Browsing Posts in Animal Rights

Small farmers and urban poultry owners alike are threatened by the USDA’s new proposal for animal identification. The agency has proposed a rule that imposes costs and paperwork burdens on farmers, ranchers, backyard poultry owners, sale barns, vets, and state agencies in order to track animals that cross state lines.
The proposed rule is a solution in search of a problem. The USDA has failed to identify the specific problem or disease of concern, and the real focus of the program is helping the export market for the benefit of a handful of large corporations. The agency has also failed to account for the full cost to both private individuals and state governments, creating an unfunded mandate. The new rule will harm rural businesses while wasting taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on the real problems we face in controlling animal disease, food security, and food safety.
Family farmers and ranchers cannot afford additional paperwork and unnecessary expenses. Please help protect our farms and our right to own animals by submitting your comments today!
TAKE ACTION: You can submit comments either online or by mail.
The government’s online system can be difficult to navigate and there is a time limit. We encourage you to write your comments and save them in a document on your computer, then copy and paste them into the online comment form. Also, although only some of the information fields are marked as being “required,” some people have experienced problems when they left fields blank. So for the fields that are not required, you may wish to put “NA” (not applicable) in them to avoid potential problems.
BY MAIL: Docket No.APHIS–2009–0091, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A–03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737–1238
DEADLINE: Friday, December 9, 2011.
Please also send a copy of your comments to your Congressman and Senators. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov
Here are talking points you can use for your comments, followed by sample comments and more detailed information.
TALKING POINTS:
1) The agency should withdraw the proposed rule. If the export market would benefit from the proposed rule, as the agency claims, then the agribusinesses that export meat should pay the costs and offer economic premiums to livestock producers to encourage them to participate in a voluntary system.
2) The agency needs to identify the specific diseases of concern and analyze how to best address those diseases — including prevention measures — rather than continuing to push a one-size-fits-all tracking program.
3) Significant problems with the proposed regulation include:
  • Imposition of new requirements for identifying chickens and other poultry. Small farmers and backyard poultry owners should not be burdened with identifying and tracking birds, and the agency has not shown any need to impose these new requirements.
  • Applying the new identification requirements to feeder cattle.
  • Applying the requirements to direct-to-slaughter cattle, including both for custom and for retail sales.
  • Not recognizing brands and tattoos as official forms of identification.
SAMPLE COMMENTS: Please personalize these sample comments rather than doing a form letter. The personalization can be just a few sentences at the beginning of the comments, but it does make a significant difference. And if you have time to write more detailed comments, that’s even better!
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
I am a __________________ (farmer, local foods consumer, backyard poultry owner, horse owner, etc.). I am very concerned that the proposed rule will __________ (not be workable for my farm; impose costs on my farmers that will then be passed on to me; make it prohibitively expensive for me to order baby chicks from out-of-state hatcheries; etc.)
I urge the USDA to withdraw the proposed rule. If the export market would benefit from the proposed rule, as the agency claims, then the meat packing companies that export meat should pay the costs and offer economic premiums to livestock producers to encourage them to participate in a voluntary system. For disease control, the agency needs to focus on preventative measures rather than after-the-fact tracking.
There are significant problems with the proposed rule:
  • The imposition of new requirements for identifying chickens and other poultry. Small farmers and backyard poultry owners should not be burdened with identifying and tracking birds, and the agency has not shown any need to impose these new requirements.
  • Applying the new identification requirements to feeder cattle.
  • Applying the requirements to direct-to-slaughter cattle, both for custom and for retail sales.
  • Not recognizing brands and tattoos as official forms of identification.
Sincerely,
Name
Address
City, State Zip
MORE INFORMATION
The program is fundamentally flawed because it is not designed to address the real problems we face, and it imposes burdens on producers for the benefit of Big Agribusiness’ export markets.
We have asked USDA for data showing where the problems are in tracking animals currently. Rather than provide that data, USDA hand-picked a few anecdotes, out of the millions of animals in this country. But the agency’s unsupported claims do not justify imposing broad new tracking requirements. Small farms are not the source of most disease problems in this country, yet the proposed rule will burden them unfairly.
POULTRY: Small-scale, pastured, and backyard poultry will be particularly hard hit by the proposed rule. While the large confinement operations will be able to use “group identification,” the definition of the term does not cover most independent operations. Since thousands of people order baby chicks from hatcheries in other states, these birds cross state lines the first day of their lives. Even if the farmer or backyard owner never takes the bird across state lines again, they will have to use individually sealed and numbered leg bands on each chicken, turkey, goose, or duck to comply with the language of the proposed rule.
Even if the definition of “group identification” were changed to cover small operations, the result would be new paperwork requirements on almost every person who owns chickens, turkeys, or other poultry. The agency has entirely failed to justify imposing these burdens on poultry owners.
CATTLE: Along with new identification requirements imposed on all breeding-age cattle, the proposed rule would require identification and paperwork on calves and young cattle (“feeder cattle”), even though there’s no evidence that such requirements will help disease control. In addition, veterinarians and sale barns will have to keep records for 5 years, even though many of these cattle will have been consumed years earlier, creating mountains of useless paperwork.
Producers will only be able to use brands or tattoos as identification if their States enter into special agreements. State agencies will have to build extensive database systems to handle all of the data, creating problems for States’ budgets.
HORSES: The proposed rule also requires that horse owners identify their animals before crossing state lines. Although most, if not all, horses that are shipped across state lines are already identified in some fashion, the proposed rule creates a new complication: Whether or not a physical description is sufficient identification will be determined by the health officials in the receiving state, leaving vets and horse owners struggling with significant uncertainty as they have to anticipate what will be allowed.
SHEEP, GOATS, and HOG: The draft rule also covers sheep, goats, and hogs that cross state lines, essentially federalizing the existing programs which have been adopted state-by-state until now.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to www.farmandranchfreedom.org/Animal-ID-2011

PMB #106-380 4200 Wisconsin Avenue, NW – Washington, DC 20016 US

Is the HSUS really humane? Is it a group designed to solicit millions from animal lovers and at the same time destroy ranchers and farmers who own and care for most American animals? Watch this short film for the facts. Brad

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJUiSjSw0Gc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

An electronic animal ID system has been the passion of USDA for over 18 years. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that hot iron branding was an acceptable form of future animal ID.

History completely agrees with the secretary’s findings.

Branding History

The western cowboy did not invent hot iron branding. The documented history of branding goes back for thousands of years. Scenes of oxen being branded on hieroglyphics are depicted on Egyptian tombs as early as 2,700 BC.

Hot Iron BrandingHot iron branding animal ID, for proof of title, has not changed for over 5,000 years. The book of Zechariah records this process in chapter 3 verse 2, “a brand plucked out of the fire.”

On a darker side of history, the use of a hot iron as proof of ownership went beyond cattle to an area people today prefer not to think about, the ID branding of human beings. From days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians, slaves were often marked as property with a small brand by their owner. The practice has continued in slave owning countries around the world. More recently branding has been used on prisoners and self branding which is termed “art branding” or “scarification.”

Hernando Cortez is credited with bringing the first branding irons to the Americas in 1541. His personal holding brand was three crosses.

Branding became common in the US after the Civil War. Eventually, in Canada, the second session of the Northwest Territories government on August 1, 1878 established a law requiring all livestock to be branded.

Brands of every shape and design were visible on every Longhorn that came out of Texas during the great trail drives. Spanish brands are often artistically designed with cursive, complicated circular characters. The western American ranchers chose simpler block and open shapes, which proved harder to alter and easier to read.

Designing a Personal Brand

Designs and names of brands are as colorful as the people who use them. The traditions and pride of ownership attached to brands is a volume in itself.

Selecting a brand can be a simple thing or as detailed and historically meaningful as the owner desires. Most brands are based on the owner’s or the ranch’s initials. They may be a symbol, letter, number, character or combinations of connected or separate figures. A brand symbol, for example, may be a hat, fish, pitch fork, shovel, hook, bell, spur, staple, horse shoe, or wine glass. The list goes on.

Brands are read like books from top to bottom and from left to right. Without a doubt, it is a historical, respected, language all it’s own.

A branding iron should be of quarter-inch clean iron made to the desired shape. Small cattle should be branded with irons about 3″ tall and larger adult stock can be about 4.”

A horse iron can be as small as 2″.

The handle should be about thirty inches long with an end grip holding device. When applied to stock, separate letters should be at least one inch apart so as not to appear attached.

Notches or “breaks” are necessary on all irons where the bars join or intersect, about 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide. This prevents blotching in the corners. Letters like the top point of an A are particularly prone to blotch and always should be left open. Letters like L, C, U, I, J, S and open shapes yield themselves to clean readable brands.

Holding Brand Registration

No ownership holding brand should be applied until legally registered. Registration is done in most states through the Dept. of Agriculture. A brand design is submitted for approval and recorded for a set fee, and only the recorded owner of that design can legally use it on their livestock.

No two brands will be registered that are, or appear to be, the same design. In the eastern U.S. many states only have a few hundred registered brands, so it is easy to acquire a simple, clean brand.

Colorado, on the other hand, has registered over 60,000 brands making it difficult to get a new brand with less than 4 letters. Texas, not to be outdone, claims over 230,000 registered brands on the books.

Code Brand Records

Simple brand codes may reveal to the owner information like pedigrees, year of birth, or ranch division where born. In order to keep the brand process simple and requiring minimal time to apply, fewer letters are always better.

A single number indicating the year of birth is quite often used. The current year 2010 would be “0”. At a glance the owner can easily know the year of birth. The year code can be part of the regular numbering system, over, under, in front of, or beyond the animal ID brand number. Brands are simple and can be recorded on a paper tablet providing a permanent record that lives well beyond the life of the animal. The numbering process is practiced by most ranches providing a non duplicate ID for every animal traceable through the records of USDA through the state brand registration system.

Confinement

Successfully applying a clear distinct ID brand requires the recipient to be still. In the open range, cattle were roped and laid on the ground for branding. Some of the best clear brands are done this way.

The same process can be used in a small herd where the critter is physically laid down, not on the open range, but in a back yard corral. This is recommended for young calves, and not adults.

When adult cattle are branded, a metal squeeze chute is safe and efficient. The side squeeze chutes eliminate the head catch and restrain the critter better from head swinging. This provides safer name tagging, vapor tagging, and OCV tattoos. Plus, the side swing confinements are always the safest for releasing an animal from either side. A general purpose chute sells for $1250 to $2500.

Animal Safety/Care

All processes in cattle care should be bloodless. Although tags and pins are numerous, each tag entry can puncture arteries, hide, muscles and pierce major ear cartilage, which always bleeds. With bleeding can come infection, insect attraction, irritation, or partial loss of hearing and ear function.

The searing process of branding should never draw blood and is self sealing. It becomes a permanent ID in seconds and no medication should be needed in the future.

State Brand Laws

Secretary Vilsack has wisely acknowledged the State Brand Inspection Systems (SBIS) are good animal ID. From the Mississippi west every state has brand laws and inspection procedures, with some dating well over a hundred years old — well tested by time. Branding is economical and a system currently in use by nearly every major cattle raiser. It doesn’t require more fees, expanded USDA staff, computer education, high tech equipment purchases (not proven to perform under range conditions) or pernicious enforcement fines. The old brand laws work for all the right reasons. Last year SBIS visually inspected and documented 27,000,000 cattle according to James Clement, DVM. (See Animal ID, Another View)

Heating the Irons

More irons have been heated with wood than any other way. A hot wood fire serves the purpose well. Today most people are in a hurry and use either electric irons or heat with propane. A small propane bottle will heat a lot of irons and may be transported easily without the limitations of an electric cord.

The iron, when heated properly, should appear a light ash color. An iron heated in a flame will first accumulate carbon and appear very black. A black iron is too cold. It may be hot enough to burn or singe the hair, but not hot enough to penetrate the roots of the hair follicles, essential for a permanent mark.

Red hot, yellow, or white irons should be cooled before use. A red hot iron may brand too fast. The beauty of clear clean brands comes with experience.

Applying the Brand

It is impossible to make a rule for the length of time the iron should be held to the hide, because the condition of the hair and the temperature vary.

To apply the brand, move the handle in a slow, rocking motion which will vary the pressure. A critter is not a flat surface so a flat iron may not clearly mark at all corners. It is better to remove the iron after a couple of seconds, check the mark and reapply the iron to the parts not adequately branded. Always error on the light side rather than over doing the time and pressure.

With the first brand effort, test the result. Hand rub the brand and briskly remove the charred hair. If the animal has been properly branded, a clear outline mark of the complete brand will have a saddle leather light rust color to it.

On the other hand, if the iron was not hot enough, only the hair will be burned and short partially branded hair will be in the brand design. Re-heat and place the iron exactly on the same spot and allow additional time.

RFID ID Tags in Europe

In Europe numerous ear tag computer methods are used. Year by year more electronic ear devices become mandatory, attached at birth. (calf already has 4 tags - required by law)

When branding is complete, a generous rub with bacon grease using a paint mitten will promptly soothe and lubricate the hide.

An adult steer has hide 10 times thicker than a human. A good brand only enters about one tenth into the total thickness of the hide. Penetration of the skin’s epidermis outer layer is the goal of a correct brand. Correct placement is below the hair and above the dermis tissue.

What is the Real Reason?

Proof of title is the historic reason for a brand. It has worked for over 5,000 years. It is the best permanent ID for an owner’s records. Permanent fire brand ID not only works on a live animal, but continues to be a valid ID on the hide after processing. Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people who want to steal or “rustle” livestock. In the fifth century BC, I Chronicles 7-21 records that the whole family of Ephraim was killed for “trying” to rustle cattle.

Modern cattle rustlers, which are numerous, truly love the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler can easily remove, replace, change tags and electronic pins. To speed up the process rustlers order a Tag-Sav-R Ear Tag Remover from Nasco for $25.75. Nasco Tag-Sav_RThis jiffy Safety Tag Knifetool was developed to back-out the pin arrow and allow a person to replace it into another animal. It only takes a couple seconds on most pins. If $25.75 cost too much, Nasco has a more affordable Safety Tag Knife for $3.95, cut those unsightly tags out and throw them away.

To think the 840 pins are legal ID or even correct source verification is absurd.

When a rustler is in a hurry to haul-out, it only takes a second to cut the whole ear tip off. That is not a permanent animal ID — ask any successful cattle rustler.

Special TSCRA Ranger Scott Williamson, who is working on several rustling cases in Texas says, “It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded. If you can prove to the prosecutor that he’s going to be able to absolutely identify an animal in court, he knows he’s not sticking his neck out to take the case.”

No type of animal ear ID has ever held up in court for a conviction, yet hot iron brands have.

Every major cattle producing nation on earth used fire brands. The permanence and stability of a fire brand is superior to all other ID methods including the old “brite” USDA tags that are being newly promoted for ADT.

So, after the smoke and the dust are settled, and all the government bureaucrats have put up their crayolas, trust your neighbors — but fire brand your cattle!

The Last Frontier II

By Vaughn Meyer – Nov 5, 2010

Throughout history “The Last Frontier” has been associated with the settling of the West during the 19th century. As children this time frame of history was narrated through history books and multi generation family recollections. Probably some of the most vivid attributes to this period were the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Indian – Whiteman wars, the large cattle barons, huge cattle drives and our very own roughrider president, Teddy Roosevelt.

Near the end of the 1800s we witnessed a new policy of Homesteading which introduced the concept of family production agriculture. This introduction of family ownership and management of agriculture created more incentive for individual achievement and our industry flourished. As agriculture grew it stimulated creativity on the national level which economically and industrially established the U.S. as a world leader.

However as the number of family farms and livestock numbers increased and competition for our product decreased, Congress realizing the need for competition and fair markets for our livestock drafted the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. As the 20th century drew to a close it became apparent to livestock producers that without tools for the enforcement of the P&S Act we still remained at the mercy of the anti competitive practices of the packers.

However during the 2008 Farm Bill debate our Congressional leaders also became aware of the need for rules to enforce competition in the market place and the need to restore fairness within our industry. They commanded the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) under the leadership of GIPSA Administrator Mr. J Dudley Butler to draft rules to enforce the P&S Act. Nearly two years later Mr. Butler and his staff have addressed the congressional mandate and proposed new rules known as the GIPSA Rules.

As with all new game rules which are directed at leveling the playing field the opponents are those who possessed an unchecked advantage over other key players. In this case the packing industry, through its affiliated voices of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute (AMI), has realized a 90 year old reign over the production side of our industry. They are squealing louder than stuck hogs and labeling Administrator Butler and his GIPSA rules as the destruction of the industry.

In a recent attempt to degrade Mr. Butler’s motives they portray him as a litigation happy trial lawyer who is attempting to drum up business for his post GIPSA years. Mr. Butler and his boss, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have been accused of being indifferent for not considering the request by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and 114 other congressmen to delay the GIPSA rule with another economic analysis study. They also connect him to a few so called “other liberal – leaning cattle organizations”.

What critics of Administrator Butler fail to mention is that similar to the other 955,000 livestock producers Mr. J. Dudley Butler is a producer from Mississippi and a former ranch partner from Wyoming. As a fellow producer from S.D. maybe we should look at the producer side of this GIPSA Administrator like:

MAYBE… Mr. J Dudley Butler possesses compassion for his fellow livestock producers as he has witnessed the individual sorrow and defeat of the 370,000 producers and their spouses and children as they lost their livelihoods!

MAYBE… J Dudley Butler has witnessed the hunger and suffering of children in other countries who have insufficient production agriculture!

MAYBE… J Dudley Butler has experienced first hand the destruction of family enterprise hog and poultry farming and wishes to prevent the same coercion and threats from raping the cattle industry!

MAYBE… Mr. J Dudley Butler foresees the 20% drop in producer carcass share over the past 20 years is correlated to the smallest U.S. cow herd since 1952 which will have a profound effect on the future safety and procurement of our nation’s food supply!

MAYBE… Mr. J Dudley Butler noticed that Senate Ag Chairman Collin Peterson and his 114 colleges were the recipients of over $48.6 million of Agri Pac campaign contributions!

MAYBE… Mr. J Dudley Butler has observed the past 90 years of unchecked pilfering of our industry by the packing industry and affiliates and he realizes a change to honest moral values is necessary for the survival of agriculture!

JUST MAYBE… Mr. J Dudley Butler notices the similarities of the “Last Frontier” of the 1800’s and the “Last Frontier” of the present beef industry which ironically is precipitated by the same packing industry. Possible he also recognizes that a United States without a viable livestock industry to spur prosperity in our cities may well become the “Last Frontier” of the world!

In summary, Mr. Paul Engler of Cactus Feeders testified in Ft. Collins that as a child he bought his first calves to feed and today he feeds millions annually. Just maybe Mr. J Dudley Butler, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and US Attorney General Eric Holder realize that that would not be possible in today’s broken market system. Just maybe they and hundreds of thousands of fellow producers are attempting to salvage a market system that will provide similar opportunities for future generations!

As livestock producers we can restore U.S. family agriculture and rebuild our rural communities through comments of support for the GIPSA rule at comments.gipsa@usda.gov

Or Fax to 202-690-2173, or at the Federal e-rulemaking portal http://www.regulations.gov

Thank you.

Vaughn Meyer, a concerned livestock producer

Reva, SD

Use extreme caution in hiring
By Drovers news source  |  Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Animal Agriculture Alliance urges farm managers to be watchful for a number of individuals who have been found responsible for some of the latest undercover activist videos released to the media and public in the past year. The alliance recommends that all producers ensure high standards of animal welfare by following approved industry guidelines. Operators should also review their hiring practices, train employees on proper animal handling according to company policy, and hold all workers accountable for their actions.

The activist tactic of obtaining illicit employment at a farm or processing plant in order to acquire video intended to malign the reputation of farmers and ranchers is becoming increasingly common. While animal abuse in any shape or form is never condoned by the agriculture industry, activists use highly-edited images of violence and neglect to prey on the emotions of the public. It is hard to determine the authenticity of the images. Too often, the activists wait for weeks or even months before turning the video over to the proper authorities. By waiting for the most politically opportune time to ‘go public,’ they allow any alleged abuse to continue.

The following individuals have been connected to a number of recent undercover video campaigns.

“Jason Smith
It appears one individual is responsible for undercover videos taken at Quality Egg of New England, Bushway Packing Inc, Maine Contract Farms, Wiles Hog Farm, Hodgins Kennels, C.C. Baird, and at least one other dog breeding facility.  It is probable the same individual is responsible for undercover videos taken at Gemperle Farms, Norco Ranch, DeCoster Egg Farms, and Hy-Line’s Spencer Iowa hatchery.

According to credible sources, the person who worked undercover at these facilities was born in Houston, Texas, as Christopher Parrett.  Some of the other names given to employers include Jason Smith, John Knoldt, and Chris Paxton. When employed by Maine Contract Farms, the person claimed to be Jason Smith but used a social security card belonging to John Knoldt, originally Christopher Parrett.

The social security card of the individual who worked as Jason Smith identifies his social security number as ending in these last four digits: 0852. His driver’s license is from North Carolina (picture shown at right).

Smith also was found to have led an undercover investigation of a Minnesota dog breeder in 2009.

“Pete Romoland
The Alliance suspects that this same individual is also known as “Pete Romoland,” whose picture appeared in a TIME magazine article accompanying an interview with him on March 6, 2009 (shown below). However, the sunglasses shown in the photos make it difficult to confirm if they are indeed the same person.

In the TIME magazine article, “Pete” indicated that he had legally changed his name twice.  “Pete” also indicated that he is a vegan and specifically stated, “…I do not believe that under any circumstances we should raise animals for food.”

In the same interview, “Pete” stated that he operated as an unlicensed investigator and had contracted with the anti-modern farming group Humane Farming Association and the vegan animal rights group Mercy for Animals. He proudly boasted that video footage he was responsible for procuring had been featured in at least two HBO documentaries, including Death on a Factory Farm. In July 2007, video obtained by Smith (who went by Knoldt) was used in a trial against an Ohio hog farm. He said that he had used his real name and a false address when he was hired. Video was obtained using a buttonhole camera.

“James/Jimmy Carlson
Possibly the same, but without confirmation, another individual was hired by Country View Family Farms. The name provided was Jimmy Carlson, supposedly from Sag Harbor, NY. The individual was in his twenties and had his hair cropped short in a buzz cut. Sources confirmed that Carlson was also responsible for the January 2010 video taken at Willet Dairy in New York for Mercy for Animals.

In a National Public Radio interview that has since been taken offline, an individual took credit for conducting the Hy-Line undercover operation. He stated that he worked for Mercy for Animals. In the radio interview, this individual asked the reporter to call him “James.” He said that since he often had to use his real social security card with his picture ID, he couldn’t reveal his real name when giving interviews.

In all cases, the undercover videos were provided weeks or months after the individuals had left employment, and the videos were initially provided to either the media or the USDA — not directly to the businesses involved.

In most cases, employers realized — after the fact — who the former undercover employee had been. They also recognized — after the fact — many behaviors or actions demonstrated by the undercover employee that allowed them to have access to the animals and to produce videos — whether of real or staged animal mistreatment.

Some of the behaviors included:

  • Befriending or mingling with upper management – asking questions about operations including security matters or time schedules.
  • Volunteering for jobs before or after normal business hours.
  • Volunteering for jobs that are less desirable, but would provide them access to the animals, often before or after normal business hours.
  • Seeking employment in jobs below their skill or education level; demonstrating previous jobs or experiences out of character for the job they were seeking.
  • Seeking employment with no pay — so they can “learn more about the business before committing to that field” either with regard to their education or possibly before starting their own business.
  • Using an out-of-state driver’s license.

The alliance urges producers to use caution when hiring new employees. Operators should keep these photos on hand and follow the recommendations in the Alliance’s Farm & Facility Security Recommendations Report, which is available on the members section of the Alliance’s website. Operators must make certain that they hire people who are there for the right reasons- to help produce a safe and nutritious food supply.

The agriculture industry must be wary – activists have shown that they will work every angle in their quest to put all farmers, ranchers, and meat processors out of business. The first step for every farm operator is to ensure that top quality animal care is provided at all times. It is also critical that those in the industry take extra security precautions to prevent getting targeted by animal rights groups looking for video to aid in their fundraising efforts and political campaigns.

Branding is still key form of identification

By Candace Krebs
Posted Jun 20, 2010 @ 09:55 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. —

Scenes of brandings are one of the most iconic and enduring images of the ranching lifestyle. For centuries, brands have played a vital role in conveying title of ownership. Officials say this ancient method of identification is still one of the best.

But questions are occasionally raised. How are hot iron brands perceived by consumers who have increasingly heightened concerns about animal welfare and how much does it cost the industry in terms of discarded hides?

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association discussed the issue during a committee meeting at the 143rd convention this week, where animal welfare and animal health topics held key positions on the agenda.

Rick Wahlert, the Colorado brand commissioner, said he has fielded several calls on branding in the last few months. In addition, at least one of the big packers had issued a letter discouraging branding or at least urging cattlemen to leave the mid-section of the hide brand-free.
“I don’t know if it’s a push, but they’re looking at it again,” he told a meeting of the brand and theft committee.

Virginia Patton of Canon City, the CCA member who chaired the committee, said the association wanted to bring the issue to the attention to members and begin a discussion. “It’s not something we’re going to solve today,” she said.

The estimated value of an unbranded hide is believed to be roughly $5 a head. Gary Shoun, Colorado’s long-time former chief brand inspector, said packers launched a similar push for unbranded hides back in 1994 but premiums never materialized.

“I’ve heard that as long as I’ve been in the cattle business,” added John Stulp of Lamar, the current Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.
Colorado is the only brand state that gives ranchers the freedom to place the brand wherever they want on the animal. Branding at the hip is typically recommended. Patton said on her ranch they moved the brand away from the middle of the hide but never recovered a premium for doing it.

Wahlert pointed out that a producer who left cattle unbranded and lost just two of them to theft would be out $1,000, and questioned whether even $5 a head was worth it.

“If you don’t brand, it sure makes it hard for us,” he said to producers.

The committee also raised the issue of animal welfare perceptions.

Wahlert said cattle have thick hides and few nerve endings, minimizing the pain involved. A suggestion was made to the committee to document those findings and put them into some kind of scientific paper. “It can’t hurt to get ahead of the horse,” Wahlert nodded in response, referring to potential complaints from animal welfare advocates.

Alternative forms of identification were also debated. Wahlert said there was nowhere to apply electronic chips where they weren’t at risk of migrating in the body. A bolus was a safer option, he added, but at a cost of $10 an animal was not financially feasible.

While freeze branding is becoming more popular, Commissioner Stulp and State Veterinarian Keith Roehr said it is more difficult to apply freeze brands successfully and they work better on horses than cattle.

Colorado State University animal handling expert Temple Grandin, a featured speaker at the convention and recipient of CCA’s Honorary Life Member award, said branding was a low priority when it came to animal welfare concerns, reeling off a laundry list of other items cattle producers need to work on first.

“Heat stress and fatalities in feedyards is higher on my list than branding,” she said in an interview. “Branding is a lot more defensible than whacking big horns off of adult cattle, or taking half of the ear off for identification purposes, or waddling them. Castration and dehorning are more on the radar than branding is.”

That’s consistent with the views of a group called the National Association of Farm Animal Care, which endorses branding as a searing process that never draws blood, is self-sealing and creates a permanent ID in seconds that requires no future use of medication.

No other form of animal identification has ever held up in court for a conviction of theft, the group added. Last year state brand inspection programs visually inspected and documented 27 million cattle.

To defend branding and other essential management practices, Grandin said ranchers need to do a better job of explaining what they do on the farm and why they do it. In promoting the recent movie about her life, which aired on HBO television, she found that the public is curious to learn about day-to-day farm life.

“It wasn’t negative,” she said of the countless questions she received in places like New York City. “That’s what was interesting. They’re just curious.”

She mentioned a YouTube clip in which a young boy narrates a tour of his family’s feedlot as an example of positive public relations for the cattle industry.

“This industry is very isolated from the public, and when we’re attacked, we get the siege mentality,” she said. “But we need to engage with the public, not PR people talking, but the regular ranchers.”

State Veterinarian Keith Roehr credits Colorado as one of the first states to adopt animal care standards. He said brands remain an important tool used in cultures all over the world and that Colorado would most likely remain a brand state for many years to come.

“As a bridge to a new animal disease traceability framework, the brand program is more important now that it’s ever been,” he said. “It positions us to do what needs to be done. Brand states like Colorado have been recognized as much more prepared to move into the future. The brand commission is not required to collect individual animal identification now, but they are aware that might happen in the future, and their role could become even more important.”

By The Associated Press | Tuesday, March 09, 2010

GENEVA — The result was emphatic: Swiss voters don’t think abused animals need to have their own lawyers.

It’s a proposal that would never even come near a referendum in other countries, but the measure’s defeat Sunday disappointed animal rights advocates, who say Switzerland’s elaborate animal welfare laws aren’t being enforced.

Opponents of the proposal, including key farmers’ groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing special lawyers to act on behalf of animals would be unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers.

“The Swiss people have clearly said our animal protection laws are so good we don’t need animal lawyers,” Jakob Buechler, a lawmaker for the centrist Christian People’s Party, told Swiss television SF1.

Official results showed that 70.5 percent of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. Some 29.5 percent of voters backed the proposal, with turnout at just over 45 percent.

According to the country’s only animal lawyer, Antoine F. Goetschel, public prosecutors are often unsure about animal rights and shy away from pursuing cases even if there is clear evidence of abuse. He said the cost of Sunday’s measure would have been less than 1 Swiss franc ($1) per person a year.

Tiana Angelina Moser, a lawmaker for the Green Liberal Party, said animal rights advocates would look for other ways to make sure laws against animal abuse are properly applied and those who hurt animals receive appropriate punishment.

“It’s definitely disappointing, I thought it would have been a closer vote,” said Moser. “I don’t think it’s a ‘no’ to animal protection, but a ‘no’ for this particular measure.”

Switzerland tightened its laws two years ago and now has among the strictest rules anywhere when it comes to caring for pets and farm animals.

The country’s 160-page animal protection law states exactly how much space owners must give Mongolian gerbils (233 square inches) and what water temperature is required for African clawed frogs (18-22 degrees Celsius; 64-72 degrees Fahrenheit)

It stipulates that pigs, budgies, goldfish and other social animals cannot be kept alone. Horses and cows must have regular exercise outside their stalls and dog owners have to take a training course to learn how to properly look after their pets.

Like in other countries, the law also forbids killing animals in a cruel fashion or for fun.

Swiss daily Tribune de Geneve reported earlier this year that a woman who decapitated four chickens and left their heads on the doorstep of her love rival received a 90-day suspended sentence.

Goetschel said he represents about 150-200 animals annually in Zurich, while in other cantons (states), only a handful of cases go to court each year.

Most of his clients are dogs, cows and cats, Goetschel told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Many cases involve the serious abuse of animals, such as deliberate wounding, rape and neglect.

But in one high-profile case last month, Goetschel represented a dead pike after an animal protection group accused the angler who caught it of cruelty for taking 10 minutes to haul the fish in.

The angler was found not guilty.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Source: The Associated Press

By Drovers news source | Monday, February 22, 2010 | Source: Center for Consumer Freedom

Ringling Circus

In a landmark RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit certain to have far-reaching implications for the animal rights movement, Feld Entertainment and the Ringling Brothers circus sued the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), its lawyers, and several other animal rights groups last week.

The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) unearthed the lawsuit in federal court records today. CCF is making the lawsuit available online at its newest Web site, www.HumaneWatch.org.

“America’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “But it’s still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.”

In its Feb. 16 lawsuit, Feld leveled bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys; three other animal rights groups; the Washington, D.C. law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal; and all three of that firm’s named partners.

On Dec. 30, 2009, Federal Judge Emmitt Sullivan ruled that these defendants collaborated to pay more than $190,000 to Mr. Tom Rider, a former Feld employee who was an elephant “barn helper” for two years in the late 1990s, in exchange for his impeached testimony against Feld in an earlier lawsuit–testimony Judge Sullivan declared “not credible” and disregarded in its entirety. That lawsuit was dismissed.

Feld is also suing Rider and a nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity, claiming that Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal used it to funnel money from their plaintiff clients to Mr. Rider. These clients included the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.

“The new HumaneWatch website is the only place the public will be able to read this lawsuit,” Martosko said. “We’re publishing a treasure trove of information about the Humane Society of the United States, including lots of surprising documents that HSUS would rather remain hidden from its contributors.”

Last week CCF launched HumaneWatch.org, an online watchdog project dedicated to analyzing HSUS’s activities and keeping the group honest. It includes a blog, an interactive document library, and a growing body of information about HSUS-related organizations and staff.

Source: Center for Consumer Freedom

By JESSE McKINLEY, New York Times | Published: February 21, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — California may soon place animal abusers on the same level as sex offenders by listing them in an online registry, complete with their home addresses and places of employment.

The proposal, made in a bill introduced Friday by the State Senate’s majority leader, Dean Florez, would be the first of its kind in the country and is just the latest law geared toward animal rights in a state that has recently given new protections to chickens, pigs and cattle.

Mr. Florez, a Democrat who is chairman of the Food and Agriculture Committee, said the law would provide information for those who “have animals and want to take care of them,” a broad contingent in California, with its large farming interests and millions of pet owners. Animal protection is also, he said, a rare bipartisan issue in the state, which has suffered bitter partisan finger-pointing in the wake of protracted budget woes.

“We have done well with these laws,” he said.

In 2008, voters in the state passed Proposition 2, which forced growers of hens, calves and pigs to provide more room in their cages. That law has upset many in the California egg industry and prompted some producers to even move out of the state. As a result of the new laws, cost for egg production has increased and more eggs are shipped to California from neighboring states and Mexico.

Under Mr. Florez’s bill, any person convicted of any felony involving animal cruelty would have to register with the police and provide a range of personal information and a current photograph. That information would be posted online, along with information on the person’s alleged offense.

The bill was drafted with help from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal-protection group based in Cotati, Calif., north of San Francisco. The group has promoted the registry not only as a way to notify the public but also as a possible early warning system for other crimes.

“We believe there’s a link between those who abuse animals and those who perform other forms of violence, like sex offenses” said Stephan Otto, the group’s director of legislative affairs. “Presumably if we’re able to track animal abusers and be able to know where they live, there will be less opportunity where those vulnerable to them would be near them.” People could move away to different areas.

In addition to sex offenders, California lists arsonists in an online registry, and the animal abusers would be listed on a similar site, Mr. Florez said. Such registries have raised privacy concerns from some civil libertarians, but Joshua Marquis, a member of the defense fund’s board and the district attorney in Clatsop County, Ore., said the worries were unfounded.

“Does it turn that person into a pariah? No,” Mr. Marquis said. “But it gives information to someone who might be considering hiring that person for a job. They won’t find employment.”

He added: “I do not think for animal abusers it’s unreasonable considering the risk they pose, much like the risk that people who abuse children do.”

One supporter of the proposed law, Gillian Deegan, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Botetourt County, Va., says such a registry could also be valuable in tracking people who run puppy mills and animal-fighting rings, as well as hoarders, who sometimes collect hundreds of animals, sometimes resulting in neglect.

“A lot of times these people will just pick up and move to another jurisdiction or another state if they get caught,” said Ms. Deegan, who has written on animal welfare laws. “It would definitely help on those types of cases where people jump around.” One Web site — Petabuse.com — already offers a type of online registry, with listings of animal offenders and their crimes. If an alleged abuser is listed, then they become a marked person the rest of their life.

Such registries have been introduced in other states, but never passed. In 2008, a similar bill in Tennessee stalled after passing the State Senate.

Opposers to this type of bill believe the owners of animals are more likely to love and appreciate their own animals than an enforcement officer of the state.

That legislation was highly endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, said Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the society.

Mr. Pacelle said that the proposed financing mechanism for the California bill, a tax on pet food, was “an extremely controversial idea” and unpopular with the pet food industry.

Taxes are consistently opposed by conservatives and Republicans in California, and that gives Mr. Pacelle doubts about the bill’s prospects.

“The idea of that succeeding in this climate in California is not high,” he said. Although some are for the bill they must realize the cost of enforcement throughout the state. California is strapped for cash.

But the bill’s sponsor, Mr. Florez, who recently helped establish an Animal Protection Caucus, says he is confident that he has the votes to move the measure forward and estimates that the registry would cost less than $1 million to establish. A budget for enforcement staff would create numerous badly needed jobs for the state.

By Rick Jordhal, PORK magazine  |  Wednesday, February 24, 2010, via Drovers

Layer by layer, the facade of the Humane Society of the United States is being peeled back revealing the group’s far-reaching objectives. The world is learning that at the center is an animal rights group with a much more sinister agenda than saving dogs and cats.

Australian wine maker, Casella Wines, learned the hard way. After the company’s commitment to donate $100,000 was roundly criticized by many consumers of the wine makers’ Yellow Tail wine, the company reevaluated their commitment to HSUS.

In exchanges with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Casella has decided that “future support for animal welfare will go to organizations specifically devoted to hands-on care, such as rescue, sterilization, feeding, or disaster assistance.”

Casella Wines’ wish to aid and support animals seems genuine and the company’s misdirected donation, while unfortunate, is understandable. HSUS fund-raising tactics excel at generating donations from those who are unaware of the group’s extensive agenda.

More layers of the HSUS exterior will be peeled back with last week’s launch of the Web site www.HumaneWatch.org . Sponsored by the Center for Consumer Freedom, the site’s objective is to educate the public about what HSUS is and what it is not. CCF is a non-profit organization supported by over 100 companies and thousands of individual consumers.

Despite the words “humane society” on its letterhead, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not affiliated with your local animal shelter. Despite the omnipresent dogs and cats in its fundraising materials, it’s not an organization that runs spay/neuter programs or takes in stray, neglected and abused pets. And despite the common image of animal protection agencies as cash-strapped organizations dedicated to animal welfare, HSUS has become the wealthiest animal rights organization on Earth.

While most local animal shelters are under-funded and unsung, HSUS has accumulated $113 million in assets and built a recognizable brand by capitalizing on the confusion its very name provokes. This misdirection results in an irony of which most animal lovers are unaware: HSUS raises enough money to finance animal shelters in every single state, with money to spare, yet it doesn’t operate a single one anywhere.

“People mistake HSUS for an animal welfare group that manages pet shelters,” says David Martosko, CCF director of research. “Part of the objective of HumaneWatch.org is to correct that misperception.”

Upon removing the top layers, one discovers that HSUS goes well beyond its stated objective of improving the lives of animals. Additional objectives that lie beneath HSUS’ exterior include its attempt to influence peoples’ food choices and promote vegetarianism.

Compassionate television commercials professionally present the appearance of battered and abused animals, when in reality many of the  “film stars” are just elderly, and, in fact, have had excellent care.

“Less than one half of 1 percent of HSUS income went to its stated purpose,” says Martosko. “It’s amazing what they get away with just because they are called the Humane Society. It’s a miracle of propaganda.”

HumaneWatch.org also plans to cover HSUS’ efforts on the state level. “Ohio and Missouri are big battlegrounds for HSUS this year and we will be covering them extensively,” says Martosko. “We’re just getting started.”

The site has received a tremendous response from livestock producers, according to Martosko, who will be the keynote speaker at the Ohio Livestock Coalition’s annual meeting in April. “Web site traffic is through the roof,” he adds. “And it’s not just livestock producers. Visitors to the site also include medical research scientists, hunters and fishermen, chefs, pet breeders and others.”

Until HSUS’ full agenda is clear to all, donors will likely continue misdirecting their donations to the group. Meanwhile, HumaneWatch.org will continue to help everyone get to know the real HSUS.

Source: Rick Jordahl, Pork Magazine; Max Thornsberry, R-Calf; Brad Headtel, National Assn. of Farm Animal Welfare.

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