AGRICULTURE

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1994:

Famine driven by drought is devastating the
Tarahumara tribe, of Chihuahua state, Mexico––a shy people
known for vegetarianism, endurance running, and such usually
good health that their language reportedly lacks a word for malnu-
trition. Their plight became known when health officials reported
in late October that Tarahumara women––who hadn’t eaten in
days––were carrying starving and dehydrated babies out of the
mountains to find help, walking up to five hours to reach a clinic.
At least 34 Tarahumara babies died at clinics during September
and October. The toll in remote villages is believed to be far high-
er. The crisis was apparently aggravated by ranchers whose cattle
drained local water sources before more than 100,000 head suc-
cumbed. Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari finally
promised food aid on October 27, but refused the appeal of
Chihuahua governor Francisco Barrios Terrazas, a member of the
opposition, for disaster relief funds. While the politicos dithered,
photographer Ismael Villalobos, 60, trucked tons of rice and
beans to the Tarahumara, gifts from a Mexico City women’s group.

The fourth year of the worst drought in memory is
killing countless millions of sheep and cattle in Australia––after
they eat the last grass and drink the last water they can find. The
drought is also halving wheat exports and afflicting wildlife, as
starving kangaroos invade cities to eat shrubbery and wildfires roar
through dwindling koala habitat. The drought is caused by the El
Nino weather effect, which in turn may be produced by the effects
of rainforest logging on weather systems.
Frustrated by the failure of the European Union t o
agree upon uniform rules to protect animals going to slaughter,
German agriculture minister Jochen Borchert pledged October 26
to unilaterally impose his own. Private enterprise took the lead in
attempting to end long hauling of animals shipped from Britain, as
Brittany Ferries on November 4 joined P&O and Stena Sealink in
refusing to transport livestock other than breeding animals and
horses intended for competitive use. P&O and Stena Sealink quit
hauling livestock to slaughter in July. Cattle brokers briefly scram-
bled to find other means of export, trying air freight and rented
cargo vessels, before Freight Line Ferries emerged to take over the
trade. Britain ships about 2.5 million animals a year to slaughter
abroad, mostly in the Netherlands and France.
Comments were due November 14 on a Food and
Drug Administration proposal to ban the inclusion of offal
from the brains, spinal cords, spleens, lymph nodes, thymus,
and intestines of adult sheep and goats in cattle feed. These parts
are believed capable of transmitting prions from scrapie, a deadly
sheep-and-goat disease, into cattle, where in Great Britain the
malady has apparently evolved into bovine spongiform
encephalopathy. The National Renderers Association and the
Animal Protein Producers Industry have recommended a voluntary
ban on use of such sheep and goat offal in cattle feed since 1989.
Monsanto, the leading maker of bovine somatatropin,
illegally promoted the drug before it was approved, charges a
report issued in late October by the inspector general of the
Department of Health and Human Services. Nine months after
BST hit the market, an estimated 7% of U.S. dairy farmers are
sticking it to their herds with twice-monthly injections at the base
of each cow’s tail. It increases milk production per cow by 5% to
20%. Some users in New York, Florida, and Michigan have
blamed BST for causing severe and sometimes even fatal udder
infections.
The USDA on October 27 scrapped new poultry
inspection regulations proposed in July by former Agriculture
Secretary Mike Espy, and said it would instead introduce new rules
for inspecting both poultry and red meat. The poultry regulations
were presented just as Espy was accused of improperly accepting
favors from Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest chicken producer in the
world. Critics claimed Espy introduced the regulations in haste,
trying to offset charges of favoritism.
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