Organic Eggs Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be, Says Scorecard
Contrary to the popular myth, many well-known organic egg brands – Horizon, Whole Foods 365 Organic, Wild Harvest, Nest Fresh, Eggology, Safeway’s O Organic, Giant’s Nature’s Promise, and Trader Joes organic eggs, to name a few – deserve low marks (“ethically deficient”), says the Cornucopia Institute, which explains: “Our research indicates that the vast majority of organic eggs for private label brands are produced on industrial farms that house hundreds of thousands of birds and do not grant the birds meaningful outdoor access.  The Cornucopia Institute, according to its website, is a public-interest group that exists to “engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture.”
Now, w hat of male birds at the sites Cornucopia rates as "exemplary"? Because male chicks are worthless to the egg-laying business, it doesn’t take much to imagine what happens to nearly half the birds used in this sector – just the same as in the egg industry as a whole.
Some years back, people were avoiding eggs (if not for ethical reasons, it was the cholesterol). Why not run with that? The claim that cage-free eggs represent humane treatment has persuaded many advocates. But that doesn’t make it sensible — or correct.
Activists will stop subsidizing ranchers for losses caused, or even projected to be caused, by wolves. It’s well known that the government assists animal agribusiness financially; it’s less known that an animal-advocacy group set up a similar practice and carried out for more than two decades
The group, Defenders of Wildlife, allotted ranchers more than $1.4 million for losses from wolves and grizzly bears in the years since 1987, and created a special compensation agreement for ranchers when wolves were reintroduced to Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1995. This was finally discontinued in September. The government, using taxpayers’ money, will now pay the ranchers, but only for actual animals killed.
Symbiosis: Governments and Non-Governmental Charities
The British group Animal Aid (known for its annual holiday vegan fair in London) asks people to buy meat from animals killed in front of closed-circuit television cameras.
With the government now calling for the cameras, v eterinarian Pete Wedderburn praised Animal Aid, explaining: "I’m a meat eater, but I want to be as sure as I can be that the animals that end up on my plate have lived reasonably good lives, and that they have been slaughtered humanely.”
No one wants animals to suffer more than they have to. But will symbiosis between government and the charity sector help? To the extent it assures people that animals can be turned into groceries humanely (and thus acceptably), our answer would be “No; we can do better than this.”
Canada 's Horse Slaughter
Bill C-544, drafted by MP Alex Atamanenko of British Columbia, would target the import of horses to be killed in Canada, but the bill has little weight. It’s not government legislation, but a private member’s bill. Its proponents argue that chemicals injected into the horses as medicine could slip into the food supply. But they are likely more concerned with images of horses minutes before their death; footage of horses being whipped, poked with electrical prods, and hung to bleed were televised last spring.
A 2007 ban on horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States created a new horror: live export, wherein tens of thousands of horses are annually trucked to Canada. Friends of Animals foresaw this inevitable chain reaction. Rather than mount a campaign to push the slaughter outside U.S. borders, we committed support to the global sanctuary movement, which saves lives; and we forthrightly challenge the breeding and trading of horses at the roots.
Heifer International: A Model for Factory Farming
Heifer International, with its "zero grazing" policy, fosters “cultural preparation for accepting factory farming when corporate investors take over the markets that Heifer helps to create,” reports the publication Animal People. Heifer is extremely wealthy, and receives still more support from the animal-advocacy sector. The British-based World Society for the Protection of Animals has even issued a joint media release (Aug. 23, 2010) with Heifer, touting WSPA’s “Animals Matter to Me” campaign.
"Since 1944,” the release declared, “Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income."
Asked Animal People editor Merritt Clifton, "Does WSPA perceive a conflict of interest in partnering with an organization whose mandate is expanding animal agriculture?"
Of course it’s common to see animal-related groups shy away from vegetarianism. As Clifton reasons, “for organizations which set standards for animal husbandry--such as Compassion In World Farming, the Royal SPCA of Great Britain, Humane Farm Animal Care, the American Humane Association, and the Animal Welfare Institute--adopting a pro-vegetarian policy could be self-defeating.” Clifton continues: “As a matter of strategy, organizations seeking to improve the well-being of farmed animals here and now are more-or-less obligated to operate as trusted allies of animal producers, whose certifications help producers using methods less onerous for animals to take market share from the rest.”
It’s particularly disturbing to see animal-protection groups pushing agribusiness. In an August statement regarding the Pakistan floods, WSPA spoke of farm animals as “crucial to the recovery of the region"--apparently unaware, Animal People noted, that the Indus River people have long consumed fewer animals than most anyone else in the world. WSPA’s intervention in Pakistan was undertaken chiefly to rebuild animal agriculture, which, by eroding soil in the first place, was largely responsible for the flooding disaster.
WSPA also touts “Backyard Poultry Development” in India. The plan, aimed to help about 270,000 backyard bird keepers by expanding existing flocks to 20 to 50 birds per participating household, notes Animal People, will likely entail dense caging, and lure snakes, jackals, and leopards into villages.
Animal People accepts the need to address suffering, but has raised concerns about animal-protection groups stepping over the line to promote animal agribusiness in the process. The publication’s September 2010 editorial states that “eliminating human consumption of animal products is the long-term goal” of animal advocates and “the only way to completely end animal suffering in food production, and to raise the moral status of animals across the spectrum of issues.”
Sense of Euphoria
In September, the American Humane Association endorsed a decompression chamber for birds such as chickens, developed by TechnoCatch LLC and OK Foods Inc.  In 1950, notes Animal People, the AHA endorsed decompression chambers for killing homeless dogs and cats. Today, it’s banned from the United States and most nations that ever used it.
The American Veterinary Medical Association disapproves of its resurrection for birds, citing “pain and distress attributable to expanding gases trapped in body cavities”; United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis notes that ducks would be especially hard to kill by oxygen deprivation, given their adaptations for swimming long distances underwater. But the USDA has decided not to object to the system.
Humane Society of the U.S. representative Paul Shapiro stated:
Until the research is published, it will be difficult to have a conclusive opinion on it. Some science shows that rapid decompression is very painful. I have heard that slow decompression may be painless. Of course birds are different than mammals, but some humans report a sense of euphoria when slowly introduced to low-oxygen environments such as high altitudes.
In November, Animal Defenders International (with offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogotá) and television personality Bob Barker were among the groups to “celebrate” Missouri’s Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, obliging breeders to provide the dogs adequate food and water and veterinary care. It will limit dogs to two pregnancies in an eighteen-month period. Oddly, the release called that a “monumental victory.”
Never Mind: Europe Unable to Replace Animal Tests by 2013
“ We were the first professional beauty company to stand up against animal testing” announces Paul Mitchell Systems. Never has it been more important to support companies that follow this lead. Now, what about governments?
The European “ Cosmetics Directive” was to end the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals. In 2009 the European Union accepted an animal-testing ban for cosmetics--and a ban on marketing products that contain ingredients that have been tested on animals anywhere. But here’s the rub: The marketing ban was to come in phases. Repeated-dose toxicity tests (to test a product for adverse reactions or even cancer) were to be over in 2013. The European Commission, publicizing a Draft Technical Report that “ correctly reflects the current state of the art and the prospects,” says replacement for repeat-dose toxicity tests will not be available then -- although the report mentions in vitro tools that could “help reduce and refine animal use.” The Commission suggests skin sensitivity replacement will take at least another seven years, and cancer testing longer still. 
The Struggle to End Animal Experiments Continues
In 2009, more than 3.6 million experiments took place in British animal labs -- a slight decrease from 2008, but 13% higher than 2007.
No anesthesia whatsoever was used in 67% of the tests.
Announcing the shocking figures, a press release by Uncaged Campaigns declared, “But ultimately, one animal poisoned, mutilated, diseased and killed is still one too many.
The media have quoted Jon Richmond of the Home Office’s Animal Experiments Sec tion as predicting that the number of experiments will keep rising given continued expansion of biotechnology. Genetically engineered animals and animals bred with harmful mutations now comprise more than half of the population of the animals used.
Belgium to Neuter Almost All Cats! Now, Here’s the Catch.
Belgium ’s 11 million people have about 1.7 million domestic cats. More than a third of Belgium’s 37,000 homeless cats were caught and killed last year.
"We are confronted with a dramatic situation," said Jan Eyckmans of the Belgian health ministry. "So our minister asked the animal welfare council to come up with ideas." Now, all cats up for adoption will be sterilized, and Belgian cat owners will be obliged to sterilize and register their cats by 2016. But as breeders of Siamese, Abyssinian and other pedigrees will be exempted from the new regime, this would continue to facilitate the breeding and commerce which created the problem in the first place.
Great Ape Protection Act Falls Short
The Great Ape Protection Act, S.3694, introduced in the U.S. Senate in August to phase out the use of great apes in invasive research, and promoted by the Jane Goodall Institute and several advocacy groups, would end invasive research on some apes — but not “close observation of natural or voluntary behavior” of an individual.
This suggests that putting apes on display or subjecting them to cognitive experiments (which researchers often portray as voluntary), will be condoned.
For too long, animals have been plucked out of their own spaces and stuck in labs, zoos, and roadside shows. Would the Great Ape Protection Act change this? Even if it did offer comprehensive protection, legislation can be repealed. Pressure to have primates understood as persons belongs in the courts -- now.
- The “scorecard” is publicly available at: http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/
- Rocky Barker, “ Activists Will Stop Paying for Wolf Kills in Idaho and 5 Other States ” – Bellingham [ Washington] Herald (30 Aug. 2010).
- The group’s website states: We are demanding that the supermarkets only buy meat from animals killed in slaughterhouses fitted with CCTV cameras.” For the blog piece, see “ It's Time to Install CCTV in UK's Abattoirs” – Telegraph.co.uk (11 Oct. 2010); available at http://bit.ly/cctv-kill.
- See Gloria Galloway, “ Protesters Call for End to Canada's Horse Slaughter” -- Globe and Mail (4 Oct. 2010).
- “ American Humane Association Approves Decompressing Chickens”-- Animal People (Sept. 2010; published 5 Oct. 2010).
- The announcement dated 8 Nov. 2010 and widely distributed online, reads: “Missouri Passes Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act; Bob Barker, Animal Defenders International congratulate voters, animal welfare groups for ending suffering.”
- Documents associated with the 2010 report are posted at: http://bit.ly/EuropaPDF
- These are conservative figures, for, as explained by according to Uncaged Campaigns, the government only counts experiments “likely to cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.”
- Ian Traynor, “ Belgium plans to neuter most cats as feline population explodes” – Guardian (3 Sep. 2010).