Animals Farmed: egg crisis, new farmed fish killing rules and decoding pig grunts | Environment

News from around the world

US poultry companies supplying major grocery stores and fast food chains sold tens of thousands of products contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria between 2015 and 2020, according to government sampling records. The allegations were made in a report published by Vice News. US food safety officials said they were committed to reducing foodborne infections.

Meanwhile, an obscure division of the US government had a busy – and ruthless – year in 2021, killing more than 1.75 million animals across the country, at a rate of about 200 creatures every hour. The latest annual toll of Wildlife Services, a department within the US Department of Agriculture, has further stoked the fury of conservation groups that have decried the killings as cruel and pointless.

HAS plea for humanitarian assistance has been issued by the Association of Ukrainian Pig Breeders, with the ongoing war sparking a crisis for the country’s pig industry. “The war, started by Russia, has caused a crisis of enormous scale that threatens the food security, particularly the animal protein supply,” the Ukrainian body said.

Tea escalating bird flu outbreak in the US is causing a surge in egg prices and could even raise prices on other poultry products in the coming months. Avian influenza spreading across the US has led to the deaths of more than 17 million birds, tightening supplies for eggs and poultry, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The European Commission has published a summary report of its consultation on animal welfare rules. It concluded that there was a “clear desire to see the end of waterbath stunningthe killing of day-old chicks and for new specific rules for the killing of farmed fish”. It also found support for a ban on live exports to third countries and a ban on the transport of unweaned calves.

Software to help farmers monitor pig grunts to help understand when they need help is being developed by animal behaviourist Elodie Briefer of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. It follows a study in which researchers used an artificial intelligence system that determines whether the vocalizations made by pigs are expressions of positive or negative feelings, ABC News reported.

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo and local leaders face renewed pressure to shut down the country’s brutal dog meat trade after footage released by Humane Society International revealed what they allege was animal cruelty and public health risks at livestock markets on the island of Sulawesi.

Grading salmon smolts at a Scottish salmon hatchery.
Grading salmon smolts at a salmon hatchery. Compassion in World Farming has called for a moratorium on Scottish salmon farming. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

UK news

Compassion in World Farming submitted an open letter to the Scottish parliament calling for a moratorium on Scottish salmon farming until a number of animal welfare concerns have been addressed by the industry. Last year, the NGO published photography and video footage which it said showed individual fish in a poor state, with wounds, missing eyes and numbers of sea lice. The salmon industry said the report did not reflect the typical level of fish welfare.

British egg farmers are facing unprecedented rises in the cost of producing eggs, leaving many on the brink of bankruptcy. Hendrix Genetics reportedly said that by July 2022, the adult laying hen population will be 3 million (9%) less than the previous two years, with the downward trend set to gather pace. The national flock has declined by about 4 million in the past year.

Taxpayers are paying trillions of pounds globally in environmental, human health and economic costs of producing cheap meat, according to World Animal Protection’s report The Hidden Health Impacts of Industrial Livestock Systems. It reveals that 75% of the world’s antibiotics are used on animal farm to prevent them getting sick in poor conditions.

There is strong evidence linking the chicken industry to toxic algal blooms on the River Wye, a report has claimed. Tea Ithona tributary of the Wye in mid-Wales, contains levels of phosphate up to ten times higher than in a healthy upland river, according to an analysis of samples by an expert commissioned by Fish Legal, The Times reported.

From the Animals Farmed series

Consumers are no longer able to buy free range eggs in the UK, with birds not having been allowed outdoors since November due to fears of avian flu outbreaks. Eggs sold in shops will have to carry a sticker or label saying they are in fact “barn eggs”, the name given to eggs produced by hens permanently housed indoors. Highly virulent variants of avian flu now appear endemic in wild birds, making farms prone to outbreaks all year, experts warned.

Bullfighting across Europe is being kept alive by millions of euros paid out by the EU, claim campaigners, despite attempts by MEPs to ban the subsidies. The funding goes to farms that breed bulls for fighting through the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP)a long-running system of subsidy support to the sector.

Two RSPCA animal welfare experts have left the organization to campaign for a national independent animal welfare commission, saying the current regulatory structure is “broken”. Dr. Bidda Jones stepped down as chief scientific officer at RSPCA Australia in late 2021, after 25 years. Dr. Jed Goodfellow stepped down as a senior policy officer in October.

And finally, meet the US activist who is befriending farmers and rehoming their unwanted male dairy calves, preventing them being killed and discarded on-farm. Many are shot at birth because it is cheaper and easier than waiting for them to gain weight then driving them to market to be sold at auction.

Share your stories and feedback

Thank you to everyone who continues to get in touch to share their thoughts on the series.

Eleanor Callen wrote:

With all hens being kept indoors because of avian flu, and currently not allowed to be called free range, how does this affect the ‘organic’ label? Are organic hens still kept in smaller flocks, with more indoor space than free range hens and with minimal antibiotic use?

Please do send us your stories and thoughts to us at: animalsfarmed@theguardian.com. And sign up for this Animals farmed monthly update to get an email roundup of some of the biggest farming and food stories across the world and keep up with our investigations.

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