December 5, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Tortured Chickens, Pigs, Fracking

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Fast-food workers held strikes in 150 cities this week.

Fast-food workers held strikes in 150 cities this week.

Poultry farming underworld. In his column on Wednesday, Nicholas Kristof writes about newly released footage from a Purdue grower in North Carolina of what really goes on in a poultry farm, even ones that boast humane treatment of chickens. Kristof writes: “The entire underside of almost every chicken is a huge, continuous bedsore. As a farmboy who raised small flocks of chickens and geese, I never saw anything like that.” He concludes: “Torture a single chicken and you risk arrest. Abuse hundreds of thousands of chickens for their entire lives? That’s agribusiness. I don’t know where to draw the lines. But when chickens have huge open bedsores on their undersides, I wonder if that isn’t less animal husbandry than animal abuse.”

New Jersey pigs and Governor Christie. New Jersey has 300 pig farms, and recently Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would ban inhumane crates for pregnant sows—the gestation crates are so small that the pigs can’t turn around in them. Fox News covered the veto and mentioned the governor’s aspiration to run for President in 2016. Christie appears to be more concerned about how banning gestation crates in his home state would play in Iowa— site of the first caucus in the 2016 presidential season— than doing the right thing for humane treatment of pigs in New Jersey.

Governor O’Malley fracks Maryland. At the end of last month, Governor Martin O’Malley announced that he would open up the state of Maryland for fracking, although with “strict regulations.” The Washington Post reports on that, as well as his history of blocking fracking. It will be up to Governor-elect Larry Hogan, who comes into office in January, 2015, to adopt, weaken, or cancel the safeguards. Like Govenor Christie, Governor O’Malley seems to aspire to a Presidential run in 2016. Better that he pay attention to the commission he appointed to assess the risks to public health posed by fracking in Western Maryland than try to position himself to seek favor from pro-fracking business interests.

A national food policy. Last month the Washington Post ran an opinion piece about how a national food policy could save millions of lives, authored by power-hitters Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Olivier De Schutter, and Ricardo Salvador. And this week, Bittman, Pollan, and Salvador followed up on the enormous appeal of that idea with a live tweetchat: the Storify is here. I’m pleased to announce that next week Ricardo Salvador visits the CLF to deliver the annual Dodge Lecture.

Fair wages for food workers. Yesterday fast-food workers staged demonstrations in 150 cities across the U.S.. The workers want a $15 hour living wage. The New York Times provides some coverage.

Antibiotics and meat. A new report released this week by the Pew Charitable Trusts addresses the ineffectiveness of the FDA’s Guidance 213, now a year old, which was supposed to curb the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals. Pew reports on loopholes and gaps in policy, including the one the CLF warned about last year—removing the label permitting use of low-dose antibiotics for growth promotion while still permitting low-dose antibiotics for disease prevention will not reduce the risk of selecting gene mutations that confer antibiotic resistance to bacteria that can cause serious infections in humans.

FDA and Big Pharma get cozy. Our friend Wenonah Hauter at Food and Water Watch has written a blogpost about the inappropriate relationship between FDA and Pfizer. CLF contributed to the effort to expose this relationship, which involved filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Good news for salmon. Civil Eats reports on a new EPA restriction on the use of a pesticide known as thiobencarb in California. As the article states, the new policy is “aimed at protecting salmon and steelhead trout native to the state’s rivers and it sets the stage for protections that could benefit salmon along the Pacific coast.”

The Farm Bureau is not what you think it is. Our friend Dennis Keeney brought this opinion piece from the Des Moines Register to my attention. It exposes the Farm Bureau as a right-wing pro-Big Ag lobby group disguised as a nonprofit organization.

APHA hits. In the week before Thanksgiving, several of CLFers went to New Orleans to participate in the annual convention of the American Public Health Association. Highlights include a book party for a new textbook edited by Roni Neff and a talk given by Julia Wolfson, a CLF-Lerner Fellow, whose study on the health benefits of cooking and eating at home got quite a bit of media attention. Here’s the Civil Eats story that was re-run in TIME magazine.

Salmon innovation. CLF’s Jillian Fry delivered the keynote address to about 180 people from 11 countries at the Aquaculture Innovation Workshops in Vancouver and reported back on some of the exciting exchanges there regarding finfish aquaculture. Here’s the program. The fund, supported by Tides Canada, is “focused on advancing aquaculture solutions which protect wild salmon and the marine environment.” For more information about AIW6, visit the website.

Photo: July 29, 2013 protest at McDonald’s in New York City. Photo by Annette Bernhardt. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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