AUSTIN, Tex. — CALIFORNIA is experiencing one of its worst
droughts on record. Just two and a half years ago, Folsom Lake, a major
reservoir outside Sacramento, was at 83 percent capacity. Today it’s down to 36
percent. In January, there was no measurable rain in downtown Los Angeles. Gov.
Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. President Obama has pledged $183
million in emergency funding. The situation, despite last week’s deluge in
Southern California, is dire.
With California producing nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the
United States, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow
popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries,
almonds and grapes. These crops are the ones that a recent report in the
magazine Mother Jones highlighted as being unexpectedly water intensive. Who
knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or
3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint
of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is
important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent
of its water to agriculture.
But for those truly interested in lowering their water footprint, those numbers
pale next to the water required to fatten livestock. A 2012 study in the journal
Ecosystems by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, both at the University
of Twente in the Netherlands, tells an important story. Beef turns out to have
an overall water footprint of roughly four million gallons per ton produced. By
contrast, the water footprint for “sugar crops” like sugar beets is about 52,000
gallons per ton; for vegetables it’s 85,000 gallons per ton; and for starchy
roots it’s about 102,200 gallons per ton.
Factor in the kind of water required to produce these foods, and the water
situation looks even worse for the future of animal agriculture in
drought-stricken regions that use what’s known as “blue water,” or water stored
in lakes, rivers and aquifers, which California and much of the West depend on.
Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons per ton of blue water; starchy roots, about
4,200 gallons per ton; and fruit, about 38,800 gallons per ton. By comparison,
pork consumes 121,000 gallons of blue water per ton of meat produced; beef,
about 145,000 gallons per ton; and butter, some 122,800 gallons per ton. There’s
a reason other than the drought that Folsom Lake has dropped as precipitously as
it has. Don’t look at kale as the culprit. (Although some nuts, namely almonds,
consume considerable blue water, even more than beef.) That said, a single plant
is leading California’s water consumption.
Unfortunately, it’s a plant that’s not generally cultivated for humans: alfalfa.
Grown on over a million acres in California, alfalfa sucks up more water than
any other crop in the state. And it has one primary destination: cattle.
Increasingly popular grass-fed beef operations typically rely on alfalfa as a
supplement to pasture grass. Alfalfa hay is also an integral feed source for
factory-farmed cows, especially those involved in dairy production.
If Californians were eating all the beef they produced, one might write off
alfalfa’s water footprint as the cost of nurturing local food systems. But
that’s not what’s happening. Californians are sending their alfalfa, and thus
their water, to Asia. The reason is simple. It’s more profitable to ship alfalfa
hay from California to China than from the Imperial Valley to the Central
Valley. Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a
year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form
of alfalfa. All as more Asians are embracing the American-style, meat-hungry
Further intensifying this ecological injustice are incidents such as the Rancho
Feeding Corporation’s recent recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef because the
meat lacked a full federal inspection. That equals 631.6 million gallons of
water wasted by an industry with a far more complex and resource-intensive
supply chain than the systems that move strawberries from farm to fork.
This comparison isn’t to suggest that produce isn’t
occasionally recalled, but the Rancho incident reminds us that plants aren’t
slaughtered, a process that demands 132 gallons of water per animal carcass,
contributing even more to livestock’s expanding water footprint.
It’s understandable for concerned consumers to feel helpless in the face of
these complex industrial and global realities. But in the case of agriculture
and drought, there’s a clear and accessible action most citizens can take:
reducing or, ideally, eliminating the consumption of animal products. Changing
one’s diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like
legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s
food-related water footprint. Going vegetarian, a better option in many
respects, reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.
It’s seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even
in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in
California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.
James McWilliams is a professor of history
at Texas State University and the author, most recently,
of “The Politics of the Pasture: How Two Cattle Inspired
Hoyt, who made the Humane Society of the United States the largest anticruelty
organization in the country during an era when changing cultural attitudes were
greatly expanding the number of animal protection groups, died on April 15 in
Fredericksburg, Va. He was 80.
The cause was progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder, said his
daughter Peggy Hoyt.
Mr. Hoyt, who was president and chief executive of the Humane Society from 1970
to 1996, was best known for expanding its traditional stewardship over dogs and
cats to include laboratory animals, livestock, wild horses, whales, endangered
fish and rodeo bulls.
The society’s expanded agenda reflected both cultural sensitivity and public
relations savvy in a period when environmentalism and the animal liberation and
natural food movements were emerging, said Bernard Unti, a historian of the
Humane Society. The new movements were expanding public consciousness, but also
competing for contributions.
“It was a rapidly changing landscape,” Mr. Unti said, “and John made sure that
the society blossomed while continuing to be itself.”
Mr. Hoyt also established the Humane Society as one of Washington’s most
sophisticated lobbying operations. He began campaigns to save porpoises and baby
seals. He worked against fur trapping, sport hunting, roadside zoos,
cockfighting and bullfighting, and fought to end unnecessarily painful lab
experiments on rats, mice and chimpanzees.
The suffering of livestock became a major focus of Humane Society lobbying in
the mid-1970s, soon after Mr. Hoyt met Temple Grandin, the animal behaviorist,
who was then developing a stress-reducing corral for young cattle being
slaughtered for veal.
The Humane Society financed research for a prototype of her famous double-rail
restrainer system. “That system is in use in half the slaughterhouses in the
country, and it probably would not have existed if not for John Hoyt,” she said
in an interview Friday. “He took the practical approach — ‘If we’re gonna eat
meat, well, let’s make sure the animals don’t suffer needlessly.’ ”
Mr. Hoyt was also an early proponent of laws against organized dogfighting.
Lobbying efforts by the Humane Society beginning in the 1980s were instrumental
in persuading 40 states to adopt laws making deliberate animal cruelty a felony
rather than a misdemeanor. Those laws were considered instrumental in the
passage of the 2007 Virginia law under which Michael Vick, the N.F.L.
quarterback, was prosecuted for dogfighting.
By its own accounting, the Humane Society grew to over 5 million members during
Mr. Hoyt’s tenure from 100,000. Its annual budget, which was under $1 million
when he became president in 1970, had grown to about $50 million by the time he
When confrontational animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals emerged in the 1980s — criticizing organizations like the
Humane Society for being too focused on fund-raising and for not recognizing the
inherent equal rights of humans and animals — Mr. Hoyt vigorously defended his
group’s approach, which he described as “pragmatic idealism.”
He dismissed staff members he considered too sympathetic to the animal
liberation movement, and in a speech at the society’s 1988 annual conference
refused to accept “censure for our willingness to accept compromise” or for the
society’s “organizational growth and financial success.”
John Arthur Hoyt was born March 30, 1932, in Marietta, Ohio, one of six children
of Claremont and Margaret Hoyt. His father was an itinerant Baptist minister.
Mr. Hoyt was ordained a Baptist minister, too, after graduating in 1957 from
what is now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester.
He was serving as senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Fort
Wayne, Ind., when he was recruited as president of the Humane Society by a
friend who was a board member and an executive in the American Bible Society.
At the time, he told his family it was “like leaving one church for another.”
Mr. Hoyt’s survivors include his wife, Gertrude, and four daughters. Besides
Peggy, they are Karen Willcox, Anne Williams and Julie Dorman. He is also
survived by a brother, David, and four sisters, Carolyn Harman, Josephine Bero,
Mary Griffes and Margaret Nasemann.
The Humane Society was established in 1954 as a result of a schism within the
American Humane Association, which was established in 1877 as a loose national
federation, based in Denver, of animal rescue groups. While the leaders of the
Humane Association were committed to remaining decentralized, the dissidents who
founded the Humane Society believed that the cause required a national focus,
federal legislation and a headquarters in Washington.
During his tenure, Mr. Hoyt commuted to the society’s L Street townhouse
headquarters from a small farm in Fredericksburg, where he lived with his family
and the many dogs, cats, horses and other animals that he and his daughters
brought home on a regular basis, Peggy Hoyt said.
Though he had no training in animal welfare when he began the job, Mr. Hoyt told
interviewers that he had always loved animals, mainly because of the influence
of his grandmother, a vegetarian who lived to be 106. “My grandmother had 40 pet
sheep,” he once said, “and each one had a name.”
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont slaughterhouse ordered closed Friday after
video showed calves kicked, shocked and cut while conscious had its operating
license suspended three times earlier this year for similar conduct.
U.S. Department of Agriculture records show Bushway Packing Inc. of Grand Isle
was shut down for a day in May, again in June and again in July after an
inspector cited it for inhumane treatment of animals.
The revelation came Monday as the Humane Society of the United States released
more video footage taken with a hidden camera this summer. The video shows
days-old male calves culled from dairy herds being dragged, kicked, repeatedly
shocked with electric prods and apparently cut while still conscious.
''We found even two calves who appeared to be skinned alive while they were
still conscious,'' said Michael Markarian, the Humane Society's chief operating
The video also appeared to back up a Friday statement in which U.S. Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack described the conduct of a USDA inspector at the
slaughterhouse as ''inexcusable.''
It showed an unidentified inspector appearing to coach a plant worker on how to
avoid being shut down by another inspector and failing to stop an animal being
cut while awake.
A call to the slaughterhouse on Monday was not immediately returned, nor was a
call to a Ronald Bushway listed in Grand Isle.
USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver said Monday he could not comment on the inspector's
conduct because it was a personnel matter.
Markarian said it appeared several calves were abused because they would not or
could not stand up to be prepared for slaughter. The slaughterhouse specialized
in ''bob veal'' -- meat from days-old calves that ends up in hot dogs and lunch
meats. Meat sold as veal usually come from animals raised to about 4 months old.
Some in the Vermont dairy industry said they worried the revelations would give
an enterprise generally viewed as wholesome a black eye. Bushway Packing was
certified as an organic processor, raising extra concern in that sector.
''That's not right, that's really nasty,'' said Paul Stecker, an organic dairy
farmer from Cabot, after watching the video on the Humane Society's Web site.
''I wouldn't be in this business if that's the way it was. That's not the norm,
I can tell you that.''
Stecker said the slaughterhouse's problems also would bring attention to an
aspect of dairying most farmers don't like or talk about much: The vast majority
of male calves born on dairy farms face very short lives.
''That kind of thing hurts us all, like our industry really needed that,'' he
Dairy farmers nationwide have been struggling as a global milk glut has resulted
in dramatically lower prices for their milk.
The Humane Society said it would propose tighter rules for the meatpacking and
related industries, including a requirement that male calves born on dairy farms
be kept there until they are 10 days old to ensure they are strong enough to
Kelly Loftus, a spokeswoman for the state Agency of Agriculture, said she
expected there would be strong opposition to such a measure.
''There are labor costs involved. There are feeding costs involved,'' she said.
With the current crisis in dairy farming, ''any extra expense could mean that a
farm has to close.''
Nicole Dehne of Vermont Organic Farmers, a group that certifies Vermont farms as
organic under an agreement with the USDA, said the group's national counterpart
is meeting in Washington this week and will discuss humane treatment of farm
Organic rules now are geared mainly toward ensuring meat labeled organic comes
from animals raised without hormones or chemicals.
''I think consumers expect organic regulations to cover all aspects of animal
welfare, including slaughter and transportation,'' Dehne said. ''If we need to
tighten the regulations in regard to processing facilities, and come up with
guidelines to address more humane transportation, I think we would respond to
the expectations of the organic consumer.''
HANGZHOU, China (AP) -- Chinese officials said Thursday that Beijing will
lift a ban on imports of U.S. pork that was imposed last spring due to swine flu
China's agriculture minister and commerce minister, speaking after a day of
trade talks with U.S. officials, emphasized that the decision was based on
"Since this is a new disease, it takes time to understand it," said China's
agriculture minister, Sun Zhengcai.
"This decision was based on scientific analysis and assessment," he told
"It is my hope the U.S. side will follow the Chinese requirements to safely
resume export of pork products to China," Sun said.
The ban has cost the U.S. hog industry millions of dollars every week. It had
continued despite insistence by international health officials that pork is safe
and the country's hogs are not to blame for the epidemic.
From the street, the shop could be mistaken for a bodega, but its
red-and-yellow awning advertises live poultry, goats, lamb and beef. Scores of
chickens flutter in cages. A dozen placid goats stare from a pen at customers
from Bangladesh, Trinidad and Colombia. A worker slices the throats of Rhode
Island Reds, uttering a prayer each time, according to the rites of Islam.
A block away from this tiny slaughterhouse, Jamaica Archer Live Poultry, which
is housed in a former auto-body shop, commuters and students pour from buses and
subways into the commercial hub of Jamaica, Queens, where tourists catch the
train to Kennedy Airport. A few blocks the other way stand rows of frame houses
and postage-stamp yards that make Jamaica look like any blue-collar American
In the Jamaica shop, where custom-slaughtered beef is sold for $3.50 a pound,
there is not much mention of the “locavore” movement, which prizes eating
locally grown food and knowing how it is produced, and whose Greenwich Village
mecca, Blue Hill restaurant, serves a plate of grass-fed lamb and fiddlehead
ferns for $36.
Yet the shop’s owner, Muhammad Ali, is part of a growing immigrant-driven market
that has taken root in cities but is reviving a practice dating back to
America’s agrarian past: seeing the live animal that will soon become your meal.
“I like to see it fresh and choose what I want,” said Mitchella Christian, a
native of Trinidad who was visiting L. Alladin, a nearby competitor of Mr. Ali’s
market, to buy a lamb and three chickens.
The lucky cow that escaped another slaughterhouse in Jamaica this month was only
the tip of the horn. There are about 90 live-poultry markets in the metropolitan
area. That number has doubled since the mid-1990s, state officials say, because
of the demands of immigrants from countries where eyeballing your meat while it
is alive is considered common sense. About a quarter of the markets are also
licensed to slaughter larger livestock.
New York has probably the country’s highest concentration of live-animal
markets, though there are pockets in New Jersey, New England, Philadelphia,
California and the Midwest, said Susan Trock, a veterinarian who manages poultry
health inspections for the State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Tom Mylan, who carves up cows in front of customers at Marlow & Daughters, a
butcher shop and locavore’s temple in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said he lived near
three live-animal markets, two run by Hasidic Jews and one by Latin Americans.
Although they may not share his obsession with animal welfare and organic feed,
he said, he views them as allies against the mass-market industry he calls “big
What he teaches his gourmet followers, he said, is what the working-class
live-market customers have never forgotten: “To eat meat, you have to kill —
something that we got pulled out of during the last 50 years in America,” he
said. “We’re used to going into the grocery store and there’s not even a butcher
counter, just a bunch of foam trays with a lot of anonymous blobs of meat in
Perhaps inevitably, when it comes to killing animals for food, immigrant Queens
clashes with suburban-homeowning Queens: Some of the people who worry about
factory-produced meat are unenthusiastic about having mom-and-pop abattoirs next
Last year, residents of St. Albans, Queens, blocked a small slaughterhouse from
opening on Farmers Boulevard. One resident, Marie Wilkerson, told The New York
Times that she feared its stink would ruin backyard barbecues. Their state
legislators pushed through a law barring new slaughterhouses within 1,500 feet
of a residence for four years, effectively freezing the expansion of
slaughterhouses in most of the city.
Complaints about slaughterhouses often fall among local, federal and state
regulators, said City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. of Astoria, Queens, where
a fleeing cow made headlines in 2000. “It’s a complete maze,” he said.
The rules are so confusing that officials at the Food Safety and Inspection
Service of the United States Department of Agriculture initially told a reporter
that their agency had nothing to do with live-animal markets.
But while retail poultry markets fall under state jurisdiction, if they sell
goats, sheep or cows, the federal agency steps in.
There is inevitable potential for friction between the businesses’ traditional
values and the public-health priorities of the regulating agencies. Some market
owners fear, apparently erroneously, that rules could interfere with religious
rites. Others, when they dress a cow or a goat for a family to share on
holidays, can run afoul of federal regulations requiring each animal to be
custom-slaughtered for a specific buyer.
More-established market owners say that some new businesses skirt the rules or
do not understand them.
Mr. Mylan, the Williamsburg shop owner, blames a big meat lobby that wants
regulations that favor companies that kill thousands of animals a day. State and
federal officials say they want the smaller businesses to thrive and are
reaching out to help them comply.
Mr. Ali, meanwhile, says he is performing a much-needed service. Some come for
the halal meat, killed according to Islam. (He weighs his goats on a scale built
for pigs, an animal that Islam proscribes as food. A pig decoration on the scale
had been scratched out.) But customers also want to see that the animals,
usually trucked from no farther than Pennsylvania, are healthy.
“I want to see it with my own eyes,” said Shamsul Rahman, 65, who is originally
from Bangladesh and was buying 11 chickens.
After each chicken’s throat was cut, the bird was placed upside down for the
blood to drain. Then it was scalded and thrown into a machine that plucked its
feathers with rubber mechanical fingers.
Nearby, an energetic goat placed its hooves on an iron rail and craned its neck
toward a photographer like a supermodel flirting with the camera.
“He wants to make a connection with you,” Mr. Ali said.
A few blocks away, F & D Live Poultry stands opposite the ultimate urban spot:
the scene of the 50-shot killing of Sean Bell by police officers in 2006.
Inside the shop, Edelsa Angel, 27, who grew up on a Guatemalan farm, had brought
her small son in his stroller. He watched with equanimity as chickens went into
the killing room flapping and came out in plastic bags.
The owner, Joey Rosario, said the shop, just feet from a house, had been there
for 100 years. But he is open to change: He plans to hire a halal slaughterer to
keep up his market share as Muslims move in.
December 4, 2008
The New York Times
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
STERKSEL, the Netherlands — The cows and pigs dotting these flat green plains
in the southern Netherlands create a bucolic landscape. But looked at through
the lens of greenhouse gas accounting, they are living smokestacks, spewing
methane emissions into the air.
That is why a group of farmers-turned-environmentalists here at a smelly but
impeccably clean research farm have a new take on making a silk purse from a
sow’s ear: They cook manure from their 3,000 pigs to capture the methane trapped
within it, and then use the gas to make electricity for the local power grid.
Rising in the fields of the environmentally conscious Netherlands, the Sterksel
project is a rare example of fledgling efforts to mitigate the heavy emissions
from livestock. But much more needs to be done, scientists say, as more and more
people are eating more meat around the world.
What to do about farm emissions is one of the main issues being discussed this
week and next, as the environment ministers from 187 nations gather in Poznan,
Poland, for talks on a new treaty to combat global warming. In releasing its
latest figure on emissions last month, United Nations climate officials cited
agriculture and transportation as the two sectors that remained most
“It’s an area that’s been largely overlooked,” said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head
of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. He says people should eat less meat to control their carbon footprints.
“We haven’t come to grips with agricultural emissions.”
The trillions of farm animals around the world generate 18 percent of the
emissions that are raising global temperatures, according to United Nations
estimates, more even than from cars, buses and airplanes.
But unlike other industries, like cement making and power, which are facing
enormous political and regulatory pressure to get greener, large-scale farming
is just beginning to come under scrutiny as policy makers, farmers and
scientists cast about for solutions.
High-tech fixes include those like the project here, called “methane capture,”
as well as inventing feed that will make cows belch less methane, which traps
heat with 25 times the efficiency of carbon dioxide. California is already
working on a program to encourage systems in pig and dairy farms like the one in
Other proposals include everything from persuading consumers to eat less meat to
slapping a “sin tax” on pork and beef. Next year, Sweden will start labeling
food products so that shoppers can look at how much emission can be attributed
to serving steak compared with, say, chicken or turkey.
“Of course for the environment it’s better to eat beans than beef, but if you
want to eat beef for New Year’s, you’ll know which beef is best to buy,” said
Claes Johansson, chief of sustainability at the Swedish agricultural group
But such fledgling proposals are part of a daunting game of catch-up. In large
developing countries like China, India and Brazil, consumption of red meat has
risen 33 percent in the last decade. It is expected to double globally between
2000 and 2050. While the global economic downturn may slow the globe’s appetite
for meat momentarily, it is not likely to reverse a profound trend.
Of the more than 2,000 projects supported by the United Nations’ “green”
financing system intended to curb emissions, only 98 are in agriculture. There
is no standardized green labeling system for meat, as there is for electric
appliances and even fish.
Indeed, scientists are still trying to define the practical, low-carbon version
of a slab of bacon or a hamburger. Every step of producing meat creates
Flatus and manure from animals contain not only methane, but also nitrous oxide,
an even more potent warming agent. And meat requires energy for refrigeration as
it moves from farm to market to home.
Producing meat in this ever-more crowded world requires creating new pastures
and planting more land for imported feeds, particularly soy, instead of relying
on local grazing. That has contributed to the clearing of rain forests,
particularly in South America, robbing the world of crucial “carbon sinks,” the
vast tracts of trees and vegetation that absorb carbon dioxide.
“I’m not sure that the system we have for livestock can be sustainable,” said
Dr. Pachauri of the United Nations. A sober scientist, he suggests that “the
most attractive” near-term solution is for everyone simply to “reduce meat
consumption,” a change he says would have more effect than switching to a hybrid
The Lancet medical journal and groups like the Food Ethics Council in Britain
have supported his suggestion to eat less red meat to control global emissions,
noting that Westerners eat more meat than is healthy anyway.
Producing a pound of beef creates 11 times as much greenhouse gas emission as a
pound of chicken and 100 times more than a pound of carrots, according to
Lantmannen, the Swedish group.
But any suggestion to eat less meat may run into resistance in a world with more
carnivores and a booming global livestock industry. Meat producers have taken
issue with the United Nations’ estimate of livestock-related emissions, saying
the figure is inflated because it includes the deforestation in the Amazon, a
phenomenon that the Brazilian producers say might have occurred anyway.
United Nations scientists defend their accounting. With so much demand for meat,
“you do slash rain forest,” said Pierre Gerber, a senior official at the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Soy cultivation has doubled in Brazil
during the past decade, and more than half is used for animal feed.
Laurence Wrixon, executive director of the International Meat Secretariat, said
that his members were working with the Food and Agriculture Organization to
reduce emissions but that the main problem was fast-rising consumption in
developing countries. “So whether you like it or not, there’s going to be rising
demand for meat, and our job is to make it as sustainable as possible,” he said.
Estimates of emissions from agriculture as a percentage of all emissions vary
widely from country to country, but they are clearly over 50 percent in big
agricultural and meat-producing countries like Brazil, Australia and New
In the United States, agriculture accounted for just 7.4 percent of greenhouse
gas emissions in 2006, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The percentage was lower because the United States produces extraordinarily high
levels of emissions in other areas, like transportation and landfills, compared
with other nations. The figure also did not include fuel burning and land-use
Wealthy, environmentally conscious countries with large livestock sectors — the
Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand — have started experimenting with
In Denmark, by law, farmers now inject manure under the soil instead of laying
it on top of the fields, a process that enhances its fertilizing effect, reduces
odors and also prevents emissions from escaping. By contrast, in many parts of
the developing world, manure is left in open pools and lathered on fields.
Others suggest including agriculture emissions in carbon cap-and-trade systems,
which currently focus on heavy industries like cement making and power
generation. Farms that produce more than their pre-set limit of emissions would
have to buy permits from greener colleagues to pollute.
New Zealand recently announced that it would include agriculture in its new
emissions trading scheme by 2013. To that end, the government is spending tens
of millions of dollars financing research and projects like breeding cows that
produce less gas and inventing feed that will make cows belch less methane, said
Philip Gurnsey of the Environment Ministry.
At the electricity-from-manure project here in Sterksel, the refuse from
thousands of pigs is combined with local waste materials (outdated carrot juice
and crumbs from a cookie factory), and pumped into warmed tanks called
digesters. There, resident bacteria release the natural gas within, which is
burned to generate heat and electricity.
The farm uses 25 percent of the electricity, and the rest is sold to a local
power provider. The leftover mineral slurry is an ideal fertilizer that reduces
the use of chemical fertilizers, whose production releases a heavy dose of
For this farm the scheme has provided a substantial payback: By reducing its
emissions, it has been able to sell carbon credits on European markets. It makes
money by selling electricity. It gets free fertilizer.
And, in a small country where farmers are required to have manure trucked away,
it saves $190,000 annually in disposal fees. John Horrevorts, experiment
coordinator, whose family has long raised swine, said that dozens of such farms
had been set up in the Netherlands, though cost still makes it impractical for
small piggeries. Indeed, one question that troubles green farmers is whether
consumers will pay more for their sustainable meat.
“In the U.K., supermarkets are sometimes asking about green, but there’s no
global system yet,” said Bent Claudi Lassen, chairman of the Danish Bacon and
Meat Council, which supports green production. “We’re worried that other
countries not producing in a green way, like Brazil, could undercut us on
September 26, 2007
Filed at 11:01 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO (AP) -- Wheat, corn and soybean prices rose Wednesday on the Chicago
Board of Trade.
Wheat for December delivery rose 10.75 cents to $8.98 a bushel; December corn
rose 2.75 cents to $3.745 a bushel; December oats dipped 1 cent to $2.805 a
bushel; November soybeans jumped 16 cents to $9.89 a bushel.
Beef futures rose and pork futures were mixed on the Chicago Mercantile
October live cattle rose 0.18 cent to 97.75 cents a pound; October feeder cattle
rose 0.23 cent to $1.163 a pound; October lean hogs fell 0.25 cent to 60.75
cents a pound; February pork bellies rose 0.58 cent to 89.3 cents a pound.
"You think it's all over? Not a bit of it," says Roy Benson on his farm near
Tiverton in Devon. From a window overlooking the valley up which he believes the
disease was carried by the wind, he sees only empty farmyards and fields.
Benson is officially Case 1737. The ministry vets came a month ago, the animals
were slaughtered after a legal fight and, like farmers on up to 5,000 other
premises, he's getting used to life without beasts.
Since just before the election, there have been more than 200 cases. In the last
week there have been 12 in Cumbria, 17 in Yorkshire and a handful in Powys. They
are taking place quietly, beyond the glare of the media and often without the
sympathy of the public.
The total is now more than 4,787,447, with 4,000 more being killed each week.
There is now the likelihood that up to 2m lambs born in the past six months
around Britain may have to be killed.
As the number of cases declines, and farmers begin to meet again and talk,
sometimes for the first time in months of isolation, stories emerge of
widespread financial waste, divided communities and the human toll.
Steve Phillips in the village of Knowstone feels raw. With his partner dying of
cancer, and his animals at no risk of being infected, he said Maff began to
bully him to gain entry to his farm. He said: "They harassed me non-stop. When
my partner died I couldn't arrange her funeral for fear that they would come in
and kill our animals."
Gordon Wilmott has not recovered from May, when marksmen botched a cull at a
nearby farm and began taking potshots with rifles at berserk animals which fled
on to his land. In another case, the ministry stopped a cull on a farm,
disputing the legality of the slaughter, and then left cattle walking around the
yard half full of dead animals for a week. The distress to the elderly farmers
"It was sustained cruelty," said Matt Knight, who objected to his uninfected
animals being culled. His family was isolated for 42 days and kept on
tenterhooks over whether his cows would be culled. "They knew the animals were
healthy but said they would be coming in, like it or not. What is it in the job
description of Maff officers that allows them to treat people so cruelly?"
Maff said: "It is possible people were given little advance notice. Things moved
fast. It wasn't pleasant for anyone. We deny any allegations of bullying. People
were given four hours to lodge an appeal."