DEAR READERS: Please read this news release from the Center for Food Safety (CFS) about a recent victory for organic standards and animal welfare.
The full release is available at centerforfoodsafety.org.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today (Oct. 25), the USDA released the final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) rule, delivering an important victory for farmers, consumers and animal welfare advocates. OLPS is a vital step in providing strong animal welfare protections under the USDA Organic label. (This) decision is a direct result of Center for Food Safety (CFS) litigation, which six years ago challenged the Trump administration’s decision that organic standards could not cover animal welfare. Following court order, the Biden administration has now reversed that determination and reaffirmed that organic includes protecting animal welfare.
“We are gratified that the new rule confirms what we have long argued in court: Organic farming means farming with integrity, and that must include animal welfare,” said Amy van Saun, CFS senior attorney and counsel in the case. “While there are more steps to go, this rule should once and for all put to bed misguided and unlawful views to the contrary that we have successfully fought to prevent from becoming law the last six years.”
The finalized rule comes almost a year after USDA’s proposed changes to the original Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule, which was first implemented in 2017 and then rescinded by the Trump administration in 2018. CFS, representing organic farmers, certifiers, retailers and animal welfare groups, sued the Trump administration to reverse its unlawful withdrawal of the original OLPP. After years of litigation, the Biden administration reconsidered the withdrawal, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California allowed USDA to revise and update its rulemaking. The Court stayed the case awaiting USDA’s new decision but kept jurisdiction. (This) final rule is the result of that process.
Once implemented, this set of rules will immediately improve the lives of millions of animals raised organically, especially chickens. Thanks in part to CFS’s litigation, the OLPS will make several significant improvements, including:
-- Confirming in detail the USDA’s authority under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to protect the health and welfare of organic animals.
-- Confirming the economic benefits to farmers from improving animal welfare and the benefits to consumers, who can more fully rely on the USDA Organic seal to ensure good animal welfare.
-- Setting indoor and outdoor spacing requirements for chickens and eliminating the “porch” loophole that some factory farms exploited to avoid providing birds with meaningful outdoor access.
-- Prohibiting cruel, painful and unnecessary physical alterations, such as de-beaking and tail docking.
-- Setting new standards to ensure animal welfare during transport and slaughter.
SALMON FARMING, SALMON SUFFERING
In their overcrowded floating enclosures, farmed salmon are stressed and in constant contact with each other -- creating ideal conditions for the spread of sea lice. Pesticides have been used against sea lice, but these poison wild fish, other sea life and birds where they are in operation. So alternative controls for this parasite, which must drive the fish crazy, are being evaluated.
Thermal de-licing methods, as well as brushing or rinsing live salmon to remove lice, can make the fish substantially more susceptible to a disease known as pasteurellosis. Thermal de-licing was associated with a 177% increased risk for pasteurellosis the following month, while brushing and rinsing were associated with a 164% increase. However, freshwater de-licing raised the risk by only 17%, according to researchers at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. (Full story: Fish Farmer Magazine, Oct. 31)
A massive outbreak of sea lice struck a fish farm in Iceland recently. The problem only got worse after the farm operators used an insecticide, suggesting that pesticide resistance has evolved in the lice, says fish disease specialist Berglind Helga Bergsdottir. (Full story: The Guardian, Nov. 3)
This industry should be closed for humane and environmental reasons, as well as for public health reasons, since the oceans connect us all. Salmon are fed fish “bycatch” -- all the sea life caught by the fishing industry that does not go into the public market or pet foods. Dioxins and other contaminants in farmed salmon, which they accumulate as apex predators, call for reconsideration by all advocates of salmon as a “health food.”
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