Torturing Animals with Monsanto's Genetically Engineered Feed
By Katherine Paul
"A Culture that views pigs as inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated however cleverly the human mind can conceive will view its citizens the same way—and other cultures." – Joe Salatin, Restoring Health, Wealth and Respect to Food and Farming
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
We associate food with, at most, pleasure—at the very least, survival. It's not too different for animals. Lambs turned out on new grass move "quickly over certain grasses to get to others—to nosh on clover and mustard grass, avoiding horse nettle and fescue along the way," writes Dan Barber in A Chef Speaks Out. Wild pigs, capable of seeking out the nutrients they need,"enjoy eating nuts, roots, fruits, mushrooms, bugs, rabbits and, occasionally, dead animals."
But what happens when animals are confined in cramped, filthy environments and force-fed monoculture diets of genetically modified (GMO) corn and soy?
A lot can happen. Calves are born too weak to walk, with enlarged joints and limb deformities. Piglets experience rapidly deteriorating health, a "failure to thrive" so severe that they start breaking down their own tissues and organs—self-cannibalizing—to survive. Many animals suffer from weak, brittle bones that easily fracture. Dairy cows develop mastitis, a painful udder infection. Beef cattle develop liver abscesses and an excruciating condition referred to as "twisted gut."
It all adds up to a lot of misery for animals unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of industrial agriculture's Big GMO Experiment.
The spotlight on animal rights in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) is typically focused on cramped spaces and blatantly inhumane treatment. But some scientists, farmers and veterinarians are talking about another form of animal abuse: stuffing animals with feed grown from genetically engineered crops drenched in glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp.
What they've uncovered should give us all pause. Because the symptoms veterinarians and researchers have observed in animals are not unlike many of the chronic, and increasingly prevalent, health problems plaguing humans today. Digestive disorders. Damaged organs. Infertility. Weak immune systems. Chronic depression.
"We've got a real mess," says Dr. Art Dunham, an Iowa veterinarian who has treated farm animals for several decades. Dunham is a staunch believer that GMO crops are wreaking havoc with the health of animals and humans. His daughter, Leah Dunham, who tagged along with her father on many a farm visit over the years, recently wrote America's Two-Headed Pig. Drawing on her father's clinical notes, and the work of scientists like Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus in plant pathology at Purdue University, Leah Dunham outlines some of the ways in which humans are adding to the suffering of farm animals by feeding them a glyphosate-tainted, GMO diet.
Leah Dunham would like to see the CAFO model drastically overhauled or abandoned. Her father believes it's more realistic to tackle the issue of GMO feed without attacking CAFOs. But father and daughter agree that the problems associated with today's industrial agriculture model extend beyond the health and well-being of animals:
"My father has pored over thousands of research papers in attempts to remedy the underlying causes of the illnesses described in this book. His work has embodied a commitment to healthy lands, creatures and farms, as well as the hard work necessary to sustain them. After years of listening to him talk about his attempts to solve reoccurring health problems, I realized that most people don't have a clue as to how modern disease complexities affect farm animals. We both hope that this book will help all medical professionals, farmers and consumers better address the true roots of various medical conditions, including nutrient deficiencies, clostridial infections, diabetes and Parkinsons disease."
Leah Dunham says consumers are alarmed by news reports that focus on outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. But most are unaware that industrial GMO crops are "damaging our health in other, far more insidious ways—among them, by damaging the health of animals raised for food."
Here are a few examples, from America's Two-Headed Pig, of how Art and Leah Dunham believe genetically modified feeds, and particularly glyphosate, inflict suffering on farm animals.
In his many years of practice, Art Dunham hadn't seen a single case of manganese deficiency in the herds he treated. But that changed in about 2000, when he started seeing more and more calves being born with skeletal deformities—a symptom of a manganese-deficient diet. Initially skeptical, Dunham experimented by adding manganese to the calves' diets. Their health improved. His hunch was confirmed when lab results on some of the dead calves' livers revealed little or no manganese.
Dunham was confused. A diet of corn, soybean meal and hay should contain enough manganese for hogs, dairy and beef cattle. But it started to make more sense when he came across a study conducted in 2007 by Dr. Huber. Huber found that by spraying manganese on soybeans 10-14 days after the soybeans were sprayed with glyphosate, farmers could increase crop yields. Why? Huber postulated that the glyphosate caused some crops to become manganese-deficient because it was binding to nutrients in the soil and plants. Crops sprayed with glyphosate were less able to metabolize the nutrients needed for proper plant function, which made the plants susceptible to disease.
Could this be why calves fed manganese-deficient crops sprayed in glyphosate showed their own symptoms of manganese deficiency, including enlarged joints, deformed limbs and crippling weakness? The evidence was convincing and the theory plausible, if unproven.
Failure to Thrive
It's both disturbing and increasingly common in North America in recent decades, according to Leah Dunham. About five to 10 days after normal, healthy piglets are weaned off their mother's milk, they become gaunt, pale, anorexic. Their health goes south, rapidly. It's called "post-weaning failure to thrive syndrome" or PFTS. It causes piglets to catabolize, or break down, their own tissues and organs, essentially self-cannibalizing. Next comes emaciation. Then euthanasia.
Does a virus cause PFTS? Studies suggest not, says Dunham. More likely, the cause is diet-related, as the disease manifests when the piglets begin eating food. The diet theory is supported by post-mortems showing that the affected piglets have lesions in their stomachs and intestines.
Could PFTS represent another case of something essential missing from the piglets' diets? Possibly. Liver analyses of hogs reveal "rock-bottom" low levels of cobalt. In fact, out of 522 livers tested, none hit the normal range for cobalt, established before GMO feed came on the market. Perhaps not coincidentally, according to Dunham, researchers at Texas A & M University have found that glyphosate ties up cobalt at 102-103 times more than it ties up manganese.
Twisted Gut, Ulcers and Other Digestive Disorders
Nature intended for cows to eat grass. But today, most cattle spend at least the last six months of their lives on feedlots, where they're fattened up with a combination of grains, mostly corn and industrial byproducts including corn distiller, a product of the ethanol manufacturing process. This mixture is supplemented with preemptive antibiotics and growth hormones, to keep the stressed animals from getting sick while making them grow larger, faster. It's an unnatural diet that often leads to digestive disorders. Factor in the glyphosate used to grow the GMO corn, and you've got a recipe for a host of painful conditions, from twisted gut to bloody diarrhea, ulcers and bloat. All of which contribute to a weak immune system, Dunham says.
A cow's stomach has four parts: the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. A twisted gut, or medically speaking, a displaced abomasum, occurs when a cow's abomasum fills with gas, causing it to balloon up to the top of the cow's abdomen, where it can become twisted. Remedies can include surgery or repositioning the abomasum by rolling the cow on its back.
That's bad enough. But sometimes trapped gas causes a cow's stomach to bloat. To relieve the animal's pain and keep it "productive," a veterinarian will insert a hollow needle into the cow's rumen to try to release the gas. If the cow doesn't recover enough to then start relieving the gas on its own, it will be fitted with a permanent port, similar to what a chemo patient has in order to receive regular doses of chemotherapy.
According to Dunham, twisted gut and bloat are usually related to inadequate nutrition, which leads to bacterial imbalances in the gut, which cause gas. Not unlike humans, cattle host large quantities of bacteria which they need in order to digest plants and grains and absorb available nutrients from their food. Alter the bacterial content of the cow's gut and the gut can become extra acidic, irritated and inflamed, says Dunham.
Consumers know that CAFO cows are routinely fed preemptive antibiotics, which alter the animals' gut bacteria. But what many people don't realize, says Dunham, is that the animals are consuming far more antibiotics than just those intentionally administered at the feeding lots. In fact, many of the pesticides, including glyphosate patented under the number #7771736, act not only as broad-spectrum pesticides, but as broad-spectrum biocides. And these antibiotic chemicals are applied to millions of acres of plants that end up in animal feed, Dunham says. The result? Some of the animals' gut bacteria and parasitic organisms are no longer able to carry out important metabolic processes, says Dunham.
Is it a stretch to say that force-feeding animals GMO feed amounts to a form of torture? Damaged livers. Too weak to walk. Needles jammed into stomachs. Failure to thrive. All unnecessary suffering, all diet-related.
Leah Dunham stops short of using the word "torture," but in her book, she argues that we can do better:
"As other food advocates have pointed out, we have learned how to dissociate what we spend from the farmers and citizens our food dollars affect. In doing so, we can avoid thinking about how our actions affect actual creatures."
I suspect that one day future generations will remember the last three decades as a ridiculous age in American agriculture. This has been an age during which too many human beings treated animals and children like guinea pigs, feeding them genetically modified, chemically coated, antibiotic resistant experiments, despite the overwhelming evidence that these foods are serious risk factors for illness and disease. In today's world of widely accessible research and technological advances, the ability to produce abundant amounts of food without threatening biodiversity and our basic biological rights should be an expectation, not a goal.
And let's not forget the basic biological rights of the four-legged creatures unfortunate enough to be part of industrial agriculture's CAFO systems.
By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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