Day: June 13, 2022

USA: USDA releases years of slaughterhouse records following lawsuit.

As always, with thanks to Stacey at ‘Our Compass’ for supplying this article;

Mark

USDA releases years of slaughterhouse records following lawsuit

Veterinary neglect is common to all farms visited. Animals that suffer from innumerable health problems are not treated for reasons of economic profitability. / October, 2019. Castilla la Mancha, Source Tras Los Muros

No laws can protect animals bred to be dead, why people champion regulations or laws that REQUIRE violent death, is bizarre. In slaughterhouses, where animals are violently killed after brief existences of suffering, there is NO REGULATION that can protect animals – it’s a SLAUGHTERHOUSE.

I disagree with the “transparency” term for the above reasons, same as I don’t praise CCTV in slaughterhouses: slaughterhouses are where animals go to violently die, how anyone can praise a recording of animals violently dying, is bizarre. If people are so happy to use CCTV as demonstrative of animal “protection”, what is more protective of animals than NOT KILLING ANIMALS?

Following a lawsuit, the USDA released the below records establishing the frequent torture that occurs IN ADDITION TO animal violation and suffering and violent death. It’s almost as if, despite the “humane-treatment-of-animals” mantra of anag cheerleaders, they’re admitting to the abject horrors defenseless animals are forced to endure: if killing animals is so “humane” there would be no reason to try to withhold slaughterhouse “violations”.

Veganism is the ONLY humane and the ONLY logical protection for animals. SL

USDA source links, all records below following article:

Source Sentient Media

By Jennifer Mishler

Marking a step towards transparency in food production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has disclosed on its website records revealing the handling of farmed animals in slaughterhouses. The records, dating back to January of 2017, were made publicly available following a settlement between the federal agency and animal protection organizations Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Farm Sanctuary.

In a complaint filed in 2018, the nonprofits alleged that the USDA had violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to release requested records showing its enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. These laws govern the treatment of billions of animals killed for food in the U.S. each year as well as food safety.

“This is the biggest step in improving government transparency at slaughter since the USDA began disclosing these records pursuant to [the Freedom of Information Act],” said Erin Sutherland, a staff attorney with AWI’s farmed animal program. 

The release of the USDA records, despite a failed attempt by the agency to have the case dismissed, offers what AWI calls “a rare window into a heavily guarded aspect of food production.” The group believes that the proactive disclosure of animal handling records could boost transparency and safety in the U.S. food system.

While traditional FOIA requests require federal agencies to release information upon request, the process can be lengthy. “The delay associated with fulfilling these requests renders the records almost useless by the time they are received,” AWI’s farmed animal program director Dena Jones said in 2018. But according to the law, FOIA also requires federal agencies to “proactively” disclose records subject to frequent FOIA requests.

In the fiscal year 2019, the USDA received a total of 26,458 FOIA requests, the majority—77 percent—going to its Farm Production and Conservation program which includes such agencies as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. That year, the USDA reported that it is taking steps to increase its proactive disclosures, including making FOIA information more accessible on its websites and publishing monthly APHIS FOIA logs.

The settlement brings an encouraging step. Yet there is much to be done when it comes to transparency in animal agriculture. The industry is protected by industry favoring ag-gag laws that silence investigators and whistleblowers who often provide the public’s only insight into the realities faced by animals and workers inside factory farms and slaughterhouses. Corporations also wield immense power over their supply chains, compounding the secrecy in food production and complicating the role of government oversight. 

While there is a long way to go, Farm Sanctuary general counsel Emily von Klemperer said the agreement by the USDA to publicly post slaughter records constitutes “a huge victory.” 

“These records routinely expose inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter facilities and are critical to our efforts to educate the public and hold the agency accountable to enforce what minimal legal protections farm[ed] animals have,” she says.

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Regards Mark and Stacey

USA: Congressional investigation reveals the lengths meat industry went to downplay risks to workers …….

Officials under former US president Donald Trump “collaborated” with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of Covid to plant workers and block public health measures that could have saved lives, a new investigation has found. Internal documents describe how industry representatives lobbied government officials to stifle “pesky” health departments from imposing evidence-based safety measures.

Trump officials and meat industry blocked life-saving Covid controls, investigation finds | Meat industry | The Guardian

Congressional investigation reveals the lengths meat industry went to downplay risks to workers and lobby receptive Trump officials

Trump officials “collaborated” with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of Covid to plant workers and block public health measures which could have saved lives, a damning new investigation has found.

Internal documents reviewed by the congressional select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis reveal how industry representatives lobbied government officials to stifle “pesky” health departments from imposing evidence-based safety measures to curtail the virus spreading – and tried to obscure worker deaths from these authorities.

At least 59,000 workers at five of the largest meatpacking companies – Tyson Foods, JBS USA Holdings, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef Packing Company which are the subject of the congressional inquiry – contracted Covid in the first year of the pandemic, of whom at least 269 died.

According to internal communications, the companies were warned about workers and their families falling sick within weeks of the virus hitting the US. Despite this, company representatives enlisted industry-friendly Trump appointees at the USDA to fight their battles against Covid regulations and oversight.

In addition, company executives intentionally stoked fears about meat shortages in order to justify continuing to operate the plants under dangerous conditions.

The fears were baseless – there were no meat shortages in the US, while exports to China hit record highs.

Yet in April 2020, Trump issued an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat plants open following a flurry of communication between the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the vice-president’s office, USDA allies and company executives.

The order, which was proposed by Smithfield and Tyson (whose legal department also wrote the draft), was an overt attempt to override health departments and force meat plant workers – who are mostly immigrants, refugees and people of color – to keep working without adequate protections while shielding the industry from lawsuits.

James Clyburn, chairman of the subcommittee, condemned the conduct of the industry executives and their government allies as “shameful”.

“Trump’s political appointees at USDA collaborated with large meatpacking companies to lead an administration-wide effort to force workers to remain on the job during the coronavirus crisis despite dangerous conditions, and even to prevent the imposition of commonsense mitigation measures. This coordinated campaign prioritized industry production over the health of workers and communities, and contributed to tens of thousands of workers becoming ill, hundreds of workers dying, and the virus spreading throughout surrounding areas.”

The meatpacking industry, which includes slaughterhouses and processing plants – is one of the most profitable and dangerous in the US. It is a monopoly business, with just a handful of powerful multinationals dominating the supply chain which, even before Covid, was bad news for farmers, workers, consumers and animal welfare.

As Covid spread, the industry was warned about the high risk of transmission in their plants. For example, a doctor near the JBS facility in Cactus, Texas, wrote to a company executive in April 2020 saying “100% of all Covid-19 patients we have in the hospital are either direct employees or family member[s] of your employees”, warning that “your employees will get sick and may die if this factory continues to be open”.

In late May 2020 – well after the importance of prevention measures such as testing, social distancing and personal protective equipment was widely recognized – an executive told an industry lobbyist that temperature screening was “all we should be doing”. The lobbyist agreed, replying: “Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!”

The report, Now to get rid of those pesky healthy departments!, reveals how USDA Trump appointees did the industry’s bidding in order to carry on with business as usual. The report is based on more than 151,000 pages of documents collected from meatpacking companies and interest groups, as well as interviews with meatpacking workers, former USDA and CDC officials, and state and local health authorities among others.

The documents show that:

In March 2020, the industry aggressively lobbied USDA officials, who in turn escalated their wishes to Vice-President Mike Pence’s office, to ensure states were advised to designate meatpacking workers as “critical infrastructure” employees who could be exempt from social distancing and stay at home orders. This conduct was “particularly egregious considering that the nation’s meat supply was not actually at risk”, the subcommittee found.

Mindy Brashears, the undersecretary of food safety, was considered the go-to fixer, who could stop health departments enforcing Covid safety measures at local plants. Brashears “hasn’t lost a battle for us”, said one lobbyist.

Career USDA staff told the congressional subcommittee how they were sidelined, while Brashears and her deputies communicated with industry officials on their personal phones in order to avoid leaving a paper trail.

Meatpacking companies also successfully lobbied USDA officials to advocate for Department of Labor policies that deprived their employees of benefits if they missed work or quit, while also seeking insulation from legal liability if workers then fell ill or died.

As reports of Covid clusters at meatpacking plants increased, industry officials and the USDA jointly lobbied the White House to dissuade frightened workers from staying home or quitting. For instance in April 2020 the CEOs of JBS, Smithfield and Tyson among other companies asked the secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, during a call to “elevate the need for messaging about the importance of our workforce staying at work to the POTUS or VP level”.

It worked. At a press briefing soon after, Mike Pence told meatpacking workers that “we need you to continue … to show up and do your job”, admonishing recent “incidents of worker absenteeism”.

The report concludes: “Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take. They nonetheless lobbied aggressively – successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts – to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise, and to be protected against legal liability for the harms that would result.”

The trade association for meat and poultry packers and processors rejected the report’s findings and accused the subcommittee of “cherry-picking data”.

“The report ignores the rigorous and comprehensive measures companies enacted to protect employees and support their critical infrastructure workers,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.

In addition, a spokesperson for JBS said the company “did everything possible to ensure the safety of our people who kept our critical food supply chain running”. In a statement Cargill said: “We’ve worked hard to maintain safe and consistent operations to feed families during the pandemic, yet we did not hesitate to temporarily idle or reduce capacity at processing plants in the interest of our employees’ wellbeing.”

A spokesman for Smithfield said: “The concerns we expressed were very real and we are thankful that a food crisis was averted and that we are starting to return to normal … Did we make every effort to share with government officials our perspective on the pandemic and how it was impacting the food production system? Absolutely.”

Tyson said collaboration with the government was crucial to the supply chain and for worker safety: “Over the past two years, our company has been contacted by, received direction from, and collaborated with many different federal, state and local officials – including both the Trump and Biden Administrations – as we’ve navigated the challenges of the pandemic.”

The subcommittee investigation into the meatpacking industry’s response to the pandemic was launched in February 2021 following reports that meat companies had refused to take adequate safety measures precautions to protect workers during the first year of the pandemic. Last year, the subcommittee found that the illness and death toll at plants owned by the five big meatpackers had been grossly underestimated, and that the companies put profits over worker safety.

A USDA spokesperson said: “The content of the report was deeply disturbing and many of the decisions made by the previous administration are not in line with our values.”

The Guardian has contacted the former Trump administration officials for comment.

Trump officials and meat industry blocked life-saving Covid controls, investigation finds | Meat industry | The Guardian

Regards Mark

New Zealand: Introducing Taxes On Sheep and Cattle Burps.

New Zealand is to introduce a tax on sheep and cattle burps in an attempt to tackle one of the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gases. It would be the first country in the world to charge farmers for the methane emissions from the animals they keep. There were more than 36 million sheep, beef and dairy cattle in New Zealand in 2020.

New Zealand has unveiled a plan to tax sheep and cattle burps in a bid to tackle one of the country’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

It would make it the first nation to charge farmers for the methane emissions from the animals they keep.

New Zealand is home to just over five million people, along with around 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep.

Almost half the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, mainly methane.

However, agricultural emissions have previously not been included in New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme, which has been criticised by those calling for the government to do more to stop global warming.

“There is no question that we need to cut the amount of methane we are putting into the atmosphere, and an effective emissions pricing system for agriculture will play a key part in how we achieve that,” New Zealand’s climate change minister James Shaw said.

Under the proposal farmers will have to pay for their gas emissions from 2025.

The plan also includes incentives for farmers who reduce emissions through feed additives, while planting trees on farms could be used to offset emissions.

Andrew Hoggard – who is a dairy farmer and the national president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand – told the BBC that he broadly approved of the proposals.

“We’ve been working with the government and other organisations on this for years to get an approach that won’t shut down farming in New Zealand, so we’ve signed off on a lot of stuff we’re happy with.”

“But you know, like all of these types of agreements with many parties involved, there’s always going to be a couple of dead rats you have to swallow,” he added.

Mr Hoggard also highlighted that the fine details of the plan’s rollout have not yet been agreed.

“There are still the nuts and bolts to be hammered out, like who actually implements the scheme, so there’s still stuff to work through with the government.”

The money raised from the scheme will be invested in research, development and advisory services for farmers, the country’s environment ministry said.

Last month, New Zealand’s finance minister committed NZ$2.9bn (£1.5bn; $1.9bn) for initiatives to tackle climate change, which would be funded by an emissions trading system that taxed polluters.

Meanwhile on Thursday, investors managing $14tn of assets urged the United Nations to create a global plan to make the agriculture sector sustainable.

In a letter to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s director-general – which was first reported by the Reuters news agency – the FAIRR Initiative said the agency was best-placed to take the lead on creating a road-map to curb one of the biggest sources of climate damaging emissions.

Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2).

It is one of the most potent and responsible for a third of current warming from human activities. Individual methane molecules have a more powerful warming effect on the atmosphere than single CO2 molecules.

At last year’s COP26 environmental conference in Glasgow the US and the EU agreed to cut emissions of the gas by 30% by 2030. More than 100 countries, including New Zealand, have also signed up to the initiative.

How is methane emitted?

Around 40% of CH4 comes from natural sources such as wetlands but the bigger share now comes from a range of human activities, ranging from agriculture, such as cattle and rice production, to rubbish dumps.

One of the biggest sources is from the production, transport and use of natural gas and since 2008 there has been a big spike in methane emissions, which researchers believe is linked to the boom in fracking for gas in parts of the US.

In 2019, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels, around two-and-a-half times above what they were in the pre-industrial era.

What worries scientists is that methane has real muscle when it comes to heating the planet. Over a 100-year period it is 28-34 times as warming as CO2.

Over a 20-year period it is around 84 times as powerful per unit of mass as carbon dioxide.

However, there is much more CO2 than methane in the atmosphere and individual molecules of it can remain there for hundreds of years.

Climate change: New Zealand’s plan to tax cow and sheep burps – BBC News

Regards Mark

France: Puts 18 People (Including Vets) On Trial Over Their Alleged Involvement In Europe’s Horsemeat Scandal.

France is putting 18 people, including two veterinarians, on trial over their alleged involvement in Europe’s horsemeat scandal. Defendants are accused of participation in the supply of horsemeat unfit for human consumption across the continent, with those accused coming from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

Defendants are accused of participation in supply of horsemeat unfit for human consumption across Europe

When Aline Oudin was forced to find a new home for her beloved 28-year-old chestnut horse Ténor du Pluvinage, she placed an advert asking if anyone could offer him a new field to see out his final days.

A man in his 60s responded saying he was looking for a calm companion for the young mare he had bought his daughter, so Oudin let him take the horse away with the promise she could visit him regularly.

“Everything happened very quickly. I didn’t have time to think. The gentleman liked Ténor and I gave him my trust … I was in great distress at having to separate from my companion of 23 years,” she said afterwards.

“Seeing me in tears, the man comforted me and assured me that my horse would be well cared for and that I could come and see him whenever I wanted. That same evening, the man phoned me to tell me that the return journey had gone well. But when I called him back to ask for his name and address, his phone was on voicemail and then the line was disconnected.”

Oudin placed appeals and adverts to try to discover what had happened to her animal. Months later she discovered the horse had been sent to an abattoir.

Nine years on, 18 people, including two veterinarians, are appearing in court in Marseille on Monday accused of involvement in a vast illegal trafficking network across Europe that allegedly supplied horsemeat unfit for human consumption to wholesalers and butchers.

The defendants, from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, are thought to have bought and sold thousands of retired draft horses and racehorses, and even ponies, that were exported to Belgium where they were allegedly given fake identification and tracking documents before being sent back to abattoirs in the south of France.

They have been charged with fraud as part of an organised gang, or supplying false and deceptive goods liable to be a danger for human health, and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Eight of the accused have been in custody since 2015 after European police smashed the continent-wide network.

Mathilde Bloch, the investigating judge, said detectives had shown “negligence or positive action showing the complicity of the two vets” accused of falsifying documents.

Oudin, from Meurthe-et-Moselle in eastern France, is one of more than 150 horse owners thought to have handed over their old animals believing they would be looked after in their final years.

“I learned after lengthy research that my horse had been killed when he had been given insecticide, worming and anti-inflammatory treatments that would have made him totally unfit for eating,” she told French journalists. “I have been profoundly hurt. I had this horse for 20 years and he was part of the family.”

Lionel Febbraro, a lawyer for one of the veterinarians, blamed confusion over “incredibly complex” European rules for his client’s involvement. “Even if I admit it can’t be pleasant to learn that your horse has ended up at the abattoir, a priori, nobody died poisoned,” he said.

France puts 18 on trial over alleged involvement in vast horsemeat scandal | France | The Guardian

Regards Mark