Going “gently” to slaughter
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2001:
NEW YORK CITY, WASHINGTON D.C., BRUSSELS–Osama bin Laden
told the 19 terrorists who killed at least 5,690 people on September
11 to seize the aircraft they used as weapons by cutting the throats
of their first victims in the manner of hallal slaughter.
The bin Laden document was published by The New York Times
and closely reviewed by expert commentators, as the October 2001
ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial discusses (page 3)–except that the experts
did not menton hallal, the central metaphor in it. They did not
talk about the significance of bin Laden emphasizing that his suicide
attackers were to think of themselves as butchers and the people they
killed as meat.
Had Coalition for Nonviolent Food founder Henry Spira not
died on September 15, 1998, from an asbestos-related cancer, he
might have watched the World Trade Center collapse from the roof of
the apartment building where he lived and did most of his animal
The shattered glass and people in the street would have
reminded Spira of watching Krystalnacht, the beginning of the Nazi
holocaust, as an 11-year-old Jewish child stranded in Hamburg,
Germany, in November 1938. Spira’s mother was in Belgium; his
father in Costa Rica. That night Spira gained a memory which would
later illuminate for him how an animal must feel, en route to
Days later, after the FBI obtained and released the bin
Laden instructions, Spira would have read them with a nod and grunt
of recognition. Hallal slaughter, practiced by Muslims, is almost
identical to kosher slaughter, practiced by Jews. The first of
Spira’s many campaigns on behalf of farm animals was his effort,
with Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, to get the kosher
and hallal slaughtering industries to adopt technology that would
better assure quick and painless killing, as the kosher and hallal
religious laws require. Spira and Grandin won the first widely
adopted amendment to kosher practice in several centuries.
Spira would not have missed the opportunity to point out to
the world the inevitability of massacre when humans, habituated to
thoughtlessly taking animal life, go on to equate their enemies with
the animals they kill.
Spira might have mentally composed his next of many full-page
protest advertisements in The New York Times within a matter of
It is not necessary to imagine what Spira might have done,
however, in order to see his legacy in recent gains for farm animals
at the political and policymaking levels.
For example, the McDonald’s and Wendy’s restaurant chains
pledged to Spira in 1993 and 1997, respectively, to require their
meat suppliers to meet basic animal welfare standards. “Burger King
is expressing interest in a similar initiative,” Spira wrote in his
last of many guest columns for ANIMAL PEOPLE, published
posthumously–inviting others to take up where he left off.
Following up when McDonald’s didn’t, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals in September 2000 won a similar agreement from
McDonald’s; in June 2001 PETA won the pledge from Burger King that
Spira sought; and in September 2001 PETA won reaffirmation of the
The agreements with Spira did not receive extensive
publicity, so were not reenforced by public expectation. The PETA
publicity machine saw to it, however, that the promises McDonald’s,
Burger King, and Wendy’s made to PETA drew national notice.
Burger King seemed especially serious about keeping the
bargain, announcing that it would enforce some animal welfare
standards two months before actually reaching the deal with PETA,
and later announcing the PETA deal at the same time as issuing a
public request to the USDA for more stringent Humane Slaughter Act
The Burger King request was concurrent with a similar appeal
from the Free Farmed certification program of the American Humane
Association, and supported a letter-writing campaign directed by the
Humane Farming Association, after undercover video of alleged
violations at the IBP slaughterhouse in Wallula, Washington, failed
to bring either federal or state-level criminal prosecutions.
When the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
complained that it lacks the budget and staff to increase
slaughterhouse inspections, U.S. Senate Appropri-ations Committee
chair Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) added $3 million to the fiscal
2002 USDA budget to insure that more stringent inspections will be
done. $1 million is specifically for more Humane Slaughter Act
enforcement; $1 million for stronger Animal Welfare Act enforcement;
$500,000 for relevant research; and $500,000 is to be spent at USDA
“Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread
and more and more barbaric,” thundered Byrd, 83, the second
longest serving member of the Senate, who as a freshman Senator in
1958 helped to push the original Humane Slaughter Act into being,
six years after it was first proposed.
“Six-hundred-pound hogs-they were called pigs at one time,”
Byrd remembered, “are raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called
gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around
or lie down in natural positions, and this way they live for months
at a time.
“On profit-driven factory farms,” Byrd continued, “veal
calves are confined to dark wooden crates so small that they are
prevented from lying down or scratching themselves. These creatures
feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer
pain. Egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages. Unable to
spread their wings, they are reduced to nothing more than an
“Last April,” Byrd added, making clear that his information
came from mainstream sources, “the Washington Post detailed the
inhumane treatment of livestock in our nation’s slaughterhouses. A
23-year-old Federal law requires that cattle and hogs to be
slaughtered must first be stunned, thereby rendered insensitive to
pain, but mounting evidence indicates that this is not always done,
that these animals are sometimes cut, skinned, and scalded while
still able to feel pain.
“A Texas beef company,” Byrd told fellow Senators, “with 22
citations for cruelty to animals, was found chopping the hooves off
live cattle. In another Texas plant with about two dozen violations,
Federal officials found nine live cattle dangling from an overhead
chain. Secret videos from an Iowa pork plant show hogs squealing and
kicking as they are being lowered into the boiling water that will
soften their hides, soften the bristles on the hogs, and make them
easier to skin.
“I used to kill hogs,” Byrd remembered of his rural
upbringing. “I used to help lower them into the barrels of scalding
water. But those hogs were dead. The law clearly requires that
these poor creatures be stunned and rendered insensitive to pain
before this process begins. Federal law is being ignored. Animal
cruelty abounds. It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric
treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated,
even if these animals are being raised for food-and even more so,
more so. Such insensitivity is insidious, and can spread, and is
dangerous. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a
The Byrd amendment cleared the Senate on July 31, and
cleared the House of Representatives on October 4.
But as strong as Byrd’s speech was, the Byrd amendment only
increases enforcement of legislation now 43 years old–and the
appropriation may be lost in the budget cutting that will be
necessitated by the war on human-to-human terror.
Also clearing the House on October 4, by voice vote, were
USDA budget amendments which if approved by the Senate–and not
weakened by further amendments in the Senate and in House/Senate
conference– would extend new protection to farm animals.
The Downed Animal Protection Act, advanced in various forms
since 1990, and now called the “Unlawful Stockyard Practices
Involving Nonambulatory Livestock” amendment, would in present form
require euthanasia of animals too weak from illness or injury to
stand and walk at stockyards, auctions, and other livestock
markets, unless the “nonambulatory livestock receive veterinary care
intended to render the livestock ambulatory,” a relatively broad
exemption inserted at request of meat industry lobbyists. It would
also ban the sale of meat from injured or ill animals for human
consumption. It was added to the House version of the USDA budget
bill by Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Amory Houghton
(R-N.Y.), with the endorsements of the National Pork Producers
Council, Central Livestock Assocation, Empire Live-stock Marketing,
and Georgia Cattleman’s Association–and with a pledge by
Represent-ative Charles Stenholm (D-Texas) to seek further changes on
behalf of the meat trade.
The other amendments approved by the House would prohibit the
interstate sale of fighting cocks, and prohibit the export of
fighting cocks–a minor branch of the poultry industry, but vital to
the cockfighting business, now illegal in 47 of the 50 states.
Another farm animal welfare measure was introduced on
September 18 as an amendment to the Senate version of the USDA budget
bill by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Peter Fitzgerald
This amendment, if accepted, would “bar the USDA from
spending tax dollars to purchase eggs for the School Lunch Program
from producers who use forced molting,” announced Association of
Avian Veterinarians legislative committee chair Susan Clubb, DVM.
Explained Clubb, who sought the amendment along with United
Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal
Rights, “Forced molting is the practice of starving hens in order to
shock their system into a new egg-laying cycle. Factory farmers
routinely starve hens for three to 14 days, forcing them into a new
molt. Once placed back on feed, if they survive the starvation,
the hens produce bigger eggs.
“Intentionally starving an animal is cruel,” Clubb reminded
fellow veterinarians by e-mail. “An individual would be arrested for
starving a dog or cat the way egg producers commonly starve hens.
The birds lose up to 30% of their body weight.
“Forced molting is also a threat to human health,” Clubb
added. “Because the hens are starved, and so stressed, they are
highly susceptible to salmonella infections. Eggs from hens who
undergo forced molting are significantly more likely to carry, shed,
or transmit salmonella than hens who are allowed access to food and
water. Children are most susceptible to salmonella. Not using eggs
in our school lunch program from producers who use forced molting
just makes sense,” and would be consistent with the pledges issued
by McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.
Reminders of the routine disrespect of life inherent in
animal agriculture reach mainstream print from time to time–and
sometimes the basic connections are made.
In April 2001, for instance, the New Zealand Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry reported that personnel at Tegal Foods, of
New Plymouth, had filed a cruelty complaint against the firm with
the New Zealand SPCA because they were “insufficiently prepared for
the unpleasantness of the task” of killing 2.5 million unwanted male
chicks per year by dumping 5,000 at a time into a high-speed
All three of the largest newspapers in New Zealand
prominently reported the story, with detailed descriptions of how
and why the chicks are macerated.
“The industry calls them ‘hatchery waste.’ That typifies
factory farming,” New Zealand SPCA animal welfare manager Hans Kriek
told Anne Beston of the New Zealand Herald. “In some ways you could
say the male chicks are the lucky ones, since they don’t end up in
battery cages,” Kriek continued. “The question is whether it is
ethical to slaughter 2.5 million chicks per year. From a wider point
of view,” Krief explained, “I don’t think it should be accepted.”
On July 26, Canadian Press described how Edmonton resident
Yolanda Ptashnik, 22, was fined $100 for pulling the testicles out
of her male cat Tigger without anesthetic, exactly as she was taught
to castrate pigs while employed as a farm hand.
Explained Edmonton SPCA special constable Beth MacEachern,
“I guess there are some practices that are accepted industry
practice, but that does not cross over to domesticated animals such
as dogs and cats.”
The cat survived the procedure, and was returned to Ptashnik
by judicial order.
In Australia, Andrew Stevenson of the Sydney Morning Herald
explained on August 2 that, “Dairy farmers are inducing the
premature birth of up to 100,000 calves a year–many of whom are
killed and their skins sold–as a way of keeping milking cows in a
As Stevenson described in detail, the value of bringing a
cow into production on schedule often exceeds the present veal or
beef market value of a calf from a mother of a milking breed. If
sold for veal, the calves are crated for five days of fattening,
and are then killed. Cattle raised for beef are usually killed at
two to three years of age.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Kim Smith linked meat industry
practice to human murder on October 8–because the link was clearly
made in a murder case.
“Attorneys for a former Las Vegas man accused of killing his
girlfriend in 1991 will ask a judge to keep secret the man’s former
occupation for fear it would prejudice a jury,” Smith wrote.
“According to court documents filed by defense attorneys Tony Sgro
and Kristina Wildeveld, Danny Kay Taylor used to snap chickens’
necks for a living. Taylor was indicted on murder and robbery
charges in January 2000 in connection with the death of Cheryl
DeSantis,” who disappeared soon after accusing Taylor of molesting
her then four-year-old daughter.
The real significance of the case as regards animals was the
belief of attorneys Sgro and Wildeveld that Taylor’s history of
snapping chickens’ necks on the job would adversely influence 12
Americans more-or-less picked at random.
The point became moot on October 9 when Taylor plea-bargained
a sentence of five-years-to-life plus 15 years for stealing DeSantis’
jewelry, to avoid facing the death penalty.
More often, articles touching on aspects of factory farming
do not complete the association of animal suffering and casual waste
of life with the advertising-driven public demand for cheap meat.
In mid-January 2001, for example, the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette and the Des Moines Register reported the deaths of
5.5 million chickens, 30,000 turkeys, and 12,565 pigs after an ice
storm cut off power to several confinement barns. Register farm
editor Jerry Perkins even quoted the explanation of Iowa Pork
Industry Center specialist Bob Lyon that the animals did not freeze
or starve, but rather suffocated. Omitted, however, was that the
animals suffocated because they were kept at such a density that the
barn literally could not contain enough oxygen to enable them to
breathe for long if fans did not continually boost the air intake.
Comparably antiseptic coverage reported the fear of
California poultry producers during the summer of 2001 that rolling
power blackouts could kill as many as 150,000 birds per barn within
15 minutes to half an hour, and the subsequent death of 100 sows at
EnviroPork, of Larimore, North Dakota, during an August heat wave.
While the technical problems were extensively discussed,
none of the coverage reaching ANIMAL PEOPLE even abstractly inquired
about the morality of keeping animals in such conditions–dooming
them to asphixiate in their own exhalations of carbon dioxide and
methane, in the event of even a brief electrical failure.
A July 30 fire that killed 12,000 pigs and piglets at a
farrowing barn on the Circle Four Farms ranch in Iron County, Utah,
got much more coverage than barn farms usually do because of the
difficulty of disposing of the carcasses safely. That so-called
state-of-the-art confinement barns like those of Circle Four rarely
have sprinkler systems to contain fires was not mentioned,
however–although the lack of sprinklers in horse barns was the
subject of a July 30 expose by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter
The cost of adding sprinklers to existing barn watering
systems was estimated by Ruthrauff Inc. fire protection technician
Rusty Hodge, of Pittsburgh, at $1.25 to $1.50 per square foot of
floor space to be covered.
Sow crate bans
Other legislative efforts to address cruelty in meat
production are underway around the world–and tend to be stronger
than the proposed U.S. measures.
The European Commission agricultural council in June 2001
agreed to phase in a ban on keeping pregnant pigs in close
confinement after the first four weeks of their average 16.5-week
gestation cycle. The ban takes effect on new farms in 2003, and on
existing farms in 2013.
“The European Commission’s Scientific Veterinary Committee
condemned sow stalls in a 1997 report because of the serious health
and welfare problems they impose on sows,” explained the British
group Compassion in World Farming. “Sow stalls have been banned in
Britain since January 1999,” after an eight-year CIWF campaign.
The EC agricultural council is also phasing in requirements
that sows “must have permanent access to manipulable material such as
straw”; must have some space for movement; must have solid flooring
to rest on; and “must be given enough bulky or high-fibre feed to
These requirements likewise follow CIWF recommendations. In
the future, CIWF and other animal welfare groups must monitor
compliance and keep agribusiness from weaking the new requirements by
Newly elected Royal New Zealand SPCA president Peter Mason in
May 2001 urged the New Zealand Pork Industry Board to move rapidly in
the same direction. Mason warned that if the pork industry did not
at least meet the new EC standards, as the Pork Industry Board had
previously promised, it would face a five-year public opinion
campaign from the Royal New Zealand SPCA. Mason reenforced his
message by hiring Wellington SPCA officer Hans Kriek as part-time
national campaign director.
While the Pork Industry Board offered a 12-year phase-out,
parallel to the EC standard, Mason and Green Party animal welfare
spokesperson Sue Kedgely asked that the phase-out be completed by
“Take a good long hard look at yourselves. I cannot believe
that phasing out sow crates by 2006 is impossible to achieve,” New
Zealand agriculture minister Jim Sutton told the Pork Industry Board
in July, as it balked.
But the Pork Industry board rejected any standard stricter
than that of the EC.
Meanwhile, the existence of the EC rules may lend momentum
to an effort by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Farm
Sanctuary, and the Humane Society of the U.S. to ban sow crating in
Florida by ballot initiative. Florida has fewer than 50 hog farms,
according to the Florida Farm Bureau, with annual revenue of less
than $10 million, less than 25% of the revenue derived by Florida
cattle ranchers, but ARFF et al believe the Florida voter
demographics favor seeking a U.S. precedent. Similar efforts have
been blocked in the Florida state legislature.
The EC action on sow crating followed the June 1999
introduction of a mandatory phase-out of battery caging of laying
hens, to be completed by 2012.
Also in June 2001, the EC introduced a requirement that by
2004 all eggs sold within the European Union must be labeled either
“from caged hens,” “from barn hens,” who are kept indoors but have
freedom of movement, or “from free range hens,” depending on the
production method used.
But Compassion In World Farming and the Royal SPCA were
reportedly “furious” that the EC definition of “free range” was
amended to allow keeping hens at 2.5 times the density previously
permitted to claim “free range” status.
The change in definition may have helped to encourage Marks &
Spencer, one of the leading British supermarket chains, to quit
selling eggs from battery-caged hens effective in July
2001–including use of eggs as an ingredient in baked goods.
EC concern about battery caging was certainly noticed in
Australia, as almost simultaneously the Victoria state government,
RSPCA/Australia, and Victorian Farmers Federation Egg Group jointly
announced a 10,000-hen comparative study of caging methods to be done
by the Melbourne University Institute of Land and Food Resources.
Currently, about 90% of the eggs sold in Australia come from battery
caging; 8% come from free range farms; and 2% are barn-laid, a
method expected to gain rapidly in popularity during the next five
years, since it meets most of the same animal welfare standards as
free-range production, but offers some of the advantages to farmers
of battery caging.
Battery caging has been aggressively targeted in both
Australia and New Zealand by Animal Liberation Victoria, Wellington
Animal Action, and other protest organizations, whose joint efforts
and the covert removal of 10 hens from the Golden Gate Poultry Farm
near Wellington in April were among the top stories in New Zealand
news media at Easter 2001.
Taking a contrastingly cooperative approach, the
RSPCA/Australia has pursued a labeling scheme modeled after the Royal
SPCA “Freedom Foods” campaign in Britain, but was embarrassed in
June and July 2001 by the Action Animal Rescue Team, a project of
Animal Liberation Victoria. Three times within 30 days, the Action
Animal Rescue Team videotaped allegedly substandard conditions at the
RSPCA-endorsed Pace Farms barn-laid egg facilities in South Morang,
north of Melbourne. Nineteen sick or injured hens were removed from
the barn-laid sheds, nine from battery caging at adjacent facilities
also owned by Pace Farms, which is the largest egg producer in
Australia, and six from a manure pit beneath the battery cages.
“The RSPCA/Australia is now in the business of harming
animals,” Animal Liberation Victoria charged. “Their financial
connection to Pace Farms is a total sham and a conflict of interest.
The RSPCA/Australia should be prosecuting Pace Farms for cruelty,
not taking royalties for the sale of eggs they claim are something
they are not. Note: Pace Farms also gave a ‘sponsorship’ of $22,400
U.S. to the RSPCA/Australia in 1999/2000.”
Despite the risk of similar backfires, the American Humane
Association introduced the parallel “Free Farmed” certification
program in 2000, and the British Columbia SPCA and Winnipeg SPCA
announced “humane” labeling programs for meat, eggs, and dairy
products on April 27, 2001.
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies in October 2000
invited more than 70 representatives of 39 organizations involved in
all aspects of the poultry industry to participate in a national
review of standard practices, updating a similar review undertaken
in 1980. Little more information about the project has been
released, but Canadian egg producers have been visibly interested in
the discovery of Alberta livestock specialist John Church that laying
hen production increases 6% and mortality declines when hens are
given the opportunity to peck at toys dangling from clotheslines
strung in front of their cages.
Also attracting notice are installations of the kind of
caging now required in the European Union at farms in British
Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. Costing about 40% more per bird
to install, the European-style cages include separate nest areas and
The review of poultry industry practices coincided with a
year-long effort by Canadian justice minister Anne McLellan to pass a
new national animal protection act–updating legislation now more
than 120 years old–as part of an omnibus anti-crime bill. McLellan
lost the fight on September 26 when House of Commons majority leader
Don Boudria split the sections of the omnibus bill dealing with
animals and firearms away from the rest. The omnibus bill was
expected to pass by the end of October, but the provisions
pertaining to animals and firearms were likely to die in November,
against concerted opposition from agribusiness, hunters, trappers,
and the firearms industry.
The Canadian Cattleman’s Assoc-iation, for example,
objected in June to language banning practices that cause
“unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal.”
The Canadian Federation of Agri-culture board of directors
met on October 5 with representatives of Justice Canada to seek
exemptions and weakening amendments. CFA president Bob Friesen told
Western Producer Ottawa bureau reporter Barry Wilson that farmers
most object to taking crimes against animals out of the
crimes-against-property section of the Canadian criminal code.
Another disappointment came recently in Israel.
Responding to a lawsuit brought by the Israeli animal rights
group Noah, in late 2000 “the Israeli high court asked the
agriculture ministry to issue regulations for the ‘humane’
force-feeding of geese and ducks to make foie gras,” recalls San
Antonio activist Noam Lazarus, who monitored the issue for the Farm
Animal Reform Movement.
“The Knesset education committee, which had to authorize
these regulations, refused to do so, and recommended that
force-feeding geese and ducks should be completely phased out in
Israel. As a result, the court ordered the agriculture ministry to
issue new regulations,” approved by the Knesset in January 2001.
“The new regulations are now in place until 2003,” Lazarus explains.
Preparing to seek an end to the foie gras industry in Israel
when the regulations come up for review and possible extension,
activists in May and June 2001 obtained video of force-feeding at
seven goose farms and a duck farm, and are reportedly editing the
video into short documentaries in both Hebrew and English.
Globally, animal adovacy groups have identified sow crating,
battery caging, and livestock transport as the aspects of the meat
industry most vulnerable to prompt mandated change. Though there
have been no recent major breakthroughs pertaining to transport,
Compassion In World Farming continues lobbying to strengthen European
Union animal hauling regulations, alongside a newer organization,
Animals Angels, of Germany, whose campaigns focus on livestock
imports from eastern Europe and exports to the Middle East.
Britain has historically led Europe in exports of livestock
to other nations, but with BSE and hoof-and-mouth having brought
suspensions of exports this year, opportunity exists to bring new
rules into effect as part of any resumption. The EC has already
proposed that European Union governments should require cattle
haulers to install equipment to monitor the ventilation,
temperature, and humidity levels in their trailers, to reduce the
numbers of animals who die in transit.
EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler in February 2001
suggested that the persistence of BSE despite 15 years of eradication
efforts “demonstrates the need for a return to farming methods that
are more in tune with the environment.” Fischler proposed
restricting some subsidies for beef farmers to those who keep fewer
than 90 cattle and use only organic farming methods.
Those ideas are unlikely to be adopted, at least for
now–but Sweden introduced similar measures and other obstacles to
factory farming via “Astrid Lindgren’s Law” in 1988. Named after the
author of the Pippi Longstocking children’s stories, a longtime
animal rights campaigner whose 80th birthday coincided with the law
taking effect, the law is now credited with keeping BSE out of
Sweden, and with sending European demand for Swedish meat products
soaring, since they are guaranteed free of antibiotics and
growth-inducing hormones. In addition, because Swedish animals get
more outdoor exercise, they produce leaner meat.
The Swedish Agriculture Ministry believes Swedish meat
exports command an average price 10% to 15% above the European norm.
This has given other nations an economic incentive to give at least
some animal welfare reforms serious consideration.
No single recommendation or regulation will bring about
wholesale reform of animal treatment throughout the meat trade –and
in any event, abolition of meat-eating rather than just reducing the
cruelty of it is the longterm goal of most animal advocates.
Abolishing animal slaughter altogether was Spira’s goal,
too, but he envisioned accomplishing it through “stepwise
incremental progress,” always in the directly of kinder treatment of
animals, until raising and killing animals for meat by any methods
becomes obviously unkind in the assessment of most of the public.
“Opinion polls show that the public disapproves of current
factory farming practices,” Spira wrote in his October 1998
pothumous ANIMAL PEOPLE column.
“The public further agrees that those who profit from cruelty
should be held responsible. There is escalating interest in the
victims of factory farming and the health and environmental
consequences of meat eating,” Spira pointed out. “The practices and
consequences of factory farming are coming under discussion in
ever-increasing numbers of articles, in mainstream publications.
“Clearly there is momentum. The inertia from decades of
thoughtless, habitual meat-eating is being overcome,” Spira
predicted. “Together we can create the critical mass to inspire the
public to consider the meatless lifestyle and challenge the abuses of
factory farming. We want the public to rethink meat,” Spira
concluded, “as is being done with tobacco.”
First, Spira believed, the public would become persuaded
that meat production is cruel–especially the standard practices of
Then efforts would be made to reduce the cruelty, parallel
to the efforts made for some years to reduce the deadly effects of
Gradually recognizing the futility of trying to make keeping
animals in close confinement and killing them en masse acceptably
humane, Spira believed, much of the public would eventually give up
Although this has not yet happened, meat consumption has
temporarily plummeted several times in recent years, especially beef
consumption in Britain in 1996 after the discovery that bovine
spongiform encephalopathy apparently can become the inevitably fatal
new-variant Cruetzfeld-Jakob Disease in humans. A similar dip hit
France and Germany in March 2001 as awareness spread that
BSE-infected cattle had been found in continental herds–and Japanese
beef consumption reportedly fell 30% despite a 47% drop in price
after BSE was found in Japanese cattle for the first time on
Sales of specific kinds of meat, such as hamburgers, hot
dogs, and chicken, have temporarily dropped in the U.S., to lesser
extent, after outbreaks of contamination by e-coli, salmonella,
and listeria bacteria.
In addition, the public has become increasingly informed and
uneasy about factory farming as a result of pig, chicken, and
cattle manure disposal problems throughout much of the U.S., and as
result of hoof-and-mouth disease in Britain. Since March 2001, the
British Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has slaughtered and
burned or buried the remains of more than four million hooved animals
in an all-out effort to eradicate hoof-and-mouth, but the bacterial
disease continues to infect new farms almost every day.
As none of these problems appear close to solution,
discomfort with the meat industry and meat consumption is likely to
continue–and the opening for animal advocates to advance both humane
reform and the vegetarian alternative has never been wider.
For example, in Minnesota the state legislature in 1998
funded an effort to develop a Generic Environmental Impact Statement
on agricultural policy, with emphasis on pollution issues pertaining
to feedlots. The citizens’ advisory board developing the policy
includes representatives of the Minnesota Pork Producers, Minnesota
Cattlemen’s Assoc-iation, Minnesota Agrigrowth Council, Minnesota
Farmers Union, and various other pro-meat industry groups.
The board commissioned a technical working paper on animal
health and well-being by Marlene Halverson, sister of Animal Welfare
Institute agricultural consultant Diane Halverson. The board then
predictably rejected 14 of Marlene Halverson’s 18 recommendations,
but agreed in principle that animal welfare standards should be
adopted, that production methods compatible with animal welfare are
preferable; and that there should be certification programs to
ensure compliance with whatever animal welfare standards are
In other words, the industry influence on the Minnesota
citizens’ advisory board was strong enough to keep it from agreeing
that meat producers ought to do anything specific, but not to
prevent recognition that public concerns about animal welfare must be
addressed–a small but significant advance in a state which has
exempted farm animals from almost all coverage by animal welfare laws.
A win for ducks
Spira anticipated from his lengthy campaign experience that
winning pledges of reform from the meat industry and even some actual
changes of practice would be a relatively easy first step. By
contrast, laboratory animal users have traditionally resisted even
The major obstacle to changing how labs treat animals, Spira
soon saw in his first animal welfare campaigns, was lack of direct
public influence on the institutions that do most of the research,
testing, and teaching. Institutions answering only to academic
boards of regents, regulatory agencies, or the companies that hire
them as subcontractors are always at least one step removed from
vulnerability to either boycott pressure or more generalized consumer
resistance–which is the intended outcome of a successful campaign,
whether or not a formal boycott is part of it.
Spira hit the aspects of laboratory animal use that were
vulnerable to public pressure, cutting off federal funding of cat
sex experiments by the American Museum of Natural History in 1976,
persuading the cosmetics giants Avon and Revlon to go cruelty-free in
1980, and in 1984 winning an ongoing commitment from Procter &
Gamble, the largest maker of consumer chemical products and
pharmaceuticals, to phase out all animal use as rapidly as
alternatives can be developed and approved by regulatory agencies.
Then Spira moved on to hit the meat trade, believing that
the intensity of competition among fast food franchises and
supermarkets would give activists an enormous advantage. Companies
willing to spend millions of dollars to gain or hold even 1% of
market share cannot withstand the sort of adverse publicity that the
biomedical research and testing industry has, Spira believed.
The McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s capitulations–at
least in principle– affirm the Spira strategy.
No major supermarket chain has yet been hit by a sustained
animal welfare campaign, and none now requires meat suppliers to
comply with a code of animal welfare standards, but if any major
chain did, the others might soon follow.
Announcing the concessions from McDonald’s, PETA in
September 2000 said that Albertson’s supermarkets had also been asked
to compel meat suppliers to meet basic animal welfare standards. In
June 2001, while announcing the pact with Burger King, PETA hinted
that it might next target Safeway. In September 2001, announcing
the deal with Wendy’s, PETA mentioned Kroger’s.
Viva! USA, the American affiliate of the British
organization founded in 1995 by Juliet Gellatley, has achieved two
precedents with supermarkets on behalf of ducks.
In September 1999, Viva! USA sent news media copies of a
video showing how Grimaud Farms of Stockton, California, raises
ducks in crowded indoor pens, with nowhere to swim, and debills
ducks, as hens are debeaked, to keep the frustrated birds from
hurting each other.
A year later, in September 2000, Viva! USA began asking
U.S. grocery chains to stop selling Grimaud Farms duck meat. The
first targeted chain, Earth Fare, quit selling Grimaud Farms duck
meat in October 2000. The Trader Joe’s chain followed in May 2001.
U.S. meat producers slaughtered 26.1 million ducks in
2000–far short of the toll of nine billion chickens and 304 million
turkeys, but four million more ducks than were slaughtered only two
Whether the Viva! USA campaign can arrest the growth of the
duck slaughter industry by targeting the largest producer remains to
be seen. It has demonstrated, however, that even the largest
producer is vulnerable to a focused effort.
When the public demands change, Spira argued, the meat
industry will change, because the public votes with each choice of a