Newsbites: Humane Society vs. the Nation’s Number Two Egg Producer; Popular New Pesticide–Good for Ozone, Bad for Humans; Hard Drugs in Your Honey?

●Humane Society Files Complaint About Nation’s Number Two Egg Producer

●Popular New Pesticide–Good for Ozone, But Bad for Humans

●Hard Drugs  in Your Honey?

Scratching out a living
Scratching out a living

Something to Squawk About

During the winter here in Vermont, my 12 laying hens seem content enough residing in a retrofitted horse stable. But when I open the henhouse door for the first time in the spring, feathers literally fly as the birds stampede to get outside. In celebration of their newfound liberty, they flap, run, peck, and scratch—in short, behave like chickens.

Which is why I’m always skeptical when a factory farm claims that hens are perfectly happy spending their entire lives crammed into barns with tens of thousands of other chickens in stacked battery cages each not much bigger than the average computer screen. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) apparently agrees. Last week, the organization filed a complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission to stop Rose Acre Farms, the country’s second largest egg producer, from making “false and misleading animal welfare claims.”

Indiana-based Rose Acre, which bills itself as “the good egg people,” has 16 million hens and supplies eggs to most parts of the nation. According to the company’s website, its chickens get “plenty of fresh country air” and have “plenty of space for free movement.” The company says that only happy hens lay eggs.

A rosy picture?

A rosy picture?

In its complaint, the HSUS says that Rose Acre falsely claims that it provides a “humane and friendly environment” for its caged hens. In an investigation earlier this year, the HSUS says it found conditions in one of Rose Acre’s facilities starkly at odds with the cheerful image projected by the company. Birds were trapped in the wires of battery cages, unable to reach food or water. Others had broken bones and untreated prolapsed uteruses. Mummified corpses of dead chickens were in cages with live ones. Abandoned hens had fallen into manure pits.

“Companies like Rose Acre are deceptively exploiting the exponentially growing consumer demand for improved animal welfare,” said Jonathan Lovvorn of the HSUS in a press release.

Gas Pains

Methyl bromide was a popular weapon in chemical agriculture’s arsenal. Sprayed onto fields before planting, the colorless, odorless gas conveniently kills every living organism in the soil. Less conveniently, the chemical is also eats a giant hole in the ozone layer, so the Environmental Protection Agency ordered that the fumigant be weeded out of the nation’s fields out by 2015.

The pesticide industry wasted no time coming up with a substitute. Called methyl iodide, the new chemical also sterilizes soil, but doesn’t poke holes in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, in experiments with lab animals, it caused cancer, neurological damage, and birth defects.

“This is, without question, one of the most toxic chemicals on earth,” said John Froines, a professor of environmental health at the University of California, told Timm Herdt, a reporter with the Ventura County Star.

Froines, who chaired a scientific review panel on methyl iodide’s possible health effects, testified before a California legislative committee last week. The committee is looking into a decision by the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation to authorize the use of methyl iodide in California. A public comment period on the decision ends at the end of this month. Unless legislators act, the chemical will cleared for application by late fall, even though the panel said that “adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible.”

But Arysta LifeScience, the company that sells methyl iodide under the trade name Midas, assured potential customers that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the chemical would be available by next spring—“fumigant season” in California.  It seems that the scientific review panel overlooked one important fact: It pays to have friends in high places.

 

A Sting Operation

Add yet another chemically contaminated food product to the roster of unsafe imports from China. Earlier this month, federal marshals seized 3,500 gallons of honey from a Philadelphia warehouse. The honey, which had been imported by Sweet Works, Inc. from China, contained chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that is not approved for use in food, animal food, or food-producing animals in the United States.

Chloramphenicol is a potent, potentially toxic drug that is given to people with infections that have proven resistant to other treatments. Fortunately, the marshals got to the honey before it was distributed to consumers.

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1 comment

  1. Marguerite McGrath says:

    When you rely on the HSUS for your news reporting, you will be reporting seriously biased and fact-devoid garbage.

    Here is an article referencing the HSUS attack on Rose Acre Farms: http://brownfieldagnews.com/2010/04/26/hsus-bit-off-more-than-it-could-chew/

    You might be interested to know that Rose Acre Farms has been certified humane by the American Humane Association. The AHA is actually an animal welfare association, unlike the HSUS which is a giant animal rights lobbying group which has an anti-animal, anti-agriculture, anti-meat agenda.

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