Letters [Oct 2010]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)

Zero grazing

Thank you so much for Animal People’s September 2010
editorial feature “Zero Grazing vs. the Five Freedoms.” It covers a
subject that has been of great concern to me since I worked on
Compassion In World Farming’s Livestock Revolution project over a
decade ago.
I first saw zero grazing in Kenya when the International
Livestock Research Institute took me to see what they called good
practice in smallholder livestock systems in the countryside outside
Nairobi. I was shocked to see dairy cows barricaded into small
wooden stalls on mud flooring, eating piles of grass that had been
cut and carried from nearby lush grasslands. As you rightly point
out, this barren environment was clearly against the Five Freedoms,
and caused me to wonder how such a cruel and inequitable system could
have become so entrenched as to be considered “good practice.”

The International Fund for Agricult-ural Development has also
been involved in funding a Smallholder Dairy Commercializ-ation
Programme which involves persuading farmers, apparently with some
resistance, to abandon grazing and the keeping of large numbers of
cattle of local breeds–which generate great respect in Africa, as
well as providing insurance and dowries–in favor of devoting part or
all of their small land parcels to growing and storing forage, and
investing in the construction of zero grazing sheds for a smaller
number of “improved” breed cattle. “Improved” to IFAD means bred for
productivity, as opposed to disease resistance, adaptation to local
environments, etc.
For the past four years I have been doing development work as
well as animal welfare work, mostly in Africa. I consistently see
zero grazing used and promoted in livestock projects. Your editorial
discussed Heifer International. Another of the many charities now
promoting zero grazing is Africa 2000 Network-Uganda. This is an
independent Ugandan organization that started as a United Nations
Development Program project which covered 13 African countries.
Africa 2000 Network-Uganda pushes zero grazing even though an
in-depth study done from 2001 to 2005, funded by the Danish
International Development Agency, concluded that in Uganda
high-input/highly intensified production systems were not necessarily
more profitable–and that dairy farmers who have adopted zero grazing
may want to revisit their choice of production systems to sustain
their crop as well as dairy production over the long term.
I would like to see the animal protection movement engage in
systematic advocacy to development organizations to ensure that
promoting inequitable systems such as zero grazing become
–Janice Cox
Management Consultant:
Animal Welfare & Development
Recreating the misdeeds of the west

The September 2010 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial feature “Zero
Grazing vs. the Five Freedoms” is really brilliant. It explains the
whole issue clearly and comprehensively–and, I think, uncovers the
pretenses lurking behind the concept of promoting animal agriculture
while implying that it in some way is really helpful to animals.
Especially it explains that zero grazing is just a precursor
to getting people used to the idea that farm animals can be confined.
Of course once they are confined, that is the beginning of
industrial farming, and all kinds of other abuses follow, which are
always promoted as “more humane for the animals.”
It is absolutely true that the worst, or by far the most
numerous, abuses on the planet relate to farm animals. And this is
very much the core of the whole animal welfare issue, because the
same people who love their dog and their cat may have great
resistance to learning about brutality to chickens, who end up on
their plate.
It was so odd recently, when there were egg recalls, to see
TV anchors and U.S. Senators who seemed genuinely shocked to see that
chickens were kept in inhumane conditions. They had never even
thought about it.
All of the misdeeds of the West seem to be being re-created
in developing countries–who have had a history of, if not kindness,
then at least a tradition of natural farming methods. And there are
so many huge forces aiming to replace these traditions with factory
farming and other abuses. In India there are traditions of kindness
and reverence for animals, but everywhere, in all countries,
animals were in the past at least allowed to graze and live naturally.
It is really essential, I think, for animal people,
especially in Asia and Africa, to see really clearly the dangers of
promoting factory farming under the guise of “helping animals and
people with more development.” Such rhetoric is just a way of
re-creating all the abuses toward animals found in the western world.
–Sharon St. Joan
Kanab, Utah
WSPA & Heifer

I thought that your analysis of the relationship between the
World Society for the Protection of Animals and Heifer International
in the September 2010 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE was great. I really
think it’s important that animal advocates not fall into the trap of
supporting further agricultural use of farmed animals, a sad but
increasing trend. Keep up the great work!
–Marti Kheel
Author, Nature Ethics:
An Ecofeminist Perspective
Berkeley, California
Three cheers!

Merritt Clifton, three cheers for receiving the
International Society for Infectious Diseases’ ProMED-mail Award for
Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet!
As a nurse epidemiologist and animal person, I’ve always
been so pleased to read your contributions to ProMED. And now your
excellent work is justly recognized!
–Betsy Todd
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Commonwealth Games street dogs

Concerning “Street dogs, trains, & Indian elephants” in the
September 2010 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, only one national committee
complained about the dogs– from Scotland, a nation of dog-lovers.
Every picture of a stray dog that has appeared so far in any
newspaper or magazine has shown healthy, friendly dogs. No picture
has ever shown more than two dogs, so forget about packs of strays.
I am not condoning dogs entering the apartment blocks and
paw-prints on one bed, with which irresponsible journalists went to
town, but many journalists have never let facts get in the way of a
good story.
All in India owe a deep debt of gratitude to the relentless
efforts of General Rammehar Kharb, chair of the Animal Welfare Board
of India. Kharb stressed to the Delhi administration that due to the
vacuum created by removing the few dogs from the Commonwealth Games
site who were there earlier, new dogs have migrated in, since food
is available there.
The Indian Railways killing of elephants because of the
non-observance of speed limits on trains in known elephant corridors
is another major cause for concern.
Your editorial “‘Zero grazing’ vs. the Five Freedoms” is
probably the best I have read so far.
–S. Chinny Krishna
Blue Cross of India
1-A Eldams Rd., Chennai
Tamil Nadu 600018, India
Phone: 91-44-234-1399
The Lost Dogs

I loved your September 2010 review of The Lost Dogs: Michael
Vick’s dogs and their tale of rescue & redemption by Jim Gorant.
You are so correct. Now the pressure is on to save all the pits
confiscated from dog fighters. And we all know, or should know,
that depending on their breeding that may not be possible in many
cases, regardless of how much money there is to spend.
–Dawn Danielson
County of San Diego
Department of
Animal Services
5480 Gaines St.,
San Diego Ca., 92110
Death wish?

Re “American Humane Association approves decompressing
chickens,” whose great idea was that? I truly believe they have a
death wish for the organization.
–Warren S. Cox
Lakeland, Florida

Re “American Humane Association approves decompressing
chickens,” on page one of the September 2010 edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE, the American Humane Association always seems to be doing
something like this. It is hard to understand why they are still in
existence in light of such on-going controversy over many issues.
–Phyllis M. Daugherty, director
Animal Issues Movement
420 N. Bonnie Brae St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Phone: 213-413-SPAY

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