Move to Recyclable and Sustainable Packaging


Mondelez International is the latest in a series of manufacturers to announce programs to reduce waste generated from packaging. It is planned to convert all packaging to recyclable status and to provide consumers with relevant information by 2025. This is a worldwide initiative and is part of the company’s long-term vision for zero-net waste in packaging. A number of initiatives will be implemented including:

  • Use of recyclable material for all packaging by 2025. Paper-based packaging will be sustainably sourced by 2020.
  • Comprehensive recycling information will be provided to consumers by 2020.
  • Mondelez will support industry coalitions and public-private partnerships to develop vital waste-management infrastructure.

It is calculated that 150 million pounds of packaging material worldwide will be eliminated by 2020. Since 2013, Mondelez International has eliminated 100 million pounds of packaging material. This has been achieved through redesign of tubs used in the U.K. using less plastic, reduction in use of corrugated paper and diminishing the thickness of packaging films.

Sustainability in packaging is an irreversible trend and will have implications for food producers in their relationship with customers and through public perception.


Technology For the Sake of Technology Will Not Add to Profit


The September 1st edition of The Economist outlines the contribution of space technology to intensive agriculture. Thrive MV is one of seven companies supported by the European Space Agency in a business incubation center outside Harwell in Oxfordshire. The objective of the collaborative is to find applications for space technology in industry and agriculture. Admittedly some projects such as remote sensing using drones to assess the health of crops is justified. Some of the projects however which are under development appear to be make-work and Rube Goldberg in concept.

Thrive Multi Visual is devising a chicken robot based on a NASA Mars Explorer. The tracked vehicle will move around the house and determine the weight of chickens based on visual images. Have these guys not heard of automatic hop-on-hop-off weighing scales?

Other technology is being applied to develop environmental control systems which at present can be bought off-the-shelf and which contribute to acceptable growth and livability parameters close to genetic potential.

The Economist writer blames farmers for not adopting advanced technology. Claire Lewis, CEO of Thrive MV believes that agriculture is “no way near as tech-enabled as it should be”. On the one hand, Ms. Lewis probably does not know enough about intensive agriculture to be able to make the assertion, since computerized ventilation systems are extremely sophisticated. Another reason for the reluctance of farmers to purchase sophisticated technology is that farming is at best a marginal business and beneficial return to cost ratios are a significant consideration in capital investment.

During the past decade, the public sector has extended seed financing and has housed start-ups in incubators to exploit technology and to develop saleable products. Very few of the “seeds” actually germinate and become commercially viable companies.

Farmers are extremely willing to adopt proven technology which offers a return on investment. This is evident in walking the aisles at the IPPE and the Midwest Poultry Federation Conference Exhibition. Each year, new products and concepts are offered, but unless these companies are back the next year, there is obviously little or no commercial adoption. Some of the concepts are well-meaning, but impractical. Others, such as contact lenses for hens to prevent cannibalism were outright scams.

Funding for agricultural and livestock research is critical to feeding our existing population of whom at least 25 percent are food insecure. Advances in productivity and yields will be required to feed the next generation and the projected nine billion on Planet Earth by 2050. Technology may be beneficial but it has to be practical and financially attractive.


Business Sectors Evaluating Effect of Tariff War


Both the high-tech manufacturing sector and retail are assessing the potential impact of the succession of announcements placing tariffs on imports from China.

The latest to sound an alarm is Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. In a letter addressed to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Walmart confirmed that the most recently announced tariffs will raise prices to consumers representing an indirect tax.

The letter stated “As the largest retailer in the United States and a major buyer of U.S. manufactured goods (this is somewhat cynical as the company has always relied heavily on China, despite “Buy America” campaigns and in store images), we are very concerned about the impacts these tariffs would have on our business, our customers, our suppliers and the U.S. economy as a whole.”

The fact that the letter was addressed to Lighthizer over two weeks ago and in the interim the Administration has announced increased tariffs suggests that political considerations are outweighing prudence and judgement.

In the conflict with China, the Administration has apparently not taken into account the implacability of our trade adversary and the damage to our economy.

Walmart is not simply a commercial entity in Arkansas running a chain of big-box stores. Virtually every U.S. worker has either a direct or an indirect investment through 401k programs, pension funds and ownership of shares. Engaging in an escalating war with the World’s second largest economy and subject to strong central-government control, is subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences”.


Potential for Biomarker Gender Selection


A number of companies and research institutes have claimed to have developed technology to differentiate between eggs containing male or female embryos at an early stage of incubation.

The most biologically plausible system to date has been developed by an Israeli company using technology developed by Professor Danny Offen at the Medical School of Tel Aviv University.


The company eggXYt has approached the problem of early differentiation by genetic manipulation.  The system apparently involves adding a detectable marker to the male sex- determining chromosome to allow differentiation using the branded seXYt system. If effective the procedure could resolve the problem of destruction of male egg-strain chicks at the commercial level. 

As yet there have not been any peer reviewed articles on the system or projections of cost. Presentations made by the entrepreneurial founder and the company website are long on the obvious advantages but short on scientific details. The concept has received seed funding from agencies in Europe and was a 2018 recipient of a Pearse Lyons Accelerator Program which supports start-ups with the potential to enhance food production by providing seed funding.


Even if the technology proves both technically and financially feasible, the major problem facing the developers is that it is based on genetic manipulation. The demographic opposed to intensive livestock agriculture in general and egg production specifically, as a result of destruction of male chicks will also be opposed to what they would regard as GM technology and in some cases philosophical objections on the grounds of “gender discrimination” The Company will have to enter into JV agreements with the major breeding companies for the system to achieve commercial adoption. All primary breeders have adopted a no-GMO policy which would appear to be a hurdle for eggXYt.

Yehuda Elram, CEO (left) and Prof. Daniel Offen

co-founders of eggXYt.


From publicity eggXYt is claiming to apply CRISPR technology which involves deletion of genes. However the concept must involve addition of a marker to a chromosome.  While EGG-NEWS strongly supports what may be regarded as a beneficial process, those biased against GM technology will most certainly oppose the procedure.


The co-founder and CEO of the company Yehuda Elram is welcome to prepare a posting providing more details of the process and to provide results of trials to demonstrate proof of principle and a projection of cost using their selected business model.


The Wall Street Journal Poses the Question Are Eggs Bad for You?


It was with extreme surprise and a sense of disappointment that The Wall Street Journal resuscitated the debate over egg cholesterol in the September 17th edition.

Dr. William Roberts, Executive Director of the Baylor Scott and White, Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University and Medical Center dredged up the usual canards concerning egg cholesterol. It is surprising that a scientist in his position still believes that a large egg contains 215 to 275 mg of cholesterol. It is now generally accepted that the content of large eggs is in the range of 175 to 200 mg.

The major points advanced by Roberts concerning the potential deleterious effect of eggs relates to studies involving herbivores in which plaque develops in the intima of arteries after feeding diets with exceptionally high cholesterol content, inconsistent with a human diet containing one egg per day. Roberts also criticizes research published in peer-review journals showing no demonstrable effect from moderate consumption of eggs as being biased due to support from the Egg Nutrition Center, a component of the American Egg Board.

In contrast, Dr. Maria Fernandez, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut maintains that there is no evidence to suggest that consuming an egg each day elevates the risk of cardiovascular disease. She notes that dietary guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2016 no longer place an upper limit on dietary cholesterol intake.

Consistently, studies conducted by independent researchers have shown that there is no adverse effect from moderate consumption of eggs and biomarkers of heart disease are not elevated by an intake of one egg per day. Dr. Fernandez also pointed to the beneficial nutrient content of eggs, a fact which is grudgingly conceded by Dr. Roberts.

Egg cholesterol as a factor in inducing cardio-vascular disease is a dead issue. Why The Wall Street Journal should dredge up outdated concerns given the host of other public health problems is questioned. Perhaps the WSJ should concentrate on the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 as an issue of significance. Given their emphasis on business and economics, the WSJ could also consider the cost of both prescription and generic drugs and healthcare in general.


The Employment Enigma


As Congress faces reconciliation of the 2018 Farm Bill, it is appropriate to consider the problem of acquiring and retaining labor on U.S. farms. To be frank, we are reliant on workers from nations south of our border to work in produce fields, dairies, poultry farms and processing plants. The House version of the Farm Bill incorporates a mandatory work requirement for recipients of SNAP benefits, the Senate is opposed to this requirement although it is hoped that a compromise will be reached to enable passage of the bill. It is now obvious that an extension will be required, since existing legislation will expire in September.

In 1996, the Welfare Update mandated 80 hours of work or training for able-bodied adults 18-50. Non-compliant recipients were limited to three months of benefits. This provision was honored more in the breach than reality since states were allowed to exercise waivers.

The inner city areas have disproportionate unemployment rates and are heavily dependent on federal handouts. If those dependent on government programs to survive were to move to areas where there is a demand for labor, there would be a marked reduction in expenditure for SNAP and similar support programs.

Traditionally workers have moved to areas of opportunity. During the Great Depression, dispossessed farmers from the Dust Bowl relocated to California. More recently oil field workers displaced form the Gulf obtained work in new fields in North Dakota.

Congress has been slow to act on enabling legislation to provide H-    visa for foreign workers, especially those with both training and a desire to contribute to agricultural productivity.

In my work involving egg-production complexes, there is a dearth of available workers. Producers converting from conventional cages to aviaries recognize the need for additional labor, possibly in the region of two to three times that required for a flock of 150,000 to 250,000 caged hens. Standards for employment are steadily declining. Older workers with a strong work ethic are becoming more scarce. Substance abuse is a more important factor responsible for unreliability, carelessness and accidents.

Even if government policy allows more extensive use of foreign labor, it will be necessary to house immigrants. By the same token, acceptable housing will be required for labor moving from inner cities to rural areas. In addition to housing, it will be necessary to provide schooling and other services, altering the character of small towns which in any event are losing their traditional populations.


There are limits to mechanization and labor will always be required to produce food. The alternative to a rational immigration policy and encouraging relocation of U.S. citizens dependent on government support is self-evident. Agriculture is the nexus where immigration policy and welfare converge. Let us hope our legislators put aside ideology and address a growing problem which will restrict our ability to produce food.

It is evident that changes will be required in attitudes towards permanence of residency, acceptance of  “different” socio-economic groups and a redistribution of our population to address the need for agricultural labor.


PETA Video – Mahard Egg Farms


Once again we are confronted with adverse publicity following the posting of a video by PETA allegedly depicting mishandling of hens on the Sulfur, OK Farm operated by Mahard Egg Farms.


Apparently during late July and early August, high temperatures resulted in episodes of mortality.  The video depicts the removal of mortality from cages with temporary storage in pits of high-rise houses. Dead hens were then elevated using a mechanized belt to a trailer for transport presumably to a landfill.  A few live hens were apparently present within the mass of dead birds.  The video depicts these hens being killed by slamming their heads against a bar on the trailer.  The worker involved in the task of distributing dead birds in the trailer did not appear to be supervised.


The video also showed hens presumably during routine depletion according to the PETA voice-over being placed into a kill cart with an open top which would not allow effective euthanasia using carbon dioxide.  This again resulted in conscious birds having to be killed by other than approved procedures.


Mahard Eggs is certified by the UEP welfare program. Obviously any deviation from acceptable practice especially when subject to a video posting on the social media degrades the value of the UEP program which in itself is an acceptable set of standards.  Obviously UEP auditors visit farms subscribing to the program at intervals and cannot be expected to ensure ongoing compliance on a 24/7 basis.  In this case however it is evident that workers involved in the process of disposing of heat mortality were not trained in appropriate methods of euthanasia including cervical dislocation.


Unfortunately with high acute mortality associated with excessive heat, some dead hens will not be removed from cages especially on the higher tiers where most mortality occurs.  The dead hens as depicted in the video show advanced decomposition (“pancakes”) denoting lack of diligence in removal of mortality. It is not possible to determine the number of dead birds in cages as intrusion and clandestine videos invariably concentrate on individual hens and cages.


It is understood that the local law enforcement authorities are investigating the case and as with other incidents in the past, low-level employees will probably be fined and life will go on.


As with many cases of alleged deviations from acceptable welfare, PETA made Kroger, a major customer of Mahard aware of the events and after review of the video the chain suspended purchasing from the producer.


Mahard Farms has a history of non-compliance with regulations.  The Environmental Protection Agency assessed a fine of $1.9 million for contamination of pasture with waste extending over the period 1997 to 2011.


The company was the subject of an FDA warning letter on April 26, 2017 confirming nonconformance with the Salmonella Prevention Rule which is strictly adhered to by all commercial producers.  The warning letter outlined major deviations from practices which are common to the industry and denotes a lack of concern for food safety and the potential to degrade the image of all producers.


The industry has progressed from the days when individual producers set their own standards and operated as they pleased. Now under regulations issued by the FDA, the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, egg producers must conform to laws and regulations and bear the cost.  The UEP has established science-based standards for welfare to improve the image of our industry and provide customers with an assurance that flocks are treated humanely from hatch to depletion.


It is obvious that Mahard Eggs needs external independent advice to upgrade training and facilities and above all to create an acceptable culture of compliance with food safety, welfare and employment training.  If there are any other Mahards out there they need to engage in self-evaluation for their own benefit and as an obligation to the entire U.S. egg-production industry.



Is the FDA Competent to Conduct Epidemiologic and Farm Investigations?


The recounting by Tony Wesner CEO of Rose Acre Farms of the “inspection” of the Hyde County N.C. complex by a team of FDA personnel raises serious questions as to the competence, training and experience of those involved in the investigation. Speaking at the Atlanta Regional Meeting organized by the UEP, Wesner described the procedures used by the team in sampling layer houses and the packing plant. His informative and completely transparent description is confirmed by the observations of a board-certified poultry veterinarian affiliated to the State of North Carolina. My colleague who was present at the time had profound doubts as to ability of the FDA team to effectively plan and implement a structured sampling program to determine whether the complex was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup.


Only two of fifteen FDA inspectors assigned to the project had ever set foot on any commercial farm with livestock. It is evident that their experience was confined to pharmaceutical and food processing plants. This was evident in their assessment of the number of live mice observed in pits and the level of flies in houses resulting in an official FDA 483 Letter. While not excessive 25 live mice in 12 houses each 800’ in length was regarded as a serious infestation. A total of 25 “flying insects” were recorded over four days in an 80,000 square foot plant operating in-line with the laying houses. If mice and flies were regarded as being of epidemiologic significance in an alleged Salmonella outbreak why were no samples of these presumptive reservoirs obtained and assayed?


The FDA team spent an inordinate time sampling manure rows in pits. Wesner estimates that drag swabs in houses extended over 20 miles.  Approximately 200 swabs were taken in the plant apparently at random without an evident structured sampling plan consistent with other plants or investigations.


The FDA can be faulted on their epidemiologic investigation. From documents released after legal requests it is evident from a heavily redacted series of tables that interviews with patients were incomplete. In any event an outbreak limited to 50 diagnosed cases over six months could not be expected to elicit meaningful historic food data—who can remember eating eggs and their source whether in the home or at a restaurant weeks or months previously?


The FDA apparently applied Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) assays in attempt to establish the molecular relationship among isolates. It is unclear from the limited responses by FDA whether more specific assays including whole genome sequencing regarded as the “gold standard” were subsequently applied to the investigation. The Company is still awaiting a final report from the FDA with microbiological results from the field investigation conducted during the week of March 26th.


The 2018 Salmonella Braenderup outbreak was in any event a speculative event. Hyde County produced close to 2.8 million eggs per day consumed by a population of 30 million in the area of distribution. T o produce only 50 cases in six months represents an infinitesimal risk of infection from the farm. If in fact eggs from Hyde County were the only source of infection an extended chain of unfortunate circumstances would have been necessary to produce even the flat and unconvincing epidemic curve recorded.  These factors would have included sequential shell penetration by the motile pathogen, defects in cleaning (no Salmonella were isolated from shell surfaces), thermal abuse subsequent to delivery, prolonged storage by retailers, restaurants or in households, undercooking and possibly immunosuppressed consumers.


The financial implications from the FDA “investigation” and subsequent voluntary recall are immense far exceeding the $30 million insurance payout. In the initial weeks 56,000 cases were consigned to landfills followed by transport to a non-company breaking plant.  Depopulation of the entire farm, decontamination, structural improvements and disruption of operations have added to the burden borne by the Company.


A dispassionate review of the situation reveals incompetence, lack of proportion in assessing epidemiologic and production-related factors and dereliction in responsibility regarding follow-through on reports and recommendations. This episode is justification for a separate Food Safety Agency independent of the FDA. It appears that the priorities of the Agency are distorted. They elicited concern over 50 cases of an apparent outbreak of salmonellosis but apparently are not involved to a proportional degree with 72,000 annual fatalities from opiod overdosing or gross violations of standards in pharmaceutical plants in China and India supplying 70 percent of generic drugs prescribed in the U.S.


People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup, by date of illness onset*

*n=45 for whom information was reported as of June 13, 2018. Some illness onset dates have been estimated from other reported information.



FDA Now Considers Cattle Feeding Operation Responsible for Contamination of Yuma, AZ. Lettuce


As reported widely in media, romaine lettuce was the vehicle of infection for at least 210 cases of E.coli O157:H7 (STEC) infection resulting in five fatalities and extending over 36 states. The outbreak was declared over on June 28th. This was mainly due to the fact that the harvest season in the Yuma Valley ceased a few weeks earlier and lettuce in the food chain had either been consumed or destroyed.

Concurrent with the declaration that the outbreak was over, the FDA isolated the outbreak pathogen from irrigation water sprayed on the fields. This revelation was months after the initial cases were detected and recognized as a discrete outbreak through the FoodNet database system.

The latest announcement implicates a large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) located near the area where romaine lettuce was cultivated as the source of contaminated irrigation water. This should not come as a surprise since E.coli O157:H7 has adapted to the intestinal tract of ruminants, especially when fed diets low in roughage such as on zero-grazing dairy farms and feed lots. Previous outbreaks of STEC infection attributed to cattle include an outbreak with spinach as the vehicle of infection during 2006 in California. Aerosolized fecal material from cattle wafting into apple orchards was responsible for an extensive outbreak of E.coli O157 in children consuming non-pasteurized apple juice in 1999. Ground beef derived from culled dairy cattle may be contaminated with E.coli O157 requiring thorough cooking to inactivate the pathogen.

The FDA is continuing to investigate the outbreak. The slow pace of the study and failure to identify the epidemiologic factors relates to the lack of suitably trained investigators affiliated to the FDA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a suitably equipped agency to determine the source of food-borne disease outbreaks given their resources and the training of personnel. Split responsibilities among government agencies with fragmented jurisdiction over aspects of food production and processing is a justification for establishing a separate stand-alone food safety agency.

People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, by date of illness onset*

*n=210 for whom information was reported as of June 27, 2018. Some illness onset dates have been estimated from other reported information.



Potential for Shell Egg Exports to South Africa Limited


According to a GAIN Report dated July 26th 2018, South Africa imported 50 tons of shell eggs valued at $74,000 from Brazil during the first five months of this year.  Importation was necessitated by the loss of approximately 7 percent of the nation’s flock in mid- to late 2017 following exposure to H5N8 avian influenza.  The resulting decline in availability of eggs was responsible for an increase in retail prices which at present are in the region of $2.20 per dozen about 16 percent above 2017 prices prior to the HPAI outbreak. The RSA inflation rate is currently at five percent.

South Africa has declared the U.S. to be eligible to export shell eggs but the potential volume to be supplied will be understandably small and in competition with Brazil and the E.U.


As with South Korea, once flocks are repopulated, supply will match domestic demand. Based on previous experience availability will overshoot demand given the large number of younger flocks coming into production.


Quantum Foods a major egg producer in South Africa reported an increase in operating profit of 470 percent to $20 million for the first half of fiscal 2018 ending March 31.  Although the company lost 240,000 hens in the Western Cape the rise in egg prices more than compensated for reduced flock size.  The egg production component of the agribusiness company contributed 65 percent to total company profit amounting to $9 million.  A sharp reduction in the cost of ingredients following the severe drought in 2016 also contributed to improved margins enjoyed by both the broiler and egg segments of the poultry industry in the Republic of South Africa.



FDA Reviewing Standards of Food Identity


Based on the proliferation of vegetable-based milk substitutes, organizations representing the dairy industry have petitioned the FDA to establish standards restricting the “milk” designation to products derived from udders. Concern over nomenclature of plant-based foods involves accurate information for consumers.


Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the FDA commented, “The information provided through food labeling must be truthful and not be misleading. The consumer’s choice must be based on this information and can have important impacts on health.”


The FDA arranged a meeting on nutrition innovations strategy in mid-July to review the topic of food identity.  It is intended to initiate a public discussion on how consumers respond to product identity including animal and farm-derived foods.


Gottlieb noted, “We are actively looking at how we have been enforcing the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act with respect to food names and our own standards of identity for milk and what it means when milk is qualified with words such as almond or soy.”  Apparently, there are 300 separate standards in FDA regulations.  Gottlieb commented that standards of identity can restrain industry in developing and marketing of products.  Accordingly, the FDA will solicit input from stakeholders to be incorporated in the eventual regulations relating to food identity.


Although dairy producer are most involved with milk substitutes, it is evident that the issue of egg identity will have to be addressed given the introduction of plant-based synthetic egg products.  Although formulated to demonstrate similar organoleptic attributes to eggs, the nutritional quality is obviously inferior to natural eggs. Consumers should be made aware of the deficiencies of “scrambles” made from mung beans.



CDC Implicates Backyard Flocks in Salmonella Outbreaks


CDC issued an outbreak advisory on July 23rd confirming ongoing outbreaks of salmonellosis attributed to contact with backyard chickens and ducks. The epidemiologic significance of backyard chickens has been clearly established with regard to salmonellosis acquired in the home setting other than from contaminated food. Effectively backyard chickens have replaced pet turtles as the major source of salmonellosis for children which pertained prior to the 1975 FDA ban on interstate shipment.


Since June 21st, database systems including FoodNet have recorded 112 cases of salmonellosis in 44 states requiring 34 hospitalizations.  Salmonella isolates included S. Seftenberg, S. Mondevideo, S. Infantis, S. Enteritidis, S. Indiana and S. Litchfield. There is obvious concern that whole genome sequencing demonstrated genes coding for drug resistance against a wide range of commonly used antibiotics in 22 isolates assayed.


One-hundred of 138 patients reported contact with chicks or ducklings in the week before onset of illness. It is significant that a quarter of the patients comprised children under 5 years of age Chicks and in a few instances ducklings are presumed to be the vehicles of infection and were purchased from feed supply stores, small hatcheries or were supplied by friends. 


 EGG-NEWS takes extreme exception to the fatuous comments by self-styled “chicken doctor” Rinder Myers of Tulsa, OK.  A comment that the “risks of backyard chickens are quite minimal” are refuted by data.  Myers is entitled to her opinions but not to her facts.  Denoting an absence of knowledge concerning basic microbiology and epidemiology Myers doubled down noting, “Lack of sunlight, lack of ventilation and cleanliness are huge risks for Salmonella and you have these things in the factory setting.”


The commercial U.S. egg-production industry operates in accordance with the National Poultry Improvement Program concerning prevention of vertically transmitted Salmonella infection.  In addition the industry conforms to the 2010 FDA Final Rule on Salmonella Prevention and operates in accordance with state egg quality assurance programs and UEP and company standard operating procedures where applicable. In most cases these requirements are stricter than federal and state regulations.


There has not been a case of Salmonella Enteritidis associated with commercially produced and processed eggs since 2010.  A recent outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup attributed to a specific egg complex involved 57 cases over six months notwithstanding the fact that the alleged source of infection distributed 2.4 million eggs daily to a population exceeding 25 million consumers. This represents an infinitesimally minute attack rate.  In contrast, outbreaks of salmonellosis have been attributed to small-scale farms operating under the FDA requirement which applies to flocks over 3,000 hens.


It is regrettable that media including station KTUL-TV offer a megaphone to people with a vested interest in promoting backyard chickens to disseminate misinformation.  KTUL and other mainstream media would be well advised to consult with state epidemiologists and local public health professionals for commentary on diseases transmitted from livestock to humans and on foodborne infections before allowing ill-informed or at worse venal spokespersons to air blatantly false opinions.


2018 Animal Rights National Conference


The annual gathering of opponents to intensive livestock production and dedicated to promoting a vegan lifestyle gathered in Los Angeles at the end of June. Expanding on previous years, the four-day event included 175 speaker on 80 panels bringing together diverse concepts including activism, animal rights, diversity, and social justice.

It would take a psychologist to understand the desperate motivations for the extreme views expressed by speaker and participants. While some aspects including environmental concerns may be valid, comparing reproductive rights of women with those of hens is blatantly outlandish. Expressions of zealotry included advocating illegal action to liberate animals. This was exemplified in the post-conference intrusion onto a poultry unit in Petaluma, CA which required intervention by peace officers.

Conference themes included:

  • Exploitation of animals for food, research and entertainment

  • Developing future leaders in the animal rights movement

  • Opportunities for cooperation and synergy among animal rights movements which tend to be fragmented

Quotes from the various panel discussions exemplify the sentiments of participants at the conference:

  • “Hens can never have reproductive freedom”

  • “They never stop loving their babies”

  • “A significant distinction between what may be regarded as extremists and the general public is the humanization of animals. Anthropomorphism is a consistent feature of adherent animal liberation.”

  • “There is no such things as humane slaughter” and “you cannot humanely kill someone that doesn’t want to die”

  • “Owning another human being is an act of violence and

  • “All animals are equal” (Obviously this speaker is not acquainted with George Orwell!)

  • “We need to take care of all of the victims of animal agriculture”

It is evident that a minority estimated to be less than three percent of the U.S. population is either vegan or pretending to eliminate animal products from their diets. Their motivation depends on a misplaced concept of self-health, environmental concerns and animal rights. The more militant members of the animal rights movement who perpetrate farm intrusions and disruption of agriculture with no regard to the law and the rights of property owners can only be restrained by farm security and a recourse to law.

A concern emanating from the conference is the proselytizing of youth and promoting anti-meat concepts in K-12 education. Unfortunately advocates of vegan diets appear to have the megaphone. Perhaps if the organizations representing the animal production industries really understood the disparate motivations of their opponents they could craft appropriate non-scientific but logical counter-arguments acceptable to receptive consumers. All of what is posted on websites by the NCC, UEP and NTF is factual, logical and informative. Unfortunately it lacks the emotional impact of the postings by organizations opposed to intensive livestock production. Images speak words—we need less appeal to the brain and more to the solar plexus.


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