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Photo credit: Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest

The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.

"We applaud the DC Circuit Court's clear decision to enforce this vital environmental safeguard to protect public safety," said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Smith, who helped argue the case before the court.

"In the words of the court, the risk of air emissions from CAFOs 'isn't just theoretical; people have become seriously ill and even died' from these emissions. But the public cannot protect itself from these hazardous substances if CAFOs aren't required to report their releases to the public. The loophole also prevented reporting of these toxics to local and state responders and the court held that plainly violated the law."

CAFOs are large-scale livestock facilities that confine large numbers of animals in relatively small spaces. A large CAFO may contain upward of 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens. Such facilities generate a massive amount of urine and feces, which is commonly liquefied and either stored under the facility or nearby in open-air lagoons. This waste is known to release high levels of toxic pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the environment.

The court's decision closes a loophole that exempted CAFOs from the same pollutant reporting required of other industries to ensure public safety. Prior to the promulgation of this loophole at the end of the Bush administration in 2008, federal law long required CAFOs, like all other industrial facilities, to notify government officials when toxic pollution levels exceeded public safety thresholds.

"Corporate agricultural operations have always been well-equipped to report on hazardous substances," said Abel Russ of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Now they will once again be required to do so."

This ruling is the latest turn in Earthjustice's advocacy on behalf of environmental and animal advocacy groups including Waterkeeper Alliance, Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety and Environmental Integrity Project.

"People have a right to know if CAFOs are releasing hazardous substances that can pose serious risks of illness or death into the air near their homes, schools, businesses and communities," said Kelly Foster, senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance.

"This ruling ensures that the public will be able to obtain this information in the future and will hopefully spur EPA to start responding when hazardous substances reach toxic levels."

Nearly three-quarters of the nation's ammonia air pollution come from CAFOs. Once emitted into the air, this ammonia then redeposits on land or water, adding to nitrogen pollution and water quality impairments in places like the Chesapeake Bay.

"CAFO waste pollutes our air and waterways and creates dangerous food pathogens. This decision forces these operations to be transparent about their environmental impact," said Paige Tomaselli of the Center for Food Safety.

CAFOs can be terrible air polluters. People who live near them often suffer from constant exposure to foul odors and the toxic effects of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Low levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and high levels can be fatal.

"This safeguard isn't just about protecting the environment; it's about making entire communities safe for the people who live in them," said Sierra Club staff attorney Katie Schaefer.

Unsurprisingly, CAFO pollution also severely impacts the animals raised at the CAFO.

"Animal factories force billions of animals to suffer dangerously high levels of toxic air pollution day after day for their entire lives," said Humane Society of The United States' Chief Counsel Jonathan Lovvorn. "This ruling helps shine a light on the horrors of factory farms and the hidden costs to animals, people and the environment."

Photo credit: Peter Muller

By Lena Brook

What can America's most iconic fast-food chicken chain do to fight the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections? Set a strong antibiotics policy for its chicken supply!

More than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use on livestock and poultry. And more than 96 percent of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water, often to animals that are not sick, to speed up growth and help animals survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms. When livestock producers use antibiotics again and again, some bacteria become resistant, multiply and spread to threaten humans. It's a practice that is fueling the increasing failure of the drugs we rely on to treat a wide range of infections.

Unfortunately, federal policy regulating antibiotics use in agriculture has not stopped this misuse. But U.S. food companies are responding to growing consumer concern and committing to ending the use of medically important antibiotics in their chicken supplies.

Today KFC becomes the newest addition to this leader's circle, announcing that after 2018, the company will only sell chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. This is great news for fried chicken lovers and, most importantly, for public health. The Natural Resources Defense Council has been calling on the company to set a meaningful antibiotics policy for its chicken supply since May 2016, when we launched our "Get KFC Chicken Off Drugs" campaign. Allies like U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, Consumers Union and Food Animals Concern Trust have also been pressing the company to clean up its supply chain.

Given that KFC is the nation's largest chicken-on-the-bone quick-service restaurant in the U.S., we know its commitment to responsible antibiotics use will have an impact throughout the chicken industry.

Today we give KFC kudos for taking a strong stand that will help to protect the public against the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections. We are also glad to know that consumers will be able to verify that the company is keeping its word, since the antibiotics practices of KFC suppliers will be regularly audited under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Process Verified Program. We look forward to updates from KFC on its implementation progress in the year to come.

KFC's announcement means that 11 out of the top 15 fast-food and -casual restaurant chains in the U.S. have now committed to some level of responsible antibiotics use for their chicken supply. KFC's promise is especially important because the company only purchases a portion of the chickens from any given flock, due to standards for the birds they buy. This means its change in policy will affect a larger number of chickens than what the company purchases itself, since farmers have to raise all the birds in the same barn the same way.

KFC's new policy is good news for all of us—chicken lovers or not—because drug-resistant infections (or "superbugs") are becoming increasingly widespread. Conservatively, at least two million Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections every year and at least 23,000 die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent Reuters investigation suggests that these numbers significantly underestimate the scope of resistant infections in the U.S. Fortunately, the tremendous momentum we've seen in the chicken industry demonstrates that more responsible antibiotic practices are achievable and affordable. Looking at data from a 2017 WattPoultryUSA survey, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that more than 42 percent of the U.S. chicken industry is either under an antibiotics stewardship pledge or has already converted to responsible practices. KFC's new policy will likely move this number even higher.

We are heartened by KFC's decision to join the fight against drug-resistant superbugs. The transition to responsible antibiotics use in the chicken industry has happened in the span of just four years, proving that where there is a will, there is a way. I hope this will inspire other sectors of the livestock industry, like pork and beef producers, to follow suit.

Lena Brook is a food policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.


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International Women's Day is celebrated each year around the world on March 8. That inaugural date is linked to a women's anti-war protest in Russia known as "Bread and Peace" in the early 1900's. It was quickly replicated around Europe in the following year as women took to the streets, embracing the indisputable connection between hunger and war, expressing solidarity with women's peace movements around the world and advocating for their countries' governments to end armed conflict.

Early on rallies and protests by women were firmly established as a mechanism for building international solidarity around a feminist agenda. And the echoes of that mechanism are still reverberating today, as millions of people around the world took to the streets in January of this year (notably the largest protest in U.S. history) to remind world leaders, especially the newly elected U.S. president, that women's rights are still human rights.

Magha Garcia is an eco-farmer and environmental activist. She is a member of the Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, USA.

Today, International Women's Day is recognized and celebrated in nearly every country—from villages to cities, from the Global South to the Global North—and has taken on a variety of hues and is realized in a variety of ways—protests, song and dance, conferences, shared meals and conversation and volunteer work.

This March 8, in honor of International Women's Day, women organizers from around the world are amplifying their voices in resistance to the structural forms of violence against the Earth, all forms of life and especially women, as a result of the unmitigated growth of industrial agriculture and international agribusiness.

Industrial agriculture is the dominant form of food production in the U.S and, increasingly, around the world. The impacts of industrial agriculture on our health and our living environment are well-documented: pesticide toxicity, water pollution, processed food, antibiotic resistance, worker injustice.

Women, who are arguably the most responsible for food moving from field to table, have the most at stake. Women are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production in the Global South. And the share of U.S. farms operated by women has tripled in the past three decades. Official reports tell us that there are nearly 1 million women farmers in the U.S.—a vast underreporting when small-scale, subsistence and urban farms are added to that pool. We also know that women represent more than 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in the Global South and that 50 percent of food chain workers in the U.S. are women. And, according to the United Nations, women and girls around the world disproportionately suffer from hunger and food insecurity. Conservative estimates indicate that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.

The statistics are important in understanding the vast impacts of industrial agriculture on women and their families, as well as the role women play in resisting those impacts. But it's the stories that women tell—their words and images—that bring to life the ways in which industrial agriculture and international agribusiness are structural forms of violence against the Earth, all peoples and especially women. It's not only the contamination of their bodies by agrochemicals—it's also the forced displacement, the division of families and the loss of loved ones that results from migration and land conflicts. It is the denial of the right to food—food that is accessible, both economically and physically, adequate in nutrition, affordable and sustainable in both production and consumption. It is the denial of the right to healthy soil and clean water for food production. It is the denial of the right to sustain one's family with dignity.

It is imperative; therefore, that women's voices are at the center of the debate about how to dismantle the current food regime and replace it with food sovereignty and agroecology. Though not yet mainstream concepts or practices, the work of grassroots organizations is beginning to result in a scaling out of agroecology in both rural and urban areas. And the leadership of women has played a significant role in making that possible.

In honor of International Women's Day, WhyHunger launched a new publication, Through Her Eyes: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty, which offers excerpts of interviews and dialogue with women organizers and food producers from the U.S. and globally in response to the question, "What are the impacts of industrial food and farming on women and how are women organizing to build an alternative?" This publication amplifies the voices of women who are on the frontlines in the ongoing struggle for land, water, localized economies and a world free of violence and hunger. It emerges in a moment when arguably a new world order is beginning to take shape.

In the face of economic and social systems in crisis and deepening inequality the world over, the struggle for food sovereignty, agroecology and climate justice is a struggle for more than just the right to food. It is a struggle for a new world order that centers the rights of women to live freely and safely and to lead in envisioning and crafting a world void of hunger and violence. This International Women's Day, join WhyHunger by standing in solidarity with women whose lived experiences are forging the path to food sovereignty.

Photo credit: Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

By Amanda Froelich

"Chick culling," as it's called, is something the egg industry doesn't like to talk about. And when one learns what the process entails, it's no wonder as to why. Also called "chick disposal," it involves shredding male baby chicks alive as they are deemed to be worthless to the industry because they will not produce eggs when mature. While most commercial chick producers continue to do this (in all countries except Germany) behind closed doors and in secrecy, it seems one producer decided an alternative solution would be more appropriate and left more than 1,000 chicks to die in a field.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Huffington Post reported that a mass amount of chicks were found dumped in a field in eastern England Friday, causing animal investigators to seek out the source. Inspector Justin Stubbs of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said he'd "never seen anything like it" and was alerted to the "sea of yellow" birds after passersby contacted him.

Sadly, most were only a day old and had been affected by the frigid temperatures. Stubbs wrote in a statement: "The chicks are only about a day old and are really tiny and quite delicate."

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

By the time of their discovery, some were either already dead or were in such poor condition that they had to be put down. Most, however, "did not appear to be suffering," according to Stubbs.

The chicks were quickly rounded up and put into boxes to keep warm. RSPCA officials are sure that the birds were dropped off by a "third party official" from a nearby commercial chick producer. The investigation is ongoing.

"These tiny birds wouldn't have survived long out on their own at such a young age and in such unpredictable weather conditions," Stubbs added. "For someone to dump these vulnerable chicks is unbelievable."

Watch the video below:

Reposted with permission from our media associate True Activist.

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By Brian Barth

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights organization, has a reputation for employing the oldest marketing trick in the book: selling their message with sex.

The latest example? Their campaign to raise awareness of animal abuse in the wool industry, which features a poster of Alicia Silverstone walking naked into a meadow, her head turned over her shoulder, looking back at you with seductive, pleading eyes. The caption reads, "I'd rather go naked than wear wool."

Pamela Anderson, the singer Pink and a handful of other celebrities have also bared all for the cause.

The PETA creed is that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way." In other words, keeping livestock for purposes of human consumption, whether in a factory-farming setting or a small organic farm, is ethically reprehensible. PETA is well known for popularizing veganism and exposing animal rights abuses around the world. But livestock farmers, unsurprisingly, have long despised their shock and awe tactics, which have a tendency to paint all farmers as evil animal abusers.

PETA's current sheep campaign—typically broadcast with the tagline, "there is no such thing as humane wool"—was launched in 2014 after the organization released footage of sheep being cut, manhandled and mangled at wool-shearing operations in the U.S. and Australia. The effort got major press coverage around the world and led to the prosecution of several of the Australian shearers who were depicted in the footage on animal abuse charges. Now that Alicia Silverstone has put her skin in the game (pun intended), PETA's wool campaign is back in the media once again.

Wool producers, along with a number of large agriculture organizations, have fought back. In Australia, the Victoria Farming Federation filed a formal complaint when a locally popular vegan musician was featured in PETA ads holding a bloodied lamb carcass with the caption, "here's the rest of your wool coat." It turned out the carcass was made of Styrofoam. PETA admitted to using a prop, but maintains that it was a realistic illustration of the horrors of shearing.

Animal abuse is far too common an occurrence with pets kept by demented individuals everywhere. And as PETA's undercover sheep investigation clearly shows, along with many others that have preceded it, some abusive individuals (unfortunately) make their living handling livestock on farms throughout the world. The question is, is abuse the norm? Are examples of abuse at a few sheep ranches enough to indict an entire industry?

We thought it would be worth asking a wool producer who claims to raise their sheep in a sustainable, humane manner how their practices differ from what PETA ascribes to all wool producers. Becky Weed, owner of Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company in southwestern Montana, was a little reluctant to take the call from Modern Farmer, as she's been caught in the crosshairs of the animal cruelty debate before and has better things to do than argue with activists about whether or not raising sheep is inherently evil.

"I am wary of PETA," said Weed, right off the bat. "I don't think it's a particularly rational organization … I think animal welfare is important, but I don't believe that raising sheep is by definition cruel."

Human's impact on planet Earth is huge. Thanks to the work of environmentalist and photographer, J Henry Fair, we can now get a bird's-eye view of the world's ever-increasing demand for energy, eating habits and rampant consumerism that are degrading our planet.


Fair's new book, Industrial Scars, The Hidden Costs of Consumption, shows the effects industrial production has on our environment and exposes the dirty "secrets from oil drilling, fracking and coal-ash waste, to large scale agricultural production and abandoned mining operations."

Fair's book has received rave reviews from many, including Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. "Think of these images as a surveillance camera for the planet, recording the biggest crimes against nature we've ever imagined," McKibben said. "Images like these will be the standards around which we muster."

The New York Times' Roberta Smith said, "The vivid color photographs of J Henry Fair lead an uneasy double life as potent records of environmental pollution and as ersatz evocations of abstract painting ... information and form work together, to devastating effect."

In the book, Fair's images are accompanied by detailed explanations from award-winning science writer, Lewis Smith.

"The overall message is clear," according to Fair. "It is up to us to accept a consumer responsibility and environmental awareness and to change our habits if we want to ensure a better world for future generations to enjoy."

For more information, visit Fair's Facebook page.

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By David Wallinga

Scientists and regulators have sounded the alarm linking the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production with helping to increase the creation and spread of antibiotic resistant infections. Three years ago, as a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a voluntary program seeking to curb some livestock drug uses. But the widespread use of these antibiotics seems to continue as before.

On Thursday, the latest FDA figures on antibiotics sold for use in meat and poultry production came out. The news is not good. Sales just keep rising. Against the backdrop of a crisis in now untreatable or nearly untreatable infections, this report further underscores how urgently we need more and stronger government action to address the ongoing overuse of the drugs in livestock.

Sales of medically important antibiotics—including penicillins, cephalosporins, tetracyclines and erythromycins, to name a few—for livestock were up 2 percent over 2014, and up 26 percent overall from 2009 through 2015. An overwhelming 95 percent of human antibiotics were sold as additives to animal feed and drinking water—routes of delivery that are typical of growth promotion or disease prevention.

More than 21.3 million pounds of medically-important drugs were sold for use in livestock last year. By comparison, the FDA reports that in 2011 (the last year for which it has such data, apparently) a bit more than 7.2 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in human medicine. In other words, just under 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use in animals, not people. In 2015, 97 percent of all medically important antibiotic sales for livestock or poultry were over-the-counter, meaning they were sold without a prescription and typically without any oversight by a veterinarian.

It remains unclear how effective FDA's current voluntary efforts will be to reduce the routine use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. While livestock antibiotics will no longer carry a label that says they can be used for growth promotion, many of these same products will continue to be approved for routine use in the same manner and similar dosages for the purpose of disease prevention. The pharmaceutical industry has consistently claimed that "growth promotion" constitutes no more than 10 percent of antibiotic use in livestock and poultry. The Natural Resources Defense Council believes that the use of antibiotics in animal feed or water under a "disease prevention" claim constitutes the vast majority of all antibiotic use.

Two million Americans already suffer from drug-resistant infections every year and more than 23,000 die as a result, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. My New Year's resolution would be for antibiotics to be used differently in the future, especially in livestock production. One might have thought sales figures would already be dropping, since every food animal sector claims they're using fewer antibiotics and only when medically justified. But the FDA's actual data suggest otherwise.

David Wallinga is the senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

By David Wallinga

Not all bacteria are created equal. The first-time discovery of a long-dreaded superbug on U.S. pig farms, announced Monday, really stands out. And not in a good way.

What they found on pig farms was a kind of CRE bacteria, for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. CRE is one of the nastier superbugs. Infections with these germs are very difficult to treat and can be deadly—the death rate from patients with CRE bloodstream infections is up to 50 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said these bacteria already cause 9,300 infections and 600 deaths each year. To date, CRE infections occur mostly among patients in hospitals and nursing homes; people on breathing machines or with tubing inserted into their veins or bladders are at higher risk, as are people taking long courses of certain antibiotics. But newer, more resistant kinds of CRE seem to be causing more problems outside hospitals, in communities and among healthier people.

Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, refers to CRE as "nightmare bacteria." Why nightmarish? Because CRE carry genes rendering them resistant to multiple antibiotics—not only to carbapenems, which have been a "last resort" treatment for these kind of infections—but also to other broad spectrum antibiotics, like cephalosporins. CRE have been found on farms before. Monday's report stands out because the carbapenem resistance gene, called bla IMP-27, found on these farms is carried by a plasmid.

Plasmids are strands of DNA that can move easily from one bacterium to another, including across species. After acquiring the right kind of plasmid, with resistance to eight or ten or twelve different antibiotics, a bacterium on a farm or in the human gut could transform from something pretty benign to something lethal in an instant. Previous isolates of CRE found outside of hospitals have been less alarming, because they haven't carried this transmittable plasmid. Earlier this year, scientists also discovered transmissible (plasmid-carried) resistance to colistin—another antibiotic of last resort—in E. coli bacteria isolated from two U.S. pigs.

What happens when—when, not if—the same plasmid collects resistance genes to both colistin and carbapenems? That's the Nightmare on Main Street scenario that many experts fear and perhaps even expect in our future. Infections caused by gram negative bacteria carrying that super-plasmid would be virtually untreatable. As it spreads into the human population, one could reasonably expect a big increase in costs, hospitalizations and deaths.

To some degree, the genie is out of the bottle. By that I mean that farms, like hospitals, are now confirmed as reservoirs of resistance to last-resort drugs, like carbapenems and colistin. Focus now must be on how to change farm practice to try and limit the spread of those superbugs. That's a tall order when it comes to the U.S. pork industry, however.

Today's $22 billion U.S. pork industry may be the perfect storm when it comes to superbug creation. The industry concentrates huge amounts of pigs, manure and antibiotics on relatively few farms in a few counties in a few states. Only 21,687 farms specialize in hog production; they account for 90 percent of hog sales. Just three states, Iowa, North Carolina and Minnesota account for 55 percent of such sales. Routine use of antibiotics on such farms is common (although not carbapenems).

Day-old piglets routinely get injected with ceftiofur, which belongs to a critically important human class of antibiotics. Some piglets get multiple doses, increasing the pressure selecting for drug-resistant bacteria in those pigs and on their farms. What's less understood is that using one antibiotic in these settings increases resistance to all the antibiotics that have genes on the same plasmid. CRE bacteria with the bla IMP-27 gene carry resistance not only to carbapenems but also to cephalosporins like ceftiofur. So continuing to use ceftiofur and other antibiotics in weaner pigs likely is a big part of the problem.

Sticking one's head in the sand no longer seems like a viable strategy for the U.S. pork industry. Superbug genes are here and they're on our pig farms. The future's never going to be the same.

David Wallinga, MD, is the senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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