Ruthless meat trade flogs hormones east and west
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:
SEOUL, BRUSSELS, LONDON,
WASHINGTON D.C.––An estimated
50 members of the Korean Animal
Protection Society rallied against dog-eating
and cat-eating on August 16 in front of
Myoungdong Cathedral in central Seoul.
Sympathy rallies occurred in many
other cities around the world, attracting
media coverage in the U.S., Canada, Great
Britain, and South Africa as well as Korea.
But the protests did not deter Grand
National Party legislator Kim Hong Shin and
20 cosponsors from introducing a bill into the
Korean Parliament that same day to repeal six
unenforced prohibitions on dog-eating issued
since 1978 by adding dogs to the list of livestock
species regulated by the Korean
August 16 was the third of three
traditional summer “dog-eating days” in
Korea. Dog-eating is practiced by ethnic
Chinese minorities and some indigenous peoples
in many parts of Asia and Africa. The
Korean style of dog-slaughter is especially
violent, however, because of the common
belief that dogs’ meat tastes better and
imparts more virility if saturated in adrenalin.
Thus dogs are usually killed by slow hanging,
suffer bone-breaking beatings as they hang,
and are dehaired by blowtorch, often still
alive, in front of customers who watch to
make sure the whole procedure is followed.
Cats eaten in Korea––apparently
not addressed by the Kim Hong Shin bill––
are typically boiled alive, after their bones
are broken with a hammer, and are pureed
into a “health drink” in front of customers.
The Philippines banned dog-eating
in 1996, except inf religious rituals by designated
indigenous tribes, but similar practices
reportedly continue clandestinely, and are
linked with the sporadic spread of rabies to
humans. About 10,000 dogs and 350 humans
die of rabies in the Philappines each year.
Recently explained Philippine pub
lic health veterinarian Aura Corpuz, as paraphrased by Claire
Wallerstein of the Manchester (U.K.) Guardian, “In some rural
areas it is believed that eating the raw organs of rabid dogs can
protect against rabies,” as a form of crude self-vaccination.
Such a belief may be the origin of summer dog-eating
in Korea and elsewhere too, since rabies is endemic to all of
Asia and is most evident in midsummer, when the most dogs
and humans are at large.
The KAPS protests apparently brought hoaxster Joey
Skaggs or an imitator “out of remission,” as ANIMAL PEOP
L E advised e-mail correspondents who were upset by an
American University web site purportedly belonging to one
“Dr. James Lee,” identified as a “cultural economist.”
No such person is listed on the American University
The site, an evident parody of the sites of libertarian
think-tanks, argued that the U.S. canine surplus should be
exported to Korea to be made into dog meat soup.
Economic-and-culture-based arguments for various
other forms of animal use-and-abuse appear to have been
copied from sites owned by representatives of sealers, whalers,
Skaggs, of Greenwich Village, New York, pulled a
similar hoax in May 1994, mailing a letter to 1,500 U.S.
humane societies in which he offered, in broken but perfectly
spelled English under a Korean-sounding pseudonymn, to buy
dogs for export and eventual use in soup at 10¢ a pound. ANIMAL
PEOPLE identified Skaggs and exposed the hoax within
hours of becoming aware of it.
As Skaggs boasts at his own extensive web site, he is
notorious for having pulled countless other hoaxes, including
an alleged brothel for dogs that fooled WABC-TV in 1976 and
resurfaced as late as the mid-1980s via broadcast reruns––to the
frequent consternation of the American SPCA, which tried to
find a basis for charging Skaggs with a crime equivalent to
ringing in a false fire alarm.
(For current information on how to protest against
dog-eating and cat-eating in Korea, contact the International
Association for Korean Animals, POB 20600, Oakland, CA
94620; >> email@example.com<<.)
Korean dog-meat merchants and consumers make no
secret of their belief that dog meat stew heightens male sexual
prowess. Most North Americans seem to hold essentially the
same belief about eating beef.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vegetarian
campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich spent the summer
challenging the notion by trying to place billboard advertisements
showing PETA receptionist Melynda DuVal in a starsand-stripes
bikini, holding up a string of limp sausages with the
message, “I threw a party but the cattlemen couldn’t come.
Eating meat can cause impotence.”
The ads got a brief airing on the backs of trucks in
Dallas, Texas. Reportedly refused space by more than 100
billboard firms in 13 states and two Canadian provinces, they
appeared elsewhere only in news coverage, but provoked
newspaper discussions of cholesterol build-up, heart disease,
and related impotence from coast to coast.
Friedrich urged meat-eaters “to rustle up veggie burgers
in the kitchen for a whopper in the bedroom.”
But men interviewed by Kansas City Star r e p o r t e r
Dru Selfton at a local steakhouse suggested that they value the
hormonal surge––or whatever else it is that they get from
meat––more than virility itself.
“If I had to choose, I’d rather have the steak,” said
one. Added another, “I came here to get impotent.”
Hormones were also the hot-button issue for graysuited
trade warriors battling through the heat of the summer in
Brussels, Dublin, Washington D.C., and Ottawa over beef
By mid-August, with U.S. trade sanctions in effect
against French Roquefort cheese, Dijon mustard, foie gras,
and truffles, the conflict hit the streets. In Millau, France,
Farmers’ Confederation leader Jose Bove was arrested on
August 19 for leading a mob in wrecking materials and equipment
at the construction site for a McDonald’s restaurant. Two
weeks leader, 50 demonstrators expressed solidarity with Bove
by releasing fowl en masse in Deauville, Normandy, and at a
McDonald’s restaurant in Salon de Provence.
The hormone battle has raged since January 1989,
when the European Union banned imports of beef, pork, and
poultry raised with the use of synthetic hormones.
Ostensibly imposed to protect public health, the ban
enabled the relatively small factory farms of northern Europe to
hold their international markets, against growing competition
from the mega-farms of the U.S. and Canada––and those of
Ireland and some southern European nations, where farmers
have often been caught in recent years using hormones on the
sly. In April 1999, for instance, Spain arrested 53 people
whose hormone distribution network served 18 provinces.
In May 1997, after years of delay, the World Trade
Organization ruled on behalf of the U.S. and Canada that the
EU import ban is a trade barrier, not a legitimate health protection
standard, and should be repealed.
The EU contested the verdict, losing again before a
WTO appellate panel in January 1998.
As the WTO-set deadline for repealing the import ban
approached in May, the EU moved in the opposite direction,
banning imports of a l l U.S. beef on purported suspicion that
even “hormone-free” beef might have come from cattle who
were treated with hormones at some point.
The EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary
Measures followed up by releasing a report which claimed that
one hormone commonly used by U.S. beef-growers, 17 betaoestradiol
“has to be considered as a complete carcinogen,”
while five others are allegedly suspect.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Daniel Glickman called
the EU arguments “unsubstantiated,” but two months later,
after the WTO authorized the U.S. and Canada to retaliate with
trade sanctions, tossed the EU a concession by pledging that
the U.S. would conduct longterm studies of the safety of genetically
Genetically modified produce is a separate but closely
related issue. Glickman specifically mentioned his determination
to force the EU to accept imports of U.S. fodder corn and
feed-grade soy beans.
The U.S. and Canada imposed retaliatory 100% tariffs
against a range of agricultural products from France,
Germany, Italy, and Denmark at the beginning of August.
By then, however, the dispute transcended trade.
Public health was very definitely the issue by July, when
experts including Tufts University School of Medicine
researcher Carlos Sonnenschein, M.D., announced findings
that the increased use of estrogens such as oestradiol in beef
production coincides with girls reaching puberty 18 months
younger on average than they did in 1900, and that early puberty
coincides with heightened risk of breast cancer. The age of
puberty is falling even faster in the U.S., dropping by two years
just since 1960.
Breast cancer kills about 400,000 women per year,
worldwide––and the number of new cases detected rose from
572,000 in 1980 to 900,000 in 1997.
Reported Canadian Press on July 31, “The Canadian
government maintains the hormones [used in meat production] are safe, despite strong misgivings on the part of its own scientists
at the Health Protection Branch. Four scientists with concerns
have been ordered not to discuss the issue in public.”
One of the scientists, Margaret Haydon, spoke out
anyway, identifying an agricultural hormone called Revalor-H
as causing early puberty, enlarged prostates, and impaired
immune systems in calves.
Hormones and milk
Even in 1989, when the dispute among the EU, the
U.S., and Canada started, hormones in meat were not a new
concern. About 90% of all U.S. and Canadian livestock are
treated with hormones of various sorts, and have been for most
of three decades. But rising public concern about the possible
effects of hormones ingested with animal products were heightened
in the late 1980s by the introduction of a new class of hormonal
drugs: synthetic bovine growth hormones (BGH),
designed to increase the volume of per-cow milk production.
Anxiety over BGH has diminished in the U.S., and in
many of the 28 other nations which have approved it, but not in
Canada, nor in the EU, including especially Britain.
Health Canada in January 1999 ruled against authorizing
BGH use, after nine years of review, on grounds that it
“presents an unacceptable threat to the safety of dairy cows,”
acting director Joel Weiner stated.
Health Canada human health committee chair Stuart
McLeod of McMaster University said BGH appeared to pose
no significant risks to humans who use milk products, but in
March 1999 the Canadian Senate Agriculture Committee rejected
“Fact: there is no chronic health data on BGH,”
Senate Agriculture Committee chair Eugene Whelan said. “It is
impossible to prove what effects it will have on humans.”
An EU moratorium on BGH use is to expire at the
end of 1999, but is likely to be renewed.
The United Nations Codex Alimentarius
Commission, which sets international food standards, in July
1999 failed to reach agreement on a permissible maximum
residue level for BGH.
Suspicion of BGH meanwhile rose in Britain when
the London Observer disclosed in June 1999 that the former
Conservative government headed by Margaret Thatcher had in
the late 1980s authorized Monsanto, Eli Lilly Industries, and
Cyanamic to conduct secret trials at 39 farms which resulted in
milk produced with the use of BGH entering the general milk
supply––totally unknown to consumers.
New BSE shocks
The British livestock industry is in no condition or
mood to accept new economic shocks, whether from food
scares or technological change. A long anticipated end to the
EU embargo on British meat imposed in March 1996 to prevent
the spread of bovine spongiform encepalopathy (BSE, also
called “mad cow disease”) appeared to be at hand on August 1,
1999––but fell through.
The EU did conditionally agree to accept cattle for
slaughter, if born after August 1996, and if slaughtered completely
apart from European-born cattle. But the latter requirement
in effect required the operation of special slaughterhouses
just for British cattle, which could make British meat prohibitively
expensive. Even at that, France and Germany
announced they would not comply with the EU decision pending
August 1996 was when Britain belatedly banned
feeding recycled offal to cattle, responding to scientific suspicion
that BSE infected cattle via feed supplements made from
the remains of sheep afflicted with scrapie, or from other
Consuming infected cattle is in turn believed to be the
cause of the invariably fatal brain deterioration in humans
called new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
BSE has raged in Britain for at least 15 years, and
40 of the first 43 known nv-CJD fatalities have been British or
are known to have eaten British beef. But even slaughtering all
3.5 million bovines in Britain who were alive in 1996 and
attempting to destroy the remains in such a manner that no disease-carrying
prion particle survives has not fully contained
either BSE or nv-CJD. BSE cases have now been identified in
most nations of Europe; nv-CJD victims have died in three
other nations and are reportedly ill in several others.
British media seemed to enjoy the discomfort that
swept France in June 1999 when French health inspectors
seized more than 100,000 bottles of cheap Rhone Valley red
wine which had been “purified” through the use of powdered
cattle blood to attract suspended particles remaining after the
“vinification” process. The EU banned the obsolescent bloodbased
process in November 1997, to reduce the risk of human
exposure to BSE.
But any sardonic joy derived from contemplating
French misery was short-lived. On August 22 L o n d o n
O b s e r v e r public affairs editor Antony Barnett revealed that,
“Potentially lethal waste infected with BSE from secret dumps
of the remains of slauightered cattle is escaping into the environment.
The Observer has learned,” Barnett wrote, “that the
Environment Agency is conducting an inquiry into the storage
of 50,000 metric tons of rendered cattle carcasses
in former aircraft hangars in
Lincolnshire,” almost within sight of former
prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s birthplace.
The site in question is just one of 13
where an estimated 400,000 metric tons of
remains from cattle slaughtered to control BSE
await incineration at the only incinerator in
Britain capable of burning them at a hot
enough temperature to destroy prions.
The risk that deadly BSE prions
might re-enter British herds via rats, birds,
airborne dust, or polluted water brought with
it the likelihood that the chance to sell meat
abroad might be indefinitely delayed.
Even as BSE killed British meat
exports, a series of bacterial poisoning outbreaks
resulting in human deaths cut into
British domestic meat consumption during the
past several years. By early 1999, however,
stricter butcher shop regulations and more
policing supposedly had the contamination
problem in hand.
The livestock industry took particular
courage from the annual food habits survey
conducted by the vegetarian food supplier
Realeat, published in April. Male vegetarians,
Realeat found, had dropped from 4.1% of the
British public in 1997 to 3.2%––the pre-BSE
level. The percentage of Britishers reducing
red meat consumption fell from 46% to 45%.
The number of female vegetarians rose from
6.5% to 6.7%, the lowest rate of increase since
the surveys began in 1984. Overall, there
were 190,000 fewer British vegetarians than
the year before.
But the bottom line, pointed out
Realeat representative Graham Keen, was that
even though there were fewer vegetarians, less
meat was eaten for the 15th consecutive year.
One vegetarian of particular concern
to livestock producers was Welsh agriculture
secretary Christine Gwyther, 39, appointed in
May 1999 over the vehement opposition of the
Welsh Union of Farmers.
In August 1999 the British government
discontinued subsidies paid to dairy
farmers for raising bull calves to beef-slaughtering
age. The subsidies were meant to partially
compensate dairy farmers for loss of the
opportunity to sell bull calves to Dutch and
Belgian vealers. Some of the dairy farmers
responded by abandoning at least 61 calves at
locations including the private sanctuary
owned by television writer and animal advocate
Carla Lane, who took in 40, and the
Stepley Grange Wildlife Hospital operated by
Royal SPCA, which received 13. Two calves
were offered to Gwyther when she attended
the Pembrokeshire County Fair, but were
killed and fed to the fox hounds of the
Pembrokeshire Hunt when she refused them.
The end of the subsidies is expected
to accelerate the ongoing contraction of the
British dairy industry. BGH, if ever
approved, would expedite the process.
The AR view
Mere predictions of how BGH might
affect the dairy industry were enough to scare
thousands of North American small producers
into selling their cows and land––and many of
them were “big” by British and continental
A decade later, the predictions are
fulfilled. The USDA and Food and Drug
Administration approved BGH for general use
in 1994, but the impact was already becoming
evident even then. Since the approval process
approached completion in 1991, the number
of U.S. dairy farms is down 24% and the number
of cows who produce the U.S. milk supply
is down 10%.
From an animal welfare perspective,
this means a substantive reduction in the dairy
constellation of what the late Coalition for
Non-Violent Food founder Henry Spira termed
“the universe of suffering.”
But the global animal protection
community was far from agreed in 1989, as
now, that the advent of BGH is a plus.
On the contrary, most animal protection
groups felt they could scarcely take any
position other than hardline opposition to
BGH––and by extension, to all other agricultural
use of pharmaceuticals, other than to
relieve immediate animal suffering, as well as
to any genetic modification of animals, for
Most obviously, accepting BGH and
related technologies, including other drugs
and genetic engineering, put at risk many of
the alliances used over the years to fight both
factory farming and vivisection.
Indeed, as Peter Singer and Jim
Mason emphasized in their 1980 book Animal
F a c t o r i e s, the most successful argument
opponents of factory farming had, until the
recent rise of public outrage over manure polluting
air and waterways, was that keeping so
many animals in such close confinement
required farmers to use veterinary drugs on an
unprecedented scale. As Singer, Mason, and
other factory farm critics pointed out, citing
examples such as the use of the hormone DES
to stimulate beef growth in the 1960s, drugs
administered to livestock often eventually have
an adverse effect upon human health. By
1970, for instance, DES ingestion was linked
to the development of uterine cancer.
Historically, in the developed
nations, ethical vegetarians have associated
themselves with the far larger number of vegetarians
who forgo meat chiefly for health reasons.
Health-oriented vegetarians are typically
more concerned with avoiding unwanted hormones
and other chemicals than with avoiding
harm to animals.
Ethical vegetarians are also heavily
dependent upon health food stores and restaurants,
not only for meals but also as local cultural
centers, where veggies can meet each
other, promote related causes, and enjoy
meatless social events.
The health food industry, early in
the BGH fight, sought support from the animal
rights movement––and mostly got it, plus
help in fighting proposed federal restrictions
on the sale of “alternative” medicines and food
supplements, often sold with the claim that
they have not been tested on animals.
Also influencing the predominant
animal rights movement position on BGH is
that many of the then upstart animal rights
groups spent most of the 1970s and 1980s
courting the much older and richer antivivisection
societies, seeking operating capital and
access to donors. The animal rights movement
eventually tapped into antivivisectionist support
by building on the same two popular
premises: that vivisection is cruel, and that
animal research is invalid as a model for seeking
cures for human ailments.
While the former premise is of chief
concern to people who care about animals, the
latter premise appeals to donors who may not
be deeply moved by the animal issues, but
mistrust technology and/or the medical establishment.
Representing up to 45% of some
AV organizations’ donor base, according to
membership surveys, these donors range from
religious fundamentalists who deny evolution
to deep ecologists.
For animal rights groups to embrace
new technologies, even those which might
eventually reduce animal suffering, is to run a
severe risk of alienating hard-won AV support.
Nor was that the only alliance at risk.
The animal rights movement was preoccupied
in 1989 with establishing green credentials so
as to be included in the 20th annual Earth Day
celebration the next year. Most of the Big
Seven environmental groups had already committed
themselves against biotech in general
and BGH in specific. Some feared that biotech
would bring Frankenstein scenarios, in which
human-created species ravaged nature; some
argued that technologies putting small dairy
farms out of business would destroy green
space and encourage urban sprawl.
The National Wildlife Federation
was in the midst of delaying the introduction
of Raboral, the oral rabies vaccination for
wild or feral animals, on the pretext that distributing
the killed rabies virus embedded in it
might set a dangerous precedent for releasing
live bio-engineered organisms. The National
Wildlife Federation is the national umbrella for
48 state hunting clubs, and the NWF position
conveniently supported the interest of coonhunters
and trappers in maintaining a pretext
for killing animals in the name of rabies prevention,
instead of vaccinating them.
Also as of 1989, the global animal
rights and animal welfare communities had
lobbied the European Union successfully to
win concessions against the Canadian offshore
seal hunt, and sensed opportunities for new
gains against animal testing, cruelties in livestock
transportation, cruel forms of entertainment,
and wild-caught fur imports––a victory
won, on paper, in 1991 but lost in 1997.
EU support for other animal concerns
should not be put at risk, leading lobbyists
argued, by failing to strongly back the EU
position on hormone-treated meat.
In India, the philosophical home of
animal rights theory, there was and remains a
further complication. While vegetarians in the
rest of the world tend to be advocates of radical
change, at least in diet, vegetarians in
India represent a 3,000-year-old majority tradition,
rooted in the teachings of Jainism,
Buddhism, and Hinduism, the religion of
approximately 90% of India’s billion people.
Hindu teaching, reinforced by
Ghandian economic theory, celebrates cattle
as the source of most real wealth: the more
cows India has, the better. Any technology
reducing the number of cattle is accordingly
opposed, right along with cow slaughter.
The Animal Welfare Board of India
thus adopted an anti-biotechnology resolution
in 1997 as an addition to existing pro-cow and