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Food Safety News

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Publisher’s Platform: Transparency is Good

Last week I posted “Perhaps the most disturbing animal cruelty video ever.” I still cannot watch it in full. Even though I grew up on a farm and killed chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows and rabbits for food, I always did it with a feeling a dread, but with nothing to hide.

Minnesota House Bill 1369 and Senate Bill 1118 would make a prohibited act “a person who acts without the consent of the owner of an animal facility (defined as “a location where an agricultural animal is maintained, including but not limited to a location dedicated to farming, a livestock market, or exhibitions; a location where an animal is maintained for educational or scientific purposes, including, but not limited to, a research facility”) to willfully do any of the following is guilty of animal facility interference:

(1) produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility if:

(i) the record is created by the person while at the animal facility; and

(ii) the record is a reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium;

(2) possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which was produced as provided in clause (1); …

The penalty for such behavior would be: “A person who commits animal facility interference is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. For a second or subsequent conviction of animal facility interference, the person is guilty of a felony. And, a person convicted of animal facility interference is subject to an order of restitution.”

Iowa Senate Bill 431 and House Bill 589 in large measure mirror Minnesota. In Iowa, “a person is guilty of animal facility interference, if the person acts without the consent of the owner of an animal facility to willfully do any of the following:

a. Produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility as follows:

(1) The record must be created by the person while at the animal facility

(2) The record must be a reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium.

b. Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which was produced as provided in paragraph “a”….

A person who commits the offense of animal facility interference is guilty of the following:

a. For the first conviction, the person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.

b. For a second or subsequent conviction, the person is guilty of a class “D” felony.

c. A person convicted of animal facility interference is subject to an order of restitution as provided in chapter 910.

The Florida Senate Bill 1246 is a tad less verbose, but the point is the same.  Any person, except an employee or agent of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services acting pursuant to s. 570.15, Florida Statutes, or a law enforcement officer conducting a lawful inspection or investigation, who enters onto a farm or other property where legal agriculture operations are being conducted and produces audio or video records without the written consent of the owner or an authorized representative of the owner, commits misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, Florida Statutes.  As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Audio or video records” means any audio or video recording, regardless of the recording medium or format, including, but not limited to, photographs, audio or videotapes, cd’s, dvd’s, or streaming media, whether stored on film stock, hard disks, solid state storage, or any electrical, magnetic, or optical or other form of data storage.

(b) “Farm” means any tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals, or the storage of a commodity.

You have to wonder what the so-called “farmers” in these states are seeking to protect? Yes, having someone film you abusing animals or running an operation without any concern to food safety, is embarrassing – and it should be – and it should be punished. But, punishing those who expose it should not be. With billion dollar holes in state budgets, legislatures have more important things to do than making our food supply even less transparent.

© Food Safety News
  • Melissa

    You have such a wide reach, please do something about this. Please take this on. Please. This is horrible and breaks my heart. Help expose these inhumane conditions and help protect our right to know how our food is being grown and “treated.”
    Thank you!

  • MaryBDVM

    I agree. It seems bass ackward to propose legislation making the filming or taping of animal cruelty and abuse or practices that disregard food safety a crime while not addressing the perpetrators of these heinous acts. I think it shows once again the power of big money a power influencing the politicians.

  • might i add please. cows in the disgusting video shown
    WARNING DISTURBING !
    http://www.bloggernews.net/126457
    some dead stock downer cows, were fed to our children all across the USA via the USDA, by the NSLP. you cannot change these facts. for over 4 years, dead stock downer cows, the most high risk cattle for mad cow disease and other deadly pathogens, were force fed to our kids via the NSLP. i don’t care how many times i say this, and or how many times folks don’t want to hear it, i will never let them forget. BECAUSE OF these secret Videos, this deadly practice was stopped last year i.e. dead stock downers going into the food supply. however, who will watch our children for the next 50 years for CJD ? the hallmark blunder was just one of many, just that this time one got caught. how could someone want to criminalize video taping this gross mismanagement of these animals ? let alone the fact these dead stock downer cows were fed to our kids. don’t be fooled either, the largest beef recall (at the time), was not done because a few animals were abused. r e a l l y. if not for that video, the largest beef recall in history (at the time), would never have happened. you make it illegal, and all bets are off with food safety. MY question to some that don’t want video in slaughterhouses etc., and want to make it illegal to show the world that the USDA via the NSLP was poisoning our children, were any of your children fed these dead stock downers ???
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/safety/pdf/Hallmark-Westland_byState.pdf
    Members of The HSUS are also concerned about the meat products provided to their children through the National School Lunch Program. More than 31 million school children receive lunches through the program each school day. To assist states in providing healthful, low-cost or free meals, USDA provides states with various commodities including ground beef.
    As evidenced by the HallmarkNVestland investigation and recall, the potential for downed animals to make their way into the National School Lunch Program is neither speculative nor hypothetical.
    http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/FDA/hsus-v-schafer-usda-complaint.pdf
    PLEASE NOTE *
    Over the next 8-10 weeks, approximately 40% of all the adult mink on the farm died from TME.
    snip…
    The rancher was a ”dead stock” feeder using mostly (>95%) downer or dead dairy cattle…
    http://web.archive.org/web/20030516051623/http://www.bseinquiry.gov.uk/files/mb/m09/tab05.pdf
    PLEASE be aware, for 4 years, the USDA fed our children all across the Nation dead stock downer cows, the most high risk cattle for BSE aka mad cow disease and other dangerous pathogens. who will watch our children for CJD for the next 5+ decades ???
    SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM FROM DOWNER CATTLE UPDATE
    http://downercattle.blogspot.com/2009/05/who-will-watch-children.html
    http://downercattle.blogspot.com/
    http://www.bloggernews.net/126457
    NOW, the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, TSE, Prion, aka mad cow type diseases can not be included here, due to the long incubation period. all those children fed dead stock down cows, the most high risk cattle for a long incubating disease will just have to wait, maybe as long as 50 years. your only kidding yourself folks $$$ if you think for one minute that the largest beef recall in USA history (at the time), was due to a few animals being abused, and any long term ramifications there from will not be known for a long time.
    Saturday, March 5, 2011
    MAD COW ATYPICAL CJD PRION TSE CASES WITH CLASSIFICATIONS PENDING ON THE RISE IN NORTH AMERICA
    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2011/03/mad-cow-atypical-cjd-prion-tse-cases.html
    10 PATHOGEN-FOOD COMBINATIONS RANKING THE HEALTH RISK (TITLE TO RANCHERS)
    Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations With The Greatest Burden on Public Health
    Michael B. Batz, Sandra Hoffmann and J. Glenn Morris, Jr.
    CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS And RECOMMENDATIONS
    From our analysis and results, we draw the following major findings:
    1. We estimate the public health burden of 14 foodborne pathogens in the United States to be over $14 billion and 60,000 QALYs per year, with 90 percent of these impacts due to only five pathogens: Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Toxoplasma and norovirus. Across all 14 pathogens in all foods, we find about half of the burden is due to only 10 pathogen-food combinations, a list which includes a variety of commodities including poultry, pork, produce, beef, dairy products and eggs. These 14 pathogens analyzed represent over 95 percent of the annual illnesses and hospitalizations, and almost 98 percent of the deaths, estimated by CDC due to the 31 specific foodborne pathogens estimated by CDC (Scallan et al. 2011a).
    2. Consumption of FDA regulated foods is estimated to cause about half of the overall national burden of foodborne disease. Although attribution data are imperfect, our analysis suggests that poultry, pork and beef cause about $5.7 billion or loss of 30,000 QALY s in disease annually, while produce, dairy products, seafood, breads, beverages and multi-ingredient complex foods (e.g. non-meat dishes served in restaurants, other establishments or homes, as well as processed foods such as peanut butter) cause about $6 billion or loss of 24,000 QALY s in disease burden. Deli meats and eggs cause an additional $1.8 billion and 7,000 QALY s. This can be viewed as a shared USDA/FDA responsibility. Although FSIS regulates delimeat manufacture and processing, FDA has federal responsibility for developing model statutes for food handling in food service and retail food establishment where contamination also occurs. It’s important to note that our estimates take current control efforts in the private and public sectors as given. These estimates do not measure of the efficacy of either FSIS or FDA activities.
    The top 10 pathogen-food combinations list flattens a very complicated food system into a simplified picture of pathogens in very broad food categories. Our food categories reflect “foods as consumed,” rather than traditional agricultural commodity categories, because of the important role in food handling and preparation as important risk factors. The focus on “foods as consumed” also provides the most direct link to data used to estimate disease incidence. But the ability to prevent, or create, foodborne illness risks occurs throughout the food production, processing, marketing and preparation chain. When considering interventions, the full farm to fork spectrum should be taken into account.
    3. Four of the top 10 pathogen-food combinations represent significant risks to pregnant women and developing fetuses.
    snip…
    see full text ;
    http://www.epi.ufl.edu/sites/www.epi.ufl.edu/files/RankingTheRisksREPORT.pdf
    Monday, April 18, 2011
    Multidrug-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in US Meat and Poultry
    http://staphmrsa.blogspot.com/2011/04/multidrug-resistant-staphylococcus.html
    TSS

  • Walt Hill

    Where do people in this country think meat comes from, the shrink-wrap machine? Why must everything in this country be “sanitized” beyond recognition? Oh, I know, profit. We must do everything we can to protect the almighty dollar regardless of how unethical or uncivilized it is. If telling people the truth hurts our profit margin, it’s totally justified to make something up or even make it illegal to tell the truth. But don’t get me started…..

  • Ann Quinn

    Mr. Marler, since 2007 and consumption of melamine/cyanuric acid contaminated pet food that was recalled too late, I’ve
    had to euthanize all three of my pet cats so they would not suffer the agonies of not being able to pee, among other health issues. the last one on April 15, 2011. Euthanasia is “mercy killing,” but sure doesn’t feel that way as they close their eyes, and the breath and life leaves their little bodies.
    Surely there is a legal way to make the slaughter of
    food animals as humane as possible. Making horrifying abuse public a crime is not the act that needs to be punished.

  • Ben Mark

    This is a joke: Any person, except an employee or agent of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services acting pursuant to s. 570.15, Florida Statutes, or a law enforcement officer conducting a lawful inspection or investigation, who enters onto a farm…
    I cases like this, the “bad” employees wouldn’t make a video of their own misbehavior. When Officials are checking on a facility, they wouldn’t do it either. Good employees wouldn’t do it because they are afraid to loose their jobs.
    I couldn’t watch the video because I know I can’t handle this. I’m sure with all this new laws coming up now, we will not have videos like this anymore. Too sad for all the animals. Lawmakers should be forced to look videos like this over and over again, before the make such a stupid decission.