields of monocrops also cause a host of environmental effects, including air pollution. Pesticides and herbicides are sprayed in liberal amounts, which can cause a host of debilitating illnesses, including cancers, for farmworkers and surrounding communities. Soil depletion is also a serious looming issue. Monocropping, along with the overuse of agrochemicals including synthetic fertilizers like nitrogen and phosphorus, are denying fields a fallow period or crop rotation has the effect of leeching soils of their nutrients. These practices render soils far less productive over time. It takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years for soils to become abundantly fertile again. 

Impact Of Animal Agriculture On Climate Change

Out of all the human activities that cause climate change, agriculture is one of the biggest contributors. Estimates as of 2020 put the sector’s global contributions at 37 percent. Below are a few key factors accounting for climate change emissions resulting from human-cased agriculture. 

Land Use

A full 50 percent of the world’s livable land – meaning land that is ice-free and fertile – is being used for agriculture. No other human activity takes up more space. In contrast, all urban areas account for around one percent of livable land use. A whopping 77 percent of agricultural land is dedicated to raising animals, including grazing and the land used to grow their feed, including vast monocrops of species like corn and soy. Surprisingly, this huge expenditure of resources and land use provides only 18 percent of the world’s calories. 

Land used for any type of agriculture – be it livestock or crops meant for people or animals – is brought under cultivation by clearing forests and grasslands, which are carbon sinks due to their abilities to absorb carbon. Currently, forests consume roughly a quarter of all anthropogenic CO2, yet the more forests are slashed and burned to make way for pastureland or monocrops, the less carbon will be absorbed, resulting in accelerated climate change.

Livestock

Farmed animals – referred to as livestock – generate over 14 percent of all anthropogenic emissions, with estimated totals hovering around seven gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emitted every year. The bulk of these emissions are due to raising cattle for meat and dairy, contributing 60 percent of total livestock emissions.  These emissions are thanks to the vast amounts of resources cows consume, the land they require for pasture (in the case of beef cattle), and other manure they produce. Cow manure contains nitrous oxide and methane, the latter being one of the most potent greenhouse gasses due to its outsized ability to absorb heat. 

Fisheries

Marine life, including fish, shellfish, shrimp, and other animals are taken from the seas in astronomical numbers. Nets, some of which are large enough to contain 12 jumbo jet airplanes, are dragged through the water or across the bottom of the seafloor, capturing everything in their path. Direct fishing activity, plus the energy expended to transport, process, and refrigerate carcasses amounted to an estimated total of 179 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses in 2011 – and this number likely will continue to grow as demand for seafood increases. 

How Do Greenhouse Gases Affect the Climate?

In greenhouses designed to grow plants, the transparent glass structure allows sunlight into the greenhouse while preventing heat from escaping. The earth’s atmosphere functions in a similar way, with gas molecules acting like the glass. Certain gases are more effective at absorbing heat than others; these include methane, nitrous oxide, and perhaps the most infamous, carbon dioxide. These three gasses are among the main culprits of climatic warming and change caused by human activities. 

One of the biggest drivers of global warming has been the release of carbon into the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal, which power many aspects of modern life. Even electric cars, which run on batteries and do not themselves generate carbon emissions, draw electricity from grids still run on fossil fuels (although the goal of using 100% renewable energy for electric grids is more achievable than ever). When carbon released from fossil fuel burning is released into the atmosphere, it binds with oxygen and forms carbon dioxide and begins trapping heat in the atmosphere. Because carbon emissions make up the vast majority (81 percent, as of 2018) of total greenhouse gases, they pose one of the gravest threats to climate stability. 

Although carbon is the greatest emitted by volume, other greenhouse gases can be much more potent. For example, one ton of nitrous oxide – emitted by agricultural processes including the use of nitrogen fertilizers in crop production – is equivalent to nearly 300 tons of carbon dioxide.

Methane is approximately 30 times more potent in its ability to absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Can Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Animal Agriculture Be Reduced?

By far, the most effective way to reduce the animal agriculture sector’s greenhouse gas footprint is to significantly reduce, and eventually eliminate animal agriculture. While this might sound “extreme”, it is the state of industrial animal agriculture – characterized by inhumane CAFOs, waste lagoons teeming with pathogens and antibiotics, and requiring enormous land and feed inputs – which is even more extreme

This is not to say that eliminating animal agriculture is something easily accomplished. Demand will have to decrease, thanks to people turning to plant-based diets. The ease of adopting these diets is not the same for everyone, however. Many lower-income neighborhoods in the United States are classified as food deserts, where a lack of grocery stores forces people to endure extremely limited options, such as gas stations or fast-food restaurants. 

People in nations like the United States who do not live in food deserts bear much of the responsibility for reducing demand for animal products. Fortunately, plant-based options abound to replace animals in a wide range of products, from cheese to milk to burgers and sausages. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are two of the leading companies in the plant-based meat sector, helping the idea of plant-based meats go mainstream and helping people understand that it’s possible to achieve the BBQ-worthy tastes without the climate side-effects. Plant-based meats use up to 99 percent less land and emit up to 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Animal Agriculture And Global Warming

Flying in planes or driving SUVs have long been understood as having negative impacts on the global climate. While these are certainly deserving of critique and change, the agriculture sector deserves time in the spotlight. If industrial agriculture continues to grow unchecked, global warming will increase – with potentially disastrous impacts, the beginnings of which are being felt today. Methane, produced by livestock including sheep, goats, and cows, is a greenhouse gas with a terrific ability to trap heat in the atmosphere. The agriculture industry is responsible for fully 40 percent of the total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to curb global warming, and keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global emissions will need to be reduced by around 40 to 50 percent. According to the U.N., the only way to achieve these reductions is to drastically increase forested land – which means reclaiming land currently under cultivation and to stop intrusions into existing forests.  

Conclusion

Due to its profound impacts on the climate and environment around the world, agriculture may well be humanity’s gravest mistake – because it may be our undoing. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are seriously curbed, the world is going to be a far more difficult place to endure. Reducing demand for animal agriculture and adopting a plant-based diet is among the most important actions any individual can make. 

The pandemic highlights the gruesome animal abuses at US factory farms

Andrew Gawthorpe

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/03/coronavirus-animal-abuse-us-factory-farms

Stories have emerged of mass killings of chickens and pigs, a tiny fraction of daily abuses heaped on farmed animals

Mon 3 Aug 2020 08.53 EDT

Shares297

Among other methods, pigs have been killed by a method known as ventilator shutdown, in which the airways to a barn are closed off and steam is introduced.
 Among other methods, pigs have been killed by a method known as ventilator shutdown, in which the airways to a barn are closed off and steam is introduced. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than any event in recent history, the coronavirus pandemic has made plain the consequences of our abuse of animals. From the Chinese wet market where the virus likely emerged to the American slaughterhouses which have become key vectors of transmission, our ravenous demand for cheap meat has been implicated in enormous human suffering. But the suffering is not ours alone. The pandemic has also focused our attention on how American agribusiness – which has benefited from deregulation under the Trump administration – abuses animals on an industrial scale.

Republican proposal slashes weekly unemployment benefits to $200 – as it happened

 Read more

As slaughterhouses across the nation have been forced to close by the virus, gruesome stories have emerged of the mass killing of millions of chickens and pigs who can no longer be brought to market. Chickens have been gassed or smothered with a foam in which they slowly suffocate. Among other methods, pigs – whose cognitive abilities are similar to dogs – have been killed by a method known as ventilator shutdown, in which the airways to a barn are closed off and steam is introduced. A whistleblower’s video shows thousands of pigs dying as they are slowly suffocated and roasted to death overnight.

Although the pandemic has focused attention on these incidents, they represent a tiny fraction of the daily abuses heaped on farmed animals. The billions of animals slaughtered every year in the United States are intelligent, sensitive beings capable of feeling a range of emotions. They are driven to raise their young and form complex social structures, both impossible under the conditions of modern farming. Instead, they live short, painful, disease-ridden lives. Chickens, who make up over 90% of the animals slaughtered every year, suffer the worst. Their deaths are subject to effectively no federal regulation, meaning the birds are frequently frozen, boiled, drowned or suffocated to death.

Trump has moved to deregulate agribusiness even further, giving companies that abuse animals freer rein to prioritize profit over welfare

Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration has moved to deregulate agribusiness even further, giving companies that abuse animals freer rein to prioritize profit over welfare. The administration dropped enforcement of animal welfare statutes and moved forward with proposals to reduce the role of government inspectors in overseeing conditions at slaughterhouses – proposals which an inspector general says are based on faulty data. The administration also removed from public view a searchable database of animal inspection reports, shielding abusers from scrutiny. The records only went back online when Congress forced the administration’s hand.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

As in other areas, the culture war waged by Trump’s supporters has enabled his pro-business policies. “Soy boy” has emerged as the insult of choice among the alt-right, identifying meat consumption and complicity with animal suffering as markers of masculinity. When the right cast the Green New Deal as an assault on the American way of life, they were sure to include copious meat consumption among the precious tenets under threat. “They want to take your hamburgers,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka told a conservative audience, equating the Green New Deal with “Communism”. The reactionary writer Jordan Peterson, who has made a fortune from trolling the left, even chimed in by claiming to follow an all-beef diet.

Bringing an end to the atrocity which is America’s system of animal agriculture requires challenging both the coziness of the government-agribusiness connection and the cultural norms which underpin it. But other recent developments have shown how hard this will be. Sales of meatless meat have exploded in recent years, but they remain a tiny fraction of overall sales. Meanwhile, although Cory Booker became only the second vegan to seek a major party presidential nomination, the strength of cultural and political headwinds prevented him from drawing a link between his dietary preferences and public policy. When pushed, he embraced the framing of the issue favored among the right, declaring the freedom to eat meat “one of our most sacred values”.

As concern over abusive practices on factory farms and public interest in alternative diets have grown, businesses and their political allies have fought back with laws intended to restrict the information and choice available to consumers. So-called “ag-gag” laws, which criminalize undercover investigations of conditions on farms, have been joined by state laws preventing plant-based alternatives from using labels such as “meat” or “sausage”. The Food and Drug Administration is even considering a nationwide ban on the use of the word “milk” to label alternatives derived from soy or oats, in an effort to protect the dairy industry.

In the face of so many vested interests, even the harm caused by the pandemic looks unlikely to lead to fundamental change in America’s system of food production anytime soon. But there are glimmers of hope. When meat supplies dwindled in the first weeks of the lockdown, sales of plant-based products surged, suggesting consumers see them as a genuine alternative. If these products can be improved to a point where they can compete with meat on taste and cost, consumers and even the meat industry might embrace them on a large scale, potentially spelling the end of industrialized animal abuse.

For both the billions of animals raised and killed each year and for ourselves, that day cannot come soon enough. There is nothing natural or inevitable about factory farms, which have transformed human agriculture into a monstrosity which would be unrecognizable to previous generations. After they pass into history, future generations will view them as one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated by humankind. As coronavirus ravages our economies and our bodies, it is clearer than ever that only a pervasive and self-defeating blindness prevents us from seeing factory farms the same way.

  • Andrew Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University

Breaking news: Parent company of Giant Food, Food Lion and Stop & Shop to eliminate cruel cages for egg-laying hens, mother pigs

July 31, 2020

Breaking news: Parent company of Giant Food, Food Lion and Stop & Shop to eliminate cruel cages for egg-laying hens, mother pigs

The company will also eliminate any pork produced through locking mother pigs in gestation crates from its supply chain. Photo by iStock.com

Ahold Delhaize, the company that owns some of the largest grocery chains in the United States, including Food Lion, Giant Food, the GIANT Company, Hannaford and Stop & Shop, has announced it will only sell eggs from cage-free chickens across all its stores by 2025 or sooner. The company will also eliminate any pork produced through locking mother pigs in gestation crates from its supply chain.

This is incredible news, coming as it does from what is the nation’s fourth-largest grocery retailer, with more than 2,000 locations. The company’s new animal welfare policy, which comes after dialogue with the Humane Society of the United States, eliminates two of the most heinous forms of intensive animal confinement in cages and crates. Cages used to confine egg-laying chickens are so small that the animals cannot express natural behaviors like running, exploring or even extending their wings. Each chicken is given less space than a sheet of paper on which to live. Gestation crates, used to confine mother pigs, are about the same width and length of the animal’s body, leaving them with no room to even turn around.

The announcement from Ahold Delhaize is the latest in a series of similar pledges that the HSUS, Humane Society International, and other animal protection organizations have secured from hundreds of major food companies over the last decade, including Kroger, Nestle and Unilever. With our Food Industry Scorecard, we are keeping track of the progress these companies are making toward achieving their cage-free goals.

In addition, we have helped secure the passage of a dozen state laws to end the cruel cage confinement of farm animals, including in Massachusetts where Ahold Delhaize is based.

While cage-free doesn’t equate to cruelty-free, thanks to the headway we’re making, tens of millions of animals will never know the misery of being locked in tiny cages for their entire lives. Let’s take a moment today to celebrate this incredible win for egg-laying hens and mother pigs even as we continue our work to dismantle the cruelty of cage confinement in the United States and abroad.

Over 10,000 Tyson Employees Reportedly Test Positive For Covid

Jul 30, 2020,05:16pm EDT

Alexandra SternlichtForbes StaffBusinessI cover breaking news

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandrasternlicht/2020/07/30/over-10000-tyson-employees-reportedly-test-positive-for-covid/#3db1ce676da4

TOPLINE

Over 10,000 Tyson Foods meat processing employees have contracted Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to a study by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, which was released today as the company announced it would implement weekly Covid-19 testing at a number of plants.

Tyson Foods Makes Offer For Hillshire Brands
Tyson Foods’ brands include Tyson, Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

KEY FACTS

At least 49,369 U.S. meatpacking, food processing and farmworkers have contracted Covid-19 since March, 10,104 of whom were meatpackers at Tyson foods, according to a July 30 report by the FERN.

Also July 30, Tyson Foods announced they would hire a chief medical officer, 200 nurses and implement weekly Covid-19 testing for employees at 140 meat production factories.

Second quarter revenue dropped 15% for the meat giant whose brands include Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm and Sara Lee.

“While the protective measures we’ve implemented in our facilities are working well, we remain vigilant about keeping our team members safe and are always evaluating ways to do more,” Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer said in the announcement.

Other meatpacking companies JBS and Smithfield Foods have 2,000-plus workers who have tested positive for Covid-19.

PROMOTEDP&G BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramP&G Paves Path For Meaningful Virtual Internship ExperienceP&G BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramP&G Paves Path For Meaningful Virtual Internship ExperienceGrads of Life BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramYear Up’s Shift To Virtual Operations

BIG NUMBER

100,000. That’s roughly the number of Tyson Foods employees, according to CNN.

KEY BACKGROUND

In April, Tyson said that “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from grocery store shelves with closures of meat processing facilities due to Covid-19 outbreaks among workers. At that point, Tyson employees told CNN they were being pressured to come to work, though they did not feel working conditions were safe.

TANGENT

On April 16, Smithfield Foods’ meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota became the largest Covid-19 hotspot in the U.S. with 735 Covid-19 cases among workers, according to Forbes.

FURTHER READING

Mapping Covid-19 outbreaks in the food system (FERN)

Tyson Foods Launches New, Nationwide COVID Monitoring Strategy; Expands Health Staff (Tyson)

‘The food supply chain is breaking,’ Tyson says as plants close (CNN)

Smithfield Foods Becomes Largest Coronavirus Hotbed In United States, South Dakota Governor Yet To Mandate Stay Home Order (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

China risking new pandemic even more deadly than COVID as hotbed for new viruses exposed

CHINESE factory farming is creating the perfect environment for “the mutation and amplification of new viruses” and unless conditions improve “this pandemic will not be the last one”, a leading scientist has warned.

By BRIAN MCGLEENONPUBLISHED: 14:07, Sun, Jul 19, 2020 | UPDATED: 14:26, Sun, Jul 19, 2020

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1311508/china-coronavirus-factory-farms-new-pandemic-virus-pathogen-swine-flu-avian-flu

China: Chebeiyong waters cleaned after swarm of dead fish found

Global Head of Research and Animal Welfare for Animals in Farming Kate Blaszak described the growth of intensive farming units not just in China but across the world and pointed to them as having the potential to both increase antibiotic resistance and create a deadlier pathogen than COVID-19. Speaking to Express.co.uk Ms Blaszak said: “China is incubating two new strains of bird flu. It is also dealing with an outbreak of swine flu, which is a mixture of human, pig, and avian influenza viruses.

RELATED ARTICLES

“These different viruses mixed together to form a very potent pathogen.

“The current swine flu virus that has broken out in China has the potential to bind very successfully in the human throat and respiratory system.”

The veterinary scientist said in the last ten to 15 years China has seen a vast and rapid shift away from traditional farming practices and is now emulating the US model of high-intensity farming were animals are kept in dark, confined environments.

Ms Blaszak described the new factory farming system in China as lacking regulations and operating with very poor animal welfare principles.

Chinese pig farms are propagating viruses

Chinese pig farms are propagating viruses (Image: GETTY)

The hundreds of millions of animals contained within the new factory systems are under so much stress that is lowering their immune systems making them need constant feeds of antibiotics to stay healthy and alive.

Ms Blaszak said: “These kinds of low welfare environments lower animals immunities and allows viruses to propagate.

“They create the perfect scenario for the mixing of viruses and the mutation and amplification of viruses.”

She added waste from farms, the movement of large amounts of animals and the processing of animals are also a risk to humans.

READ MORE: ISIS return? Jihadi fighters are rebuilding Daesh, warns terror report

A duck farm in China

A duck farm in China (Image: GETTY)

The scientist warned of the high risk of animal to human infections from having live animals at wet markets.

The cause for concern in China is the fact that it is moving towards a US model of intensified meat production, where the majority of animals are factory farmed.

China is the biggest pig producer in the world and the second-biggest chicken producer in the world.

Ms Blaszak describes how the high numbers of high density, genetically uniform animals are the perfect conditions for another virus to propagate that could potentially jump to humans.

DON’T MISS
China reports NEW unknown disease spreading across Asian country [DATA]
USA vs China: How is UK ban of Huawei a victory for Donald Trump? [ANALYSIS]
China blames BRITISH food for coronavirus pandemic [VIDEO]

A chicken farm in China

A chicken farm in China (Image: GETTY)

The animals that are genetically uniform and crammed side by side need yearly inoculations to protect them against the ravages of quickly mutating viruses.

It takes a long time and considerable expense to develop vaccines for the new viruses being formed, and when a vaccine comes out it is not long before it must be changed because of the rapid mutation of these influenza viruses.

Furthermore, because 75 percent of antibiotics are used in the rearing of farm animals there is the added risk of creating extremely resistant bacteria.

Much of these antibiotics are used to promote growth rather than cure illness.

A Chicken processing plant in China

A Chicken processing plant in China (Image: GETTY)

Ms Blaszak said: “Without huge amounts of anti-biotics a lot of animals would be unwell and die and these intensified farming systems would not work.

“So, antibiotics just prop up the system for the next pandemic.”

However, Ms Blaszak said: “To be fair China is banning the use of antibiotics in animal food and water at the end of 2020.”

Since 2018 African swine flu, which originated in factory farms in Mexico, has wiped out the vast majority of smallholder pig farmers in China.

A pig factory in China

A pig factory in China (Image: GETTY)

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1311508/china-coronavirus-factory-farms-new-pandemic-virus-pathogen-swine-flu-avian-flu

REPORT: FACTORY FARMING IS THE “SINGLE MOST RISKY BEHAVIOR” FOR FUTURE PANDEMICS

https://vegnews.com/2020/7/report-factory-farming-is-the-single-most-risky-behavior-for-future-pandemics

VegNews.CowsFactoryFarmDairy

 

“The recipe for disaster is surprisingly simple: one animal, one mutation, one human, and a single point of contact,” Michael Webermann, US Executive Director of ProVeg International, said about the pandemic risk posed by intensive animal farming. 

by ANNA STAROSTINETSKAYA

JULY 16, 2020


305 Shares

Anew report published today by global food awareness organization ProVeg International singled out intensive animal farming as the “most risky human behaviour in relation to pandemics.” The Food & Pandemics Report outlines the interacting factors that lead to zoonotic disease, namely the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity (driven by animal agriculture); the use of wild animals for food; and the use of farmed animals for food. It points out that while new diseases are thought to have originated in wild animals, many have in fact come from domesticated animal origin, including diphtheria, measles, mumps, the rotavirus, smallpox, and influenza A. The report explains that the fatality rate of COVID-19 is 4.7 percent (or 47 percent higher than that of the typical flu strain) and that of H5N1 (or “bird flu” which is of avian origin) is at 60 percent, and predicts that future pandemics will be deadlier and more frequent. The report urges that a vast transformation of the global food system away from intensive factory farming—which it said “functions as a large-scale zoonotic incubator”—is necessary to prevent future pandemics such as COVID-19.

“The recipe for disaster is surprisingly simple: one animal, one mutation, one human, and a single point of contact. We don’t yet know the full story about the emergence of COVID-19, but there is no uncertainty regarding swine flu and avian flu: those viruses evolved on factory farms, where conditions are perfect for the evolution and transmission of viruses, as well as for the development of antimicrobial resistance,” Michael Webermann, US Executive Director of ProVeg International, said. “Factory farms are perfect breeding grounds for future pandemics.”

ProVeg International’s report has drawn support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “The ProVeg report clearly demonstrates the connection between industrial animal production and the increased risk of pandemics,” Musonda Mumba, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit of the UNEP, said. “Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to jump from wild and domestic animals to people.”

Ventilation Shutdown Used to “Depopulate” Farm Animals During Pandemic Causes Severe Suffering

Photo by Direct Action Everywhere

Photo by Direct Action EverywhereJuly 1, 2020

https://awionline.org/press-releases/ventilation-shutdown-used-depopulate-farm-animals-during-pandemic-causes-severe

Washington, DC—COVID-19 has shut down, at least temporarily, dozens of pig, chicken, and turkey slaughter plants in the United States, leaving millions of farm animals with nowhere to go. Some producers have arranged to keep animals on the farm until plants reopen, while others have chosen to kill healthy animals and bury or compost their bodies.

The term euthanasia, which literally means “a good death,” has been inappropriately used to characterize the killing by inhumane methods of healthy farm animals due to slaughter and processing capacity problems. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) uses the term “depopulation” to describe the rapid destruction of a population of animals in response to urgent circumstances. One method that has been used to kill large numbers of farm animals is “ventilation shutdown,” which involves turning off the airflow in a barn and ratcheting up the heat to as high as 120 degrees, leaving trapped birds and pigs to die from a combination of heat stress and suffocation.

Dena Jones, director of the farm animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), issued the following statement regarding the use of ventilation shutdown to kill farm animals due to limited slaughter capacity during the pandemic:

The ventilation shutdown process can take hours and likely results in severe animal suffering. Intentionally inflicting death in a manner that causes elevated and prolonged distress is unacceptable and does not qualify as “euthanasia.” It is particularly insupportable for the AVMA — a professional scientific body representing veterinarians sworn to protect animals — to allow its guidelines to be used in such an inappropriate manner.

When the AVMA proposed allowing the use of ventilation shutdown to kill animals “in constrained circumstances,” AWI warned that the AVMA guidelines might not prevent producers from using this extreme method in situations that instead call for euthanasia. In fact, that is exactly what is happening now; healthy animals posing no public health risk are being killed by a grossly inhumane method to aid the meatpacking industry.

Ventilation shutdown was last used in 2015 in response to an outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu, which killed nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys in the United States. During the current pandemic, however, animals are not suffering from disease, nor are they at risk of transmitting disease to other animals or to humans. Instead, they are being destroyed because meat companies have failed to properly protect their slaughterhouse workers.

The modern animal agriculture industry in the United States routinely puts profits over the well-being of both animals and workers. It runs slaughter lines as fast as possible, provides animals the lowest level of care required, and offers minimal health and safety protections to its workers. There is no margin for error in this intensive, high-production system. As a result, the wave of plant closures has left millions of animals in limbo. Nevertheless, the current situation does not justify subjecting any animal to a cruel death.

###Media Contact

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, margie@awionline.org

Ontario Passes Controversial New Ag-Gag Law, But Animal Rights Activists Aren’t Backing Down

Kayo Brewster

Reading Time: 3 minutes  

On June 17, 2020, the Ontario government passed Bill 156, an ag-gag law that criminalizes whistleblowing on factory farms.

Under this law, it is now illegal for anyone to photograph animals in transport or to approach trucks to offer water to animals that have legally been transported without food, water, or rest for up to 36 hours in sweltering conditions. The new legislation also targets journalists, whistleblowers, and investigators, preventing them from exposing animal cruelty on farms and in slaughterhouses. 

Without the cruelty unveiled by undercover investigators and whistleblowers, animals will continue to live in squalid conditions and be subjected to inhumane treatment without repercussions for the farm owners or workers committing these acts.

Amy Soranno is one of the many investigators fighting back, with the support of the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and thousands of activists who believe the new law poses a serious threat to free speech.

In a recent video, Soranno discusses her life as an animal rights activist, including organizing Canada’s first mass farm occupation Meat The Victims, and investigating some of the country’s largest animal farming operations.

Following the video’s release, we chatted with Soranno about Ontario’s new ag-gag law and what the further criminalization of on-farm activism in Canada means for the rest of the animal protection movement.

“The animal agriculture industry wants to scare animal activists away from escalating their tactics or taking part in direct action because they recognize that these actions are highly effective,” Soranno states. “My hope is that Bill 156 (and other ag-gag laws) will have the opposite effect, lighting a fire within activists to fight even harder, challenging Bill 156 in court, and fighting for animals to be protected under the law.”
The Importance of Whistleblowers and Undercover Investigators
The meat and dairy industries’ unsavory practices are upsetting and unprofitable, so companies do what they can to “humane wash” their marketing strategies—giving the illusion that their products come from happy, well-treated animals. Undercover investigators, activists, and whistleblowers continue to risk their mental and physical health to expose the truth.  In June of 2019, Animal Outlook—formerly Compassion Over Killing—and the Public Justice Food Project brought suit on behalf of a whistleblower following a hidden-camera investigation inside the Superior Farms lamb slaughterhouse conducted in Dixon, California from May to November 2016. In a first for the animal agriculture industry, Superior Farms entered a consent decree with the USDA to reform its killing methods and other inhumane and otherwise misleading practices that Animal Outlook’s investigation brought into question.
 In July of 2019, Animal Recovery Mission’s (ARM) investigation at Natural Prairie Dairy stands as the first-ever cruelty investigation into an organic dairy farm in the United States, and the third installment of the largest dairy investigation of all time into Fairlife and Select Milk Producers, Inc. The first two investigations released by ARM were Operation Fair Oaks Farms and Operation Fairlife. After the investigations gained media attention, Fairlife milk and Natural Prairie Dairy products were pulled from grocery store shelves across the country.
 In October of 2019, Animal Outlook released the first-ever undercover footage of a salmon aquaculture farm—Cooke Aquaculture. The farm is a massive salmon hatchery whose subsidiary, True North, has partnered on a new seafood brand with Martha Stewart. The footage reveals heinous scenes of animal abuse, giving consumers a first look into the highly secretive salmon farming industry. Animal Outlook submitted their evidence to authorities, and after being contacted about the investigation, Cory Baker, COO of Marquee Brands—which owns the Martha Stewart True North Line—replied promptly. Booker stated that the company will be opening its own investigation immediately and is committed to “sustainability and of course ensuring cruelty free practices.”
Similar ag-gag laws are being introduced and implemented into provinces across Canada, including Alberta and British Columbia.

“These bills would increase penalties for people who attempt to rescue animals from harm and would implement higher charges for those who trespass onto farm properties, like hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines or years in jail…This is for entering a business and taking out your phone to record. These new Bills are one of the biggest threats to Canadian farmed animals right now. Not only are the animals being silenced, but now so are their advocates.”

Read the full story here
Getting our facts right is vital in journalism. Join us Thursday, July 23rd at 9am PT to learn from author, researcher, and lecturer Christopher Sebastian how to fact check effectively. Sign up here.
Covering COVID-19
With the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in over a century, it’s more important than ever to make sure the truth is reported in its entirety, not just what’s convenient.

Help us share the facts during these uncertain times and make sure the world knows our species cannot survive if we continue our exploitation of the planet and nonhuman animals.

Preventing the Next Pandemic

Even those of us who have avoided falling ill are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home have come to define most aspects of our lives.Meanwhile, across the country, communities are grappling with how to slow the spread of the disease, care for the sick, and mitigate its severe impact on the economy. But, now that we have seen the destruction that can be wrought by a pandemic disease, we must also understand its cause and source. Because we have an opportunity to use that knowledge to prevent the next pandemic.Virtually all pandemics, and most infectious diseases, are zoonotic, meaning they originate in animals. COVID-19 likely originated in wildlife, as did AIDS, SARS, and Ebola. But other diseases, notably influenza, including the deadlier pandemic versions that have swept the world periodically, typically come from chickens, turkeys, and pigs. The common denominator is animal exploitation, confinement, and cruelty. Changing the way we treat animals is essential to preventing pandemics.The Animal Legal Defense Fund, as experts in animal law and policy, has published the first in a series of white papers providing background and recommendations to lawmakers to reduce our risk of zoonotic diseases. The paper — COVID-19 and Animals — documents the alarming rate of zoonotic disease produced by industrial animal agriculture in the U.S. Some of these diseases have already caused outbreaks in people, including the 1997 Bird Flu (H5N1) and the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1). In April 2020, a highly pathogenic strain of Bird Flu (H7N3) — a strain which has caused illness in humans — was discovered in a turkey farm in South Carolina. Unless we bring an end to factory farming, it is simply a matter of time before another one of these diseases makes the jump to people, potentially with results far worse than COVID-19.COVID-19 and Animals identifies and quantifies the risks from specific industries. Further white papers, already in development, will offer in-depth legal analysis and policy recommendations for each industry. Ultimately, we will all need to lobby our elected officials to pass laws that prevent the conditions for animals that not only lead to horrific cruelty, but also put us all at unacceptable risk for pandemic diseases. Perhaps the most important lesson of COVID-19 is: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.You can read the full white paper here
For the animals,Stephen Wells, Executive Director
Stephen Wells
Executive Director

Understanding Euthanasia: When Life and Words Become Worthless

Animals subjected to “euthanasia” often die by carbon dioxide poisoning, ventilation shutdown, and other mass-killing techniques that prolong suffering for minutes, even hours.Reading Time: 4 minutes

hen cage animal
Jo-Anne McArthur/Animal Equality

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals rightly defines euthanasia as a “good death.” But the Guidelines make all kinds of exceptions for situations in which the inhumane killing of animals—a very bad death—may be considered “euthanasia.”

People take their beloved companion animals reluctantly to the veterinarian to be euthanized, not to get rid of an inconvenience or for some other selfish purpose, but because their pet’s suffering is profound, cannot be alleviated, and will only worsen. Euthanizing a hopelessly suffering nonhuman animal or human being is an act of mercy. In such cases, the decision-makers implicitly understand the true meaning of euthanasia. The sufferer is not going to die slowly and painfully with an infusion of, say, carbon dioxide gas (CO2), or be baked to death “humanely,” as described in “How to Kill Half a Million Chickens at Once” and in “Pigs Roasted Alive in Coronavirus Mass-Extermination, Probe Uncovers” where the investigators errantly refer to the killings as “euthanizing.”

This verbal corruption confounds our discourse when, instead of a companion animal or human sufferer, the subject is a chicken, a pig, a turkey, or a mouse on a farm or in a laboratory. In these settings, the individual is one of the hundreds, thousands, or millions of captive individuals who exist solely for human use. They are born to be harmed—injured, infected, killed—for human “benefit.” When the researcher or the farmer decides in the interest of expedience to kill them, by whatever means, the term that is used to characterize the procedure is “euthanasia.”

An example appears in the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine publication, Water-Based Foam for Poultry Depopulation, which cites the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in support of the mass-suffocation of poultry under rolling carpets of chemically irritating fire-fighting foam:

Euthanasia of large numbers of birds in a quick, efficient manner with welfare consideration. The process is used to control disease spread or end the suffering of dying birds during a disease outbreak or natural disaster situations.

Though decades of research have confirmed that exposure to CO2 gas causes pain, panic and slow suffocation in mammals and birds, who will desperately seek to escape a CO2-filled chamber, the AVMA Guidelines 2020 equivocate, as in this directive for killing small animals in experimental settings:

In addition to humane outcomes, an important consideration in the choice of method for euthanasia of laboratory animals is the research objectives for the animals being euthanized.

For small animals like mice and rats in laboratories: Carbon dioxide, with or without premedication with halogenated [inhaled] anesthetics, is acceptable with conditions for euthanasia of small rodents.

In other words, a “humane outcome”—a manner of death that is painless, swift, and compassionate—may be sacrificed to “research objectives” and still be called “euthanasia,” and even absurdly at times, “humane euthanasia.”

Appallingly, the AVMA has fostered a language of impunity for agribusiness and the animal research industry to the point of elevating, in public and industry discourse, the opposite of what euthanasia and humane treatment literally mean. This fraudulent usage is a perfect example of Orwellian “newspeak,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings.”

It’s easy for the public and for animal advocates to get lulled into a sense of complacency when all around us the authorities use terms like “euthanasia” to not only characterize but endorse the mass killings of farmed animals and animals in laboratories by asphyxiating, baking, or engulfing them in deadly chemicals with fire-fighting foam. Animals subjected to the cruelties of carbon dioxide, fire-fighting foam, and ventilation shutdown can take up to ten minutes, even hours, to die while struggling together in agony; and many survive these automated, crude procedures only to be trashed, buried or bulldozed, alive.

Where does this leave us—the animal advocacy community—in confronting the massive, unrelenting, painful carnage of living, breathing beings? Do we ignore it because the problem is too big for us to change? Do we justify our position because, as even animal advocates have said on occasion, fraught with frustration that can degenerate into apathy, “They’re going to die anyway”?

Of course, we’re all going to die, but when it comes to our own species and our beloved companion animals, we do not invoke our mortal fate as an excuse for abuse. The conundrum in the case of laboratory animals and farmed animals isn’t simply that they are “going to die anyway.” It’s that they are going to die inhumanely in a slaughterhouse or as part of an experiment, or in the inhumane circumstances that surround slaughter and experimentation—transportation, neglect, rough handling, overwhelming stress, fear, and learned helplessness.

There is no quick or easy answer because if there were, animal advocates would champion it. But this much we know: Silence and euphemisms like “euthanasia” are not the answer. We may be uncomfortable with a problem that is so immense and seemingly intractable, but we need to speak up—and speak accurately—even if we feel we’re shouting in the wind.

As animal advocates, we cannot allow animal exploiters to define the conversation for us, lull us into false rhetoric, or determine how we regard animals. Succumbing to these pressures, we degrade the lives of the animals down to the level at which the exploiters abuse them. By submitting to linguistic subterfuges, we accommodate virtually any mistreatment of animals as acceptable. This is the moral downslide that allows agribusiness and animal researchers to inflict pain, torment, and death on animals unfazed. It’s the type of “convenience” that debased language facilitates. As advocates for animals, let us not call the brutal mass-extermination of innocent, defenseless creatures for the sake of human convenience, “euthanasia.”

For the animals’ sake, we cannot let ourselves, or the public, be “put to sleep.”

Karen Davis, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. She is the author of numerous books, essays, articles, and campaigns advocating for these birds. Her latest book is For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation: Essays on Chickens, Turkeys, and Other Domesticated Fowl (Lantern Books, 2019).

Barbara Stagno is the President and Founder of Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research & Experimentation (CAARE). Since 1995, Barbara has worked to oppose the exploitation of animals, especially the use of animals in experiments. She founded CAARE in 2014 to disseminate information about the power of emerging science to end the use of animals in research, while also raising awareness of their immense suffering. Before starting CAARE, Barbara was a campaign director for a national animal protection organization.