Thursday, September 13, 2012

Does Louise Know About This?

Hog farmers use government-approved antibiotics under the strict supervision of their veterinarians, much to the chagrin of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Meanwhile, popular antibiotics like amoxicillin are purchased routinely in pet stores or over the Internet without a prescription or any other controls on their use.

These are supposed to be used in fish tanks, but a pet health blog out of Canada notes they are also misused to treat dogs and even humans.

The blog, called Worms and Germs, is written by two veterinarians. It highlighted the problem with fish antibiotics in a post on easy-to-correct loopholes in antibiotic laws and regulations. “Various antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in pet stores that are marketed for treatment of fish,” it said, “but are the same as antibiotics used in other pets (and people). Unfortunately the internet also abounds with descriptions of how to treat your dog (or you) with fish drugs.”

Sure enough, a quick check of the Internet uncovered multiple sites selling “Fish Mox,” including, and at least one explaining that there is basically no difference between amoxicillin marketed for fish and that for humans.
All of which brings to mind the livestock industry’s frequent admonishment that antibiotic resistance results from many factors and that policy decisions on antibiotics use in food animals should be made on the basis of science and not myths.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And the Loser Is … Us

We already knew that last spring’s hysteria over perfectly safe lean finely textured beef (LFTB) —called “pink slime” by some reporters—hurt fed-cattle prices and cost at least 650 meat processing jobs.

Now comes word from the Agriculture Department that consumers, too, are suffering from the media circus over a product that until March was widely used in lower-fat ground beef found in supermarkets and schools.

The price of lean ground beef has soared since a long list of retailers announced they would no longer offer ground beef that contained LFTB. In response, consumers have switched to cheaper, fattier and less healthy alternatives—an ironic outcome considering these same consumers were scared into objecting to LFTB because they thought it was unsafe.
Various affects of the LFTB debacle are discussed in USDA’s August Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report. HOTH thinks this is another lesson in how a scandal-obsessed media can irreparably harm the image of a perfectly good food product.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2 Out Of 5

For The New York Times, this could be progress. In response to the recent Stanford University study finding no appreciable nutritional or food safety benefit to organic foods, The Times posted five short essays on its Website debating the question “Is Organic Food Worth the Expense?”

Offerings from New York University professor Marian Nestle, Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott and activist Raj Patel are what you’d expect: The cost of organic food is coming down, yields are coming up and, oh yes, “industrial” agriculture is destroying the globe.

But the remaining two essays are refreshingly realistic. Science blogger Christie Wilcox calls organic farming “an idyllic fallacy,” noting its costs in deforestation and carbon emissions. And Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg offers some startling health statistics, concluding that avoiding pesticides might save 20 cancer deaths a year while a price-related decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption could trigger 26,000 additional cancer deaths annually.
To which HOTH says, “Touché!” 

Perhaps Justice—Literally—Will Prevail

The Justice Department recently asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss a legal challenge to the 6-year-old Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which protects livestock producers against raids by animal rights activists and eco-terrorists.

According to the Associated Press, DOJ attorney Deanna Durrett defended the law before District Court Judge Joseph Tauro, arguing that it is not aimed at peaceful protests or other protected activities but at “violent, destructive conduct.”
The rarely used law was designed to protect livestock farms against intentional damage by increasingly aggressive animal rights activists. Activists challenged the law last year, saying it is vague and left them afraid to participate in legal public protests.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Laying An Egg On Egg Bill

Wayne Pacelle, the press-hungry head of the Humane Society of the United States, recently laid a rare media egg when he tried to garner support for the federal hen housing bill at the Indiana State Fair.

According to a report on the anti-HSUS Website Humane Watch, Pacelle attracted a paltry crowd to the press event then had to compete with noise from a nearby collection of antique tractors. “When Pacelle took to the microphone,” the account said, “the TV camera started panning the audience (or lack thereof) and picked up and left in the middle of his presentation. Must have been tough since all of the old tractors … simultaneously were cranked up just as Pacelle took the microphone. If ever there was a non-event, this was it.”

The hen housing bill writes into federal law an agreement between HSUS and egg producers, increasing the size of laying hen cages. NPPC has led opposition to the bill, saying it sets a dangerous precedent for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Non-Benefits Of Organics

How much more will it take before consumers wise up?

Yet another study—this one a four-year meta analysis of 237 previous studies—has found no appreciable nutritional or food-safety benefit to organic foods, including organically produced meat. And yet, the organic market continues to grow, up nearly 8 percent in 2010, despite the sluggish economy, according to the Organic Trade Association

The latest report to look at the safety and nutritional value of organic foods confirms what USDA has been saying for years.

The findings even surprised the Stanford University researchers who conducted the study. “When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” said senior study author Dr. Dena Bravata, according to The New York Times. “I think we were definitely surprised.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Aggies 2, PETA 0

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals either needs a better legal team or stronger arguments.

In the space of a few days PETA had a Sacramento judge throw out its challenge to the California dairy industry’s “happy cows” advertising campaign and was told by a Kansas judge that the state fair can force the group to shield some fair attendees from a gruesome video depicting animal slaughter.

The Sacramento ruling was particularly stinging. Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly said California dairy farmers and the state agriculture department had offered enough evidence to support their claim that California’s dairy cows are comfortable, safe and happy. PETA had argued the “happy cow” ads misrepresented the well-being of the state’s dairy cows.

In the Kansas case, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten rejected PETA’s attempt to block restrictions on showing a 13-minute undercover video from its booth at the state fair. The video depicts animals being slaughter and alleged instances of abuse on livestock farms. Marten said fair officials were not preventing PETA from showing the video, just saying that passersby should not be forced to view it against their will.

PETA said it is considering appeals in both cases.