The Egg Industry Grapples With a Grim Practice: Chick Culling

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After the U.S. egg industry missed its own deadline to eliminate the practice, some wonder when change will ever come.

Visual: Edwin Remsburg / VW Pics via Getty ImagesBY JONATHAN MOENS03.15.20210 COMMENTS

EVERY YEAR, up to 7 billion day-old male chicks are tossed into shredding machines, gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags — a process known as chick culling. This grim ritual is underpinned by both biology and economics: Male chicks don’t lay eggs, and they fatten up too slowly to be sold as meat. Across the globe, culling has become the default strategy for the egg industry to eliminate the unwanted hatchlings.

“It is horrible. You see these puffy, newly hatched chicks on a conveyor belt,” headed toward a large blade that slices them “into a gazillion pieces,” said Leah Garcés, president of Mercy for Animals, an animal rights advocacy group in the United States. In recent years, local and international animal rights groups, particularly in France, Germany, and the U.S., have been ramping up pressure on governments and the egg industry to commit to ending the practice — particularly given technological innovations that allow producers to identify the sex of a developing chick before it hatches. The process is called in-ovo sexing, and such technologies, versions of which are already deployed in some countries, can obviate the need for live chick culling.herd of cows on grassland during daytime

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Nearly five years agoUnited Egg Producers, an agricultural co-operative whose members are responsible for producing more than 90 percent of all commercial eggs in the U.S., released a statement pledging to eliminate chick culling by 2020, or as soon as a “commercially available” and “economically feasible” technology became accessible. That pledge was negotiated with the Humane League, an animal rights nonprofit organization. But 2020 has come and gone, and while UEP’s pledge wasn’t legally binding, some egg industry leaders and scientists say there is little sign that the industry is anywhere near phasing in cull-free technologies that could still meet the colossal supply of more than 100 billion eggs produced every year in the U.S.

Part of the reason for the sluggish pace of change, critics say, is that the U.S. has been investing in and nurturing the development of sophisticated cull-free technologies that, while promising, remain expensive and could take several more years to develop, scale, and deploy across the nation — particularly given that the Covid-19 pandemic has shuttered labs and otherwise slowed the pace of innovation. Meanwhile, a method of in-ovo sexing of eggs is already being used in Europe — though some American stakeholders say that method, which involves creating a tiny hole in the eggshell with a laser, is sub-par, because it increases the risk of contamination. European developers dispute this, however, and as of this year, cull-free eggs are available in thousands of supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France with only modest additional costs to consumers and hatcheries.

What’s clear is that as the hunt for a solution drags on, the U.S.-based culling continues apace. “I don’t like false promises,” said Michael Sencer, executive vice president for Hidden Villa Ranch, a California-based food company that owns egg and dairy subsidiaries. Sencer expressed support for UEP’s pledge, but he acknowledged, “They’ve supported a number of groups that said they could come up with the technology and nothing has happened.”

UEP declined to be interviewed by Undark and instead provided a press statement highlighting its continued commitment to end culling. “We remain hopeful a breakthrough is on the horizon,” Chad Gregory, president and CEO of UEP, said in the statement.

Whether U.S.-based producers could be nudged by critics to explore existing technologies rather than pursue new ones remains unclear, but both animal rights groups and industry leaders agree that chick culling is not only cruel — it is wasteful. “I mean, name another industry where 50 percent of the finished product immediately goes to the garbage can,” said Jonathan Hoopes, president of Ovabrite, a Texas-based startup developing an in-ovo sexing technique. Incubating male eggs also takes up unnecessary space, energy, and money, making a solution to culling in the interest of both animal rights activists and egg producers.

“Forgetting the ethics of not killing all those birds, look at the money saving,” said Sencer, who estimated that the industry could save billions of dollars with the right technology. “It’s mind-boggling.”


SINCE THE 2016 statement, the largest funding initiative to eliminate chick culling has come from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), which launched the “Egg-Tech Prize” — a public-private research initiative that provides funding for scientists and startups seeking to develop in-ovo sexing technologies — with Open Philanthropy in 2019. Deploying such a technology would not only make chick culling obsolete, it would also allow the industry to repurpose unwanted male eggs for food, animal feed, or vaccine development.

In November of 2019, FFAR announced six finalists who received more than $2 million in total seed funding to develop sex identification technologies. Phase II of the competition will award up to $3.7 million for a single working prototype.

Animal rights groups and industry leaders agree that chick culling is not only cruel — it is wasteful.

According to Tim Kurt, FFAR’s scientific program director, the deadline for submissions has been pushed back due to Covid-19 delays and is now scheduled for spring 2022. However, the foundation could also decide not to fund any of the teams if they are not satisfied with the timeline. That’s a prospect Tom Turpen, a contender for the prize, says is a real possibility, especially given that at least some of the teams — his included — have experienced setbacks since the start of the pandemic. With travel restrictions and university laboratories shut down, access to data, equipment, and supplies has made it harder for teams to make progress on particular aspects of their projects, says Kurt.

Finalists, who were awarded between $396,000 and $1.1 million dollars each include startups and research laboratories with big, out-of-the-box ideas. This includes Orbem, a German startup that sexes chicks by combining high-speed scanning of eggs with AI technology, and SensIT Ventures, Inc., a California-based company, which Turpen heads, that uses a microchip to sex chicks by identifying gases emitted by eggs early in development. The selection team specifically funded projects that could potentially upend the egg industry, says Kurt.

The technologies that were selected have “the potential to really transform the industry,” said Kurt, who was involved in the selection. “They might be a bit higher risk, but if they were successful, and our funding could help them become successful, they would really be the most ideal solution.”

For all of Undark’s coverage of the global Covid-19 pandemic, please visit our extensive coronavirus archive.

Kurt and other industry leaders are optimistic that some of these technologies will help eliminate chick culling in the near future, but others are less hopeful. Changing current practices, Sencer said, would require “billions of dollars of investment in new equipment. And it’s just not going to happen [quickly], it’s happening slowly.” Sencer added that he predicts the technology may be scalable towards the end of the decade.

Even researchers competing in the Egg-Tech Prize themselves admit that, while a sexing technology may be on the horizon, cull-free eggs won’t be scalable for at least two more years. Turpen says the biggest obstacle lies in developing a technology that is not only capable of rapidly and accurately sexing chicks, but is also readily affordable to consumers and hatcheries across the nation.

“You could do a lot of things to identify the sex of the egg. That’s not the point. The point is: Can you do it and still have eggs people can afford to eat?”

To avoid a surge in costs that would inevitably arise from suddenly adopting a new mode of production, Turpen says a more likely and more reasonable path to scaling this nationally would be a slow and incremental process. “The adoption and replacement of existing equipment — that’s going to look more like making the coal industry go away.” That industry “is going away,” Turpen said, “but it’s going to be a long time.”

Other researchers in the Egg-Tech Prize have also made it clear that an all-encompassing solution to culling is not around the corner. Benjamin Schusser, whose research with colleagues at the Technical University of Munich turned into the spin-off company, Orbem, declined an interview, saying “we don’t want to awake[n] hope that there is a solution almost ready for market.” Pedro Gómez, the CEO and co-founder of Orbem said in a 2019 interview with Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, that they hope to “classify one billion eggs per year by 2025.”

While a sexing technology may be on the horizon, cull-free eggs won’t be scalable for at least two more years.

Given the mismatch in expectations, some are baffled by UEP’s ambitious commitments to stamping out culling. Hoopes says the industry has made similar pledges in the past and they failed to yield tangible results.

But David Coman-Hidy, president of the Humane League, considers the progress in research and development since 2016 a “major win,” and credits the UEP pledge with heightening awareness about a cruel and largely unheard-of practice while bolstering innovation in in-ovo sexing technologies. In fact, the Humane League saw the 2020 goal as somewhat flexible, says Coman-Hidy. “Back then, it was such early days, we didn’t know how quickly or how many companies would get involved or what the research would look like.”


MEANWHILE, COMMERCIALLY VIABLE, in-ovo sexing technologies already exist in Germany and France. And Germany is poised to become the first country to ban industrial culling of male chicks, after the government approved a draft law to end the practice from 2022 onwards.

Currently, a company based in Germany and the Netherlands called respeggt GmbH uses in-ovo sexing by creating a tiny hole into the egg using a laser, extracting fluids, and sexing the chick by testing for specific hormones, explains Kristin Hoeller, head of business development and public affairs for respeggt. The technique, known as Seleggt, is based on research by scientists at the University of Leipzig and further developed in collaboration with REWE, a German supermarket chain, and HatchTech, a Dutch technology company specializing in incubation and hatchery equipment.

The method can sort chicks on the ninth day of development, when it is “exceptionally unlikely” that chick embryos experience any sensations whatsoever, David Mellor, professor emeritus of animal welfare science and bioethics at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote in an email. This is a crucial detail given that chick embryos have the capacity to experience pain at later stages of development. A procedure that might cause harm, such as using the male egg for food or vaccine development, may simply be shifting the cruel practice to an earlier stage, says Peter Singer, an animal rights advocate and professor of bioethics at Princeton University.

“The adoption and replacement of existing equipment — that’s going to look more like making the coal industry go away,” said Turpen.

Using this method, respeggt now has cull-free eggs in more than 6,000 supermarkets across France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, with hopes to expand further. They have also devised a ready-to-implement business strategy for producing commercial cull-free eggs. Hatcheries won’t have to invest anything, Hoeller said. Instead, costs will be passed onto centers where eggs are packed into cartons for commercial distribution. These packing stations will have to pay a license fee of around 2 Euro cents, about the same in U.S. currency, per egg. While respeggt plays no role in how supermarkets price eggs, the cost to consumers ranges between 2 and 5 Euro cents more per respeggt egg than regular ones.

Many U.S. experts, however, are concerned that creating a hole in the eggs could pose a serious food safety risk, given that it increases the chances of contamination from external sources. “It’s a risk that I think the industry would rather not take,” said Turpen. Kurt echoes this, saying that all finalists explicitly use non-invasive techniques to avoid this possibility. Focusing on non-invasive techniques also means they can be more easily repurposed for other scientific endeavors, such as vaccine development, he adds.

Hoeller disputes the suggestion that their technology poses an infection risk. “The perforation of the eggshell with the laser has no negative results at all,” she said, adding that the hole is so small it actually closes itself naturally within 30 minutes.

To be sure, some animal rights groups suggest that quibbling over a technological solution distracts from what they see as the real problem at hand: the egg industry itself. “Instead of putting a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid and trying to fix all these problems with more technology and more technology, here’s another idea: Why don’t we do plant-based eggs?” said Garcés. She and other animal rights activists point to food waste, animal suffering, and health-associated costs as reasons to divest money away from the egg industry to support companies that produce plant-based alternatives.

Short of that, though, other non-invasive egg sexing technologies have also been developed in Europe. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and amid pressure by the French government to ban culling by the end of 2021, Carrefoursupermarkets planned to launch their first round of cull-free eggs on May 1, 2020. However, experts note that this technology sexes chicks on the 13th day of development, a period where the chick fetus may experience pain. Anticipating these criticisms, the German company behind this technology, Agri Advanced Technologies GmbH, a subsidiary of EW Group, is currently developing another technology aimed at determining the sex of chicks on the fourth day of development.

While imperfect, Hoopes suggested that the existence of viable, up-and-running technologies in Europe raises questions about why the U.S. is taking a slower, more ambitious approach. But other experts speculate that the technologies being pursued in the U.S. may ultimately prove cheaper and more flexible in the long run. “You would think the simplest method of doing this would be the best,” said Singer. “But maybe for very large producers, the investment is worth it. Maybe it pays off in saving labor costs or other costs.”

At this point it’s not clear what the best strategy to eliminate culling is yet, says Singer, but he believes there is a moral imperative to at least try and stamp out the practice from hatcheries around the globe. It’s also important to continue to pressure the industry to change, he said, but change will require not only perseverance, but patience. “These things,” he said, “will take some time.”

Industrial animal farming is a ticking timebomb

MARCH 7TH, 2021 8:00 PM

Industrial animal farming is a ticking timebomb Image

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Sir– Industrial animal farming, more commonly known as factory farming, has, according to the UN, caused the majority of infectious diseases in humans in the past decade.

In Russia, scientists have detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian flu to humans and have alerted the World Health Organisation.

Scientists isolated the strain’s genetic material from seven workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia.

The workers did not suffer any serious health consequences.

While the highly contagious strain is lethal for birds, it has never before been reported to have spread to humans.

Humans can get infected with avian and swine influenza viruses, such as bird flu subtypes A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) and swine flu subtypes such as A(H1N1).

The more widely known strain of avian influenza is the H1N1, which is responsible for all the major flu outbreaks, like the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2009 Swine flu outbreak.LETTERS

The H5N8 is a sub-type of the influenza A virus that causes flu-like symptoms in birds and mammals.

In recent months, outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa but only ever in poultry – until, that is, this latest news from Russia.

There is a timebomb called Climate Change with which we are all familiar.

There is another, less talked-about timebomb that is ticking just as loudly: that timebomb is factory farming. Yet no government that I know of, anywhere in the world, is listening to it. Why is this? 

Gerry Boland,

Keadue,

Co Roscommon

De-evolution of the Thanksgiving turkey

Because of crowded conditions on factory farms (where most Thanksgiving turkeys are raised), beautiful birds who started out as a species looking like this …

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 125202493_10157639512601188_1129398445369613081_n.jpg

when kept in dark, stinking windowless barns (with maybe a small access door to the muddy, lifeless yard, so the farmer can claim they’re “free-range”) turn out looking like this…

Perhaps it’s time to swear off flesh foods and give the turkeys something to be thankful for. Someday you’ll give thanks you did.

Photos©Jim Robertson

Here’s the kind of life birds like the ones above are expected to lead on factory farms…

Thanksgiving turkeys endure extreme suffering

‘Suffocating closeness’: US judge condemns ‘appalling conditions’ on industrial farms

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/20/suffocating-closeness-us-judge-condemns-appalling-conditions-on-industrial-farms

Pork giant Smithfield has settled with North Carolina residents who sued over stench, flies and truck traffic from Kinlaw FarmsAnimals farmed is supported byAbout this content

Barry Yeoman

Fri 20 Nov 2020 11.34 EST

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Pigs are seen in a pen at a farm in Ayden, North Carolina.
 Pigs in a pen at a farm in Ayden, North Carolina. Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Bloomberg/Getty

A US judge has issued a blistering condemnation of industrial farming practices. The judgment comes as one US meat giant finally settles after a six-year legal battle with plaintiffs who sued the company over the stench, flies, buzzards and truck traffic coming from its industrial swine farms in North Carolina.

J Harvie Wilkinson III, one of the judges in a case that pitted locals against the Smithfield subsidiary formerly known as Murphy-Brown, decried the “outrageous conditions” at Kinlaw Farms, the operation at the center of the lawsuit – “conditions that there is no reason to suppose were unique to that facility”.

“How did it come to this?” wrote Wilkinson, who was nominated to the fourth US circuit court of appeals by then president Ronald Reagan and has served since 1984. “What was missing from Kinlaw Farms – and from Murphy-Brown – was the recognition that treating animals better will benefit humans. What was neglected is that animal welfare and human welfare, far from advancing at cross-purposes, are actually integrally connected. The decades-long transition to concentrated animal feeding operations [CAFOs] lays bare this connection, and the consequences of its breach, with startling clarity.”

Wilkinson described a system in which pigs were forced to live in enclosures they had outgrown, reducing them “to almost suffocating closeness … The dangers endemic to such appalling conditions always manifested first in animal suffering. Ineluctably, however, the ripples of dysfunction would reach farm workers and, at last, members of the surrounding community.”

‘A savagely broken food system’: Cory Booker wants radical reform … now

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His comments concurred with the court’s main opinion.

More than 500 North Carolinians, most of them black, filed more than two dozen lawsuits in 2014. Some lived near farms that had contracts with Smithfield. Others lived near farms owned by the company outright. They described being trapped inside their own homes, sickened by the smell of hog waste stored in open pits, and unable to hang laundry, cook outdoors, or entertain visitors.

The announcement of the company’s decision to settle came immediately after the fourth circuit in Richmond, Virginia, rejected a call from the world’s largest pork producer for a retrial of one of the cases. Juries in 2018 and 2019 had awarded hog farm neighbors almost $550m. The US district court in Raleigh, North Carolina, knocked the awards down to about $98m because of a state law capping punitive damages.

Smithfield’s chief administrative officer, Keira Lombardo, said in a statement: “In the midst of a global pandemic, where food shortages have been commonplace, it is now the time to keep our full attention on the important work of producing good food in a responsible and sustainable way – rather than returning to the court for what would be ongoing and distracting litigation.” Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

‘It smells like a decomposing body’: North Carolina’s polluting pig farms

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Smithfield lost the first five cases that went to trial. It appealed the three largest verdicts, calling the litigation an “almost existential threat” to North Carolina farmers. It claimed the district court had made numerous errors, such as allowing the neighbors’ odor expert to testify while excluding some testimony from Smithfield’s expert.

In the new ruling, a three-judge panel rejected most of the pork producer’s arguments. The company “persisted in its chosen farming practices despite its knowledge of the harms to its neighbors, exhibiting wanton or wilful disregard of the neighbors’ rights to enjoyment of their property,” Judge Stephanie Thacker, an Obama nominee, wrote for the court.

The appellate judges did agree with Smithfield on one point: that the plaintiff’s lawyer improperly used the parent company’s financial data to convince jurors that punitive damages had to be large enough for the pork giant to feel. The appellate ruling said jurors should not have heard those details. “We fail to see what value the parent company financial evidence would have that could possibly outweigh the substantial risk of prejudice it carries in that delicate context,” wrote Thacker.

Elsie Herring, a plaintiff in another of the cases, said she was pleased that the court had sided with the neighbors on most issues. “Our lives have been destroyed by the industry,” she said. The North Carolina law firm Wallace & Graham, which represented the plaintiffs, did not respond to questions about the settlement. It said in a statement that the appellate court “fully got the truth” of its clients’ struggles.

PETA Billboard to Honor Cows Killed in Truck Crash

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Memorial Will Encourage People to Help Keep Animals out of Transport Vehicles by Going Vegan

For Immediate Release:
November 18, 2020

Contact:
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Cortlandville, N.Y. – In honor of the five cows who were killed when a truck carrying them overturned on I-81 on Friday, PETA plans to place a billboard near the crash site proclaiming, “See the Individual. Go Vegan.

“These gentle cows endured a terrifying death on the highway, and those who survived were presumably taken to slaughter,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA’s ad encourages anyone disturbed by the thought of animals suffering on the side of the road or facing the slaughterhouse knife to go vegan.”

The truck was transporting Holstein cows, the breed most often used by the dairy industry, in which workers artificially inseminate cows (rape them by inserting an arm into the rectum and a metal rod into the vagina) and tear calves away from their loving mothers within a day of birth. They ship male calves off to be slaughtered for veal, while females endure the same fate as their mothers: repeated forced pregnancies until their bodies break down and they’re slaughtered for cheap meat.

PETA notes that there have been at least 71 crashes this year involving trucks carrying animals used for food. Each person who goes vegan saves the lives of nearly 200 cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals every year and helps prevent future pandemics: Confining and killing animals for food has been linked to SARS, swine flu, bird flu, and COVID-19, and the meat industry has allowed slaughterhouse workers to face a nearly unchecked spread of the novel coronavirus.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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