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 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.
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.
100,000. That’s roughly the number of Tyson Foods employees, according to CNN.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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 (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.
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 (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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
Lewis Hamilton has urged his fans to watch a new pro-vegan documentary.
The film, created by leading animal protection agency Viva!, is called HOGWOOD: a modern horror story. It will be available to stream on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google Play Movies from tomorrow (June 25).
Hamilton said of the movie: “Please watch this. We need to find compassion in our hearts to see what we are doing to this world.”
The film centers around Viva!’s four undercover investigations into Hogwood Farm. According to the organization, ‘we recorded a catalogue of cruelty including extreme overcrowding, routine mutilation, sick and dying pigs abandoned in gangways, painful lacerations and live cannibalism’.
In a statement sent to Plant Based News, Viva said: “The conspiracy unfolds as we fight against some of the most powerful players in the animal agriculture industry. This is a gripping tale of negligence, greed and inaction, and our unrelenting fight to help the pigs trapped in Hogwood Farm.
“Join us as we take you through our battle for justice against Hogwood Farm, a Red Tractor approved farm who were supplying supermarket giant, Tesco, supposedly representing some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.
“This is a huge milestone for us and we could not have done it without your support. You helped us show the demand for this film to be made and now, it will be screened to the masses from June 25.”
HOGWOOD: a modern horror story
The film, which has a running time of just over 30 minutes, is presented by actor Jerome Flynn.
Speaking about the movie, Flynn said: “”It is an honor to be presenting this very important film. After seeing the horrendous conditions and animal abuse that is happening behind Hogwood’s walls I had to do something. The pigs of Hogwood aren’t just meat products, they are sensitive, emotionally aware beings just like us and they deserve better than this.”https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/v_kHNUwm3Yw
Director Tony Wardle added: “I have been producing investigative documentaries for many years and no film has been more harrowing than HOGWOOD. The name ‘a modern horror story’ could not be more apt; there are modern horror stories taking place each day in the British countryside.
“Not only are these horrors hidden from sight, but they are endorsed by huge corporations and the government. That is why this film had to be made – because the public has a right to see what takes place beyond the factory farm walls.”
Viva! adds: “We realized that Hogwood is part of a bigger story, one that aims to end factory farming for good — and so we created HOGWOOD: a modern horror story. Now we need your help to get this film seen by the masses.”
Today’s industrial farms raise massive numbers of pigs, chickens, turkeys, and cows in intensive confinement, mired in their own waste and lacking enough space to simply move about freely. These farms also breed animals for extreme growth and production rates that further endanger their health and welfare. Conditions like these have torturous consequences including lameness, skeletal disorders, and painful skin lesions. Yet, they are still standard operating procedure for the few large companies that control how most farm animals are raised and slaughtered in this country.
As a consequence of the pandemic, this cruel machine is now starting to crumble under the weight of its callous greed, layering even more tragedy on top of longstanding suffering. Slaughterhouses owned by enormous meat companies are shutting down as they become COVID-19 hotspots, their employees becoming sick in record numbers due to wholly inadequate worker protections.
Industrial animal agriculture isn’t just cruel to animals, dangerous for workers, and economically unstable for farmers — it may also become a breeding ground for the next global pandemic. While COVID-19 likely originated in wildlife, groups like the Food and Agriculture Organization and scientists around the world have long been warning that industrialized animal farming practices can increase the risks of zoonotic diseases. Industrial animal agriculture hallmarks like extreme crowding of animals, poor air quality, inadequate waste management, and reliance on antibiotics are all kindling for the brushfire of pandemics.
The real-life evidence to justify these warnings is stark and sobering. Between 1997 and 2006, highly pathogenic strains of H5N1 bird flu were linked to poultry farms in China, with a 60% mortality rate in humans who caught the virus. In 2009, the H1N1 swine flu jumped from commercially raised pigs in Mexico to humans and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
To prevent illness in stressful conditions that would typically sicken animals, many farms resort to the prevalent use — and overuse — of antibiotics. Currently, in the EU and the U.S., over 75% of all produced antibiotics are used in animal agriculture. The bacteria found in animals — Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli — are the same ones that cause illness in humans, and the drugs used by industrial farms are the same ones we use to cure those illnesses. This indiscriminate misuse of antibiotics to prevent — rather than treat— infections is vastly increasing the rate at which bacteria gain resistance. A 2019 study showed that antibiotic resistance has nearly tripled in farm animals.
As drugs lose their effectiveness on farms, they’re not working to cure human infections either. In the U.S. alone, 35,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant diseases.
This dangerous situation has long demanded a bold solution, but the pandemic has raised the stakes even higher for humans and animals, creating even more urgency but also a unique opportunity for action.
First and foremost, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should immediately stop allowing slaughterhouses to convert to even faster slaughter speeds, which endanger animals as well as workers. The USDA must also heed the call of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and 21 other members of Congress who recently urged the agency to block the use of the most inhumane depopulation methods. But we cannot stop there.
Congress should also promptly enact the Farm System Reform Act, ambitious legislation introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) that would put an end to factory farming by 2040. The legislation includes a phase-out plan that would provide funds to help farmers transition from the factory farm model to more humane and sustainable farming systems. The public can help by asking their congressional representatives to support and co-sponsor this vitally important bill.
These goals may seem too lofty to some, but the unprecedented dangers we now face makes this the right moment to build a more humane and resilient food system that values animals, people, and the planet.