6 Excellent New Reasons to Cut Down on Meat
Last year, AlterNet reported on the controversial growth additive, ractopamine, which is marketed as Paylean for pigs, Optaflexx for cattle and Topmax for turkeys in the U.S. Widely banned in other countries, the Center for Food Safety and Animal Legal Defense Fund have sought information from the FDA about ractopamine's effects on animal or human "liver form and function, kidney form and function, thyroid form and function," "tumor development" and urethral and prostate effects.
Now there is news about a related drug, Zilmax (zilpaterol hydrochloride), a growth enhancer that adds "24 to 33 pounds additional hot carcass weight," according to Merck, its manufacturer. Merck says that Zilmax improves "cattle's natural ability to convert feed into more lean beef that is flavorful, tender and juicy," but the drug's destruction of cattle's hooves is well documented.
Ten months ago, 17 Zilmax-fed heifers and steers were destroyed at a Tyson slaughterhouse in Washington state because they couldn't walk, leading Tyson to tell its feedlot customers it would not accept Zilmax-fed cattle. After a video of hoof-less Zilmax-fed cattle was shown by meat giant JBS USA LLC at a trade meeting, Merck temporarily suspended Zilmax sales in the U.S. and Canada. "Maybe we found the point where we pushed the cattle just so hard in the sake of making a buck that we exceeded the biological limits of the cattle," said Abe Turgeon, a prominent livestock nutritionist, who had previously recommended Zilmax.
Then, Texas Tech University and Kansas State University researchers reported that more than 3,800 cattle fed Zilmax in 10 feedlots died in 2011 and 2012, with "between 40 percent and 50 percent of the deaths likely attributable to Zilmax"-- a far cry from the 285 Zilmax-related deaths Merck reported.
Undaunted by reports of animal harm, Merck wants to resume sales of Zilmax in the U.S. which brought in nearly $160 million annually. It proposes a "study" of Zilmax in 250,000 cattle, which meatpackers oppose for human and animal safety reasons. Meat retailers also have doubts. "We don't want to fiddle with it as long as there's a known animal-welfare issue," said Costco VP Craig Wilson. A spokeswoman for Burger King also expressed reservations. Yes, the drug is even too extreme for meat processors and fast food outlets.
5. Factory Farm Fires
In 2012, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) addressed the sad and preventable scourge of farm fires by proposing an amendment requiring all newly constructed farmed animal housing facilities to be equipped with sprinklers and smoke control systems. But, a letter to NFPA from Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council on behalf of the other Big Ag groups, said installing fire protection systems presented "staggering costs in the billions of dollars," and that many operations lack "sufficient water supply available to service an automated sprinkler system." This effectively killed the proposal, condemning millions more helpless animals to die in infernos.
In July, 65,000 hens burned to death in an Egg Innovations barn in Kosciusko County, Indiana, an egg operation whose website brags about "Letting Chickens Be Chickens." Right. In January, 300,000 hens burned to death at an egg operation in La Grange, Wisconsin. More than 50 fire departments and 100 firefighters battled the blaze at S&R Egg Farm where the trapped hens perished in the worst manner any living being can endure.
It is shocking that animals are worth less to Big Ag than the cost of a sprinkler system, even if they end up burning to death. But, according to Fire Prevention Contractor magazine, Big Ag's cost objections are not even correct. "In truth, the existing water supply system serving the animals at any farm could double as a sprinkler system just by adding heat-sensitive sprinkler heads. No more water would be needed than the water already in the supply lines," it writes.