The History of Animal Protection in the United States

Beginning in the 1870s, animal protectionists saw the safeguarding of children and animals as equally important, as both were vulnerable creatures in need of protection.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

American animal protectionists from earlier centuries might seem unrecognizable today. Most ate meat. They believed in euthanasia as a humane end to creaturely suffering. They justified humanity’s kinship with animals through biblical ideas of gentle stewardship. They accepted animal la-bor as a compulsory burden of human need. Their sites of activism included urban streets, Sunday schools, church pulpits, classrooms, temperance meetings, and the transnational missionary field. Committed to animal welfare, they strove to prevent pain and suffering. Contemporary animal rights activists, by contrast, believe that animals possess the right to exist free from human use and consumption. Consequently, current activists and their scholarly associates often miss the historical significance of earlier eras of activism. A growing historiography, however, demonstrates the centrality of animal protection to major American transformations such as Protestant revivalism and reform, the growth of science and tech-nology, the rise of modern liberalism, child protectionism, and the development of American ideologies of benevolence.

Animal protection entered the American colonial record in December 1641, when the Massachusetts General Court enacted its comprehensive le-gal code, the “Body of Liberties.” Sections 92–93 prohibited “any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use” and mandated periodic rest and refreshment for any “Cattel” being driven or led. Puritan animal advocates believed that cruel domin-ion was a consequence of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden; kindly stewardship, however, reflected their reformist ideals, thus illu-minating a long historical relationship between religion, reform, and animal protection.

Transnational Protestant revivalism and social reform in the early nineteenth century fueled the expansion of animal protectionism. In Great Brit-ain, evangelicals and abolitionists spearheaded the earliest animal protection laws (1822) and organized societies (1824), which became a blue-print for dozens of new anticruelty laws in America. Social reformers and ministers became attentive to the status of animals during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840). Embracing a new theology of free moral agency and human perfectibility, American ministers such as Charles Grandison Finney included animal mercy in their exegeses on upright Christian conduct. New transportation networks and communications tech-nologies broadcast animal protection to far-flung audiences through classroom readers, Sunday school pamphlets, and fiction.

Antebellum abolitionists and temperance activists treated animal welfare as a barometer for human morality. Antislavery newspapers and novels, most famously Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), stressed the incidence of animal abuse among slaveholders and animal kindness among abolitionists. Many future animal welfare leaders possessed abolitionist ties, such as George Thorndike Angell, founder and president of the Massachusetts So-ciety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Temperance advocates likewise believed that inebriates were cruel to their families and their horses. The Bands of Hope, a children’s group, stressed animal kindness as a moral complement to sobriety.

Antebellum activism and cultural thought created a foundation for a new social movement after the Civil War. The abolition of slavery and the horror of battle—documented in thousands of wartime photographs of dead soldiers and horses—brought suffering and human rights to a national audience, therefore catalyzing a national movement. Animal protectionists believed that creaturely kindness was a marker of advanced civilization, which could rectify a fractured nation and world. The penultimate moment for a new movement arrived on April 10, 1866, when the New York Leg-islature incorporated a groundbreaking state animal protection society vested with policing powers to prosecute abuse. Henry Bergh, a shipping heir, drafted the articles of incorporation of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) with the help of his influential allies, including his-torian George Bancroft and state senator Ezra Cornell. Days later, they spearheaded a powerful new state anticruelty law, which they amended in 1867 to prohibit additional forms of cruelty, including blood sports and abandonment. Bergh and his officers policed the streets wearing uniforms and badges to enforce the law.

By the 1870s SPCAs and anti-cruelty laws modeled after Bergh’s work in New York existed in most states. In the Gilded Age, activists directed their attention to the plight of domestic laboring animals in an urban, muscle-powered world—especially horses. Historians Clay McShane, Joel Tarr, and Ann Greene demonstrate the centrality of urban horses in building modern industrial America. Further, they treat horses as historical agents rather than passive conduits for a history of human ideas about animals. As the nation’s primary urban movers of machines, food, and people, horses suffered abusive drivers and overloaded haulage conditions with visible regularity. Animal protectionists also addressed the bleak system of livestock railroad transport from western rangelands to urban stockyards and slaugh-terhouses, culminating with the nation’s first federal animal welfare legislation in 1873, which mandated food, water, and rest stops every twenty-eight hours. They raided animal fights; they tried to end vivisection in laboratories and classrooms; and they routinely shot decrepit workhorses as a merciful end to suffering.

Animals were legally defined as property, but Bergh’s watershed legislation recognized cruelty as an offense to the animal itself—irrespective of ownership. Histo-rian Susan Pearson argues that these laws helped transform American liberalism—from a classical conception of rights in the negative—to augur the rise of the modern “interventionist” liberal state. Pearson contends that this positive conception of rights drew animal protectionists into child protection in the 1870s. Bergh’s chief counsel, Elbridge Gerry, founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874 after he secured the arrest and conviction of an abusive foster mother for felonious assault. Animal protectionists across the nation subsequently instituted amalgamated “humane societies,” which safeguarded animals and children under a singular protective fold, positing that helpless “beasts and babes” had a right to protection because they could suffer. Viewed within an existing system of subordinate relations, the right to protection did not confer an automatic right to equality. Nonetheless, humane activists established a histor-ical precedent for future generations of animal rights activists because they placed animals on a legal continuum with vulnerable human beings.

The majority of animal protectionists were affluent, nativeborn Euro-American Protestants. Men typically led SPCAs and patrolled the streets as officers, while women generally worked behind the scenes using moral suasion—raising funds, writing appeals, and coordinating educational activities. Keeping with prevailing ideologies of respectable white womanhood, Caroline Earle White secured a state charter for the founding of the Pennsylvania SPCA in 1867 but refused to seek election as the organization’s first president. She also founded the American Anti-vivisection Association in 1883 but delayed passage of its incorporation until she and her female colleagues could find a man willing to serve as president.
Some women, however, readily assumed leadership positions when they founded their own organizations. In 1869 White co-created the Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA and served as its first president. In 1890 Women’s Branch leader Mary Frances Lovell became national superintendent of the Department of Mercy, an animal welfare wing in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The Women’s Branch pioneered municipal stray canine reform. In an era before vac-cines and sterilization, local dogcatchers staged massive summertime roundups in which strays were shot or violently thrown into crowded wagons and killed at the pound. The Women’s Branch instituted new humane capture methods, and they transformed Philadelphia’s municipal pound into a humane “shelter”, where dogs received regular care. Euthanasia, when necessary, occurred in a separate room using gas, out of view from other dogs. Historian Bernard Unti observes that women sheltering leaders typically sought no powers of arrest in their state charters because their work with strays did not confront animal abusers directly. Owing to pressure from members, mainstream SPCAs eventually incorporated stray management, sheltering, and adoption into their already stretched budgets.

With its affluent, urban, native-born Protestant base, the animal protection movement faced charges of exclusion and elitism—especially because teamsters and other targets of prosecution were often immigrants and people of color whose economic survival depended on animal muscle. In a pluralistic society, many humane activists viewed their own classed and culturally contingent ideals of kindness as universal when denouncing animal practices different than their own, such as ko-sher slaughter. They believed that animal kindness was a manifestation of higher civilization at home and in the overseas empire after the Spanish-American War. Interactions with animals, consequently, were often a flashpoint for conflict. Filipinos, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans flatly rejected U.S. anti-cockfighting laws as an oppressive colonial intrusion into indigenous leisure practices.

Some scholars, most notably Steven Wise, argue that certain animals (such as this lowland gorilla pictured here) possess legal personhood, owing to their superior cognitive abilities. photo by Ryan Vaarsi

Nonetheless, the animal protection movement was not a wholesale project of policing. Animal advocates preferred prevention over prosecution. Children’s peda-gogy became an institutionalized arm of the movement in 1889 when George Angell founded the American Humane Education Society (AHES) as the centerpiece of his holistic “gospel of kindness”. In the South, several African American ministers, educators, and temperance activists served as AHES field secretaries. They staged meetings in black schools and churches to preach a conservative message of animal mercy, self-help, and racial uplift. They traveled widely by car, which represented a potentially dangerous show of black upward mobility in the rural Jim Crow South, especially when their lectures discussed exploitative practices such as debt peonage and sharecropping. The Massachusetts SPCA openly denounced human rights abuses, as well as American militarism overseas. Yet the organiza-tion embraced moral expansionism when sponsoring American missionaries, who integrated humane education curricula into their evangelical activities across the world.

With the growth of motor power during the 1910s, fewer laboring animals populated American cities. SPCAs staged nostalgic workhorse parades as a tribute to equine service and to raise funds for new comfortable retirement farms. In 1916 the American Humane Association founded the American Red Star Animal Relief to aid American warhorses, mules, and donkeys during World War I. The organization’s fundraising pleas reminded donors that equines performed invaluable labor in impenetrable terrain despite the ascendancy of motorization. After the armistice, global horse markets collapsed and American warhorses were auctioned off in Europe because trans-Atlantic transport was cost prohibitive in an age of impending obsolescence. While equines remained an important source of agricultural la-bor, the expanding dominance of motorization changed the scope and direction of American animal protectionism.

Animal advocates increasingly viewed animal performances, long a staple of popular entertainment, as unethical. In 1918 the Massachusetts SPCA founded the Jack London Club in memory of the late author, who condemned animal entertainments. People joined by walking out of an animal show and sending a postcard to the Massachusetts SPCA with the details. While the organization had no immediate legislative impact, it represented a harbinger of activism to come in a motorized world.

During the twentieth century, slaughterhouse reform and antivivisectionism remained important activist sites. Yet pets, especially dogs and cats, escalated as sub-jects of protection. Historian Katherine Grier contends that the growth of a consumer culture of pet keeping, alongside the development of sulfonamides, parasite control, and antibiotics in the 1930s and 1940s, enabled people and their pets to live longer, healthier lives together in closer proximity. Attitudes towards cats, perhaps, changed the most. In the nineteenth century, some animal protectionists maligned the cat as a semi-wild killer of cherished songbirds. Medical advances and new consumer products, such as cat litter in 1947, brought cats indoors. By the mid-twentieth century, dogs, cats, and sheltering dominated animal protection-ism.

The coalition of movements dedicated to moral uplift that had given animal protection its interconnected human and animal agenda eventually fractured, portend-ing an almost singular focus on animals. The professionalization of social work during the Progressive Era cleaved the earlier union of child and animal protec-tionists into separate fields. The repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933 dissolved the temperance movement—a longstanding stalwart ally. Gradual seculari-zation also transformed animal protection. Earlier generations of activists forged alliances with religious leaders, but mid-century humane periodicals focused on celebrity animal lovers in media and politics. While the movement’s mainline Protestant founders believed in biblical stewardship, their descendants embraced Darwinism.

Energized by the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s, animal protection evolved into two distinct but overlapping movements. Animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, remained focused on sheltering, adoption, and the prevention of suffering. In 1975 utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer published Animal Lib-eration, which was immediately hailed as a “bible” for an emergent animal rights movement. Singer argued that sentient creatures have a right to “equal consid-eration” because they can suffer and considered “speciesism” to be a form of discrimination akin to racism and sexism. This claim, however, was rejected by many civil rights groups, who argued that it trivialized their social justice struggles. Singer, like most animal rights writers, supported veganism in an age when facto-ry-like Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have replaced pasture farming. Yet some activists, such as philosopher Tom Regan, concluded that Animal Liber-ation’s utilitarian call to minimize suffering was ultimately too conservative or “welfarist.” In 1983 Regan applied deontology—a branch of philosophy that ex-plores moral duty—to animals. His book, The Case for Animal Rights, contended that animals possess intrinsic moral rights as individual “subjects of a life” with complex feelings and experiences that extend beyond their ability to suffer.

Paradoxically, vivisection has unwittingly validated the newest frontier in animal protection in the twenty-first century: legal personhood. In 2000 legal scholar Steven Wise used recent research in neuroscience and genetics in his book, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, to argue that great apes, ceta-ceans, elephants, and African gray parrots possess the legal right to “bodily liberty,” owing to their superior cognitive abilities. Wise founded the Nonhuman Rights Project in 2007 to take the principles of legal personhood to court. Armed with the writ of habeas corpus in state courts, Wise and his associates contend that captivity constitutes unlawful imprisonment. Suing on behalf of captive chimpanzees since 2013, Wise’s team have served as proxies for their plaintiffs to achieve legal standing in court, a strategy based on centuries of human precedent involving children, slaves, prisoners, and mentally incapacitated plaintiffs. While Wise and his colleagues have yet to prevail in court, they have received a hearing, a critical first step in a long appeals process.

The claims of the Nonhuman Rights Project for legal standing rest upon the inseparable histories of human rights and animal protection. Embedded in the history of religion, social reform, and war, early generations of American humane advocates argued that animal kindness was a form of human sanctification. They be-lieved that the status of animals was a conduit for human moral uplift. Yet with the rise of biological explanations for animal-human kinship, animal rights advo-cates have used the status of vulnerable people to argue that animals, as moral “subjects of a life,” possess the right to legal personhood. Ultimately, this shared history is simultaneously liberatory, conflictual, and entangled.

JANET M. DAVIS is an associate professor of American studies and history at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (2002) and editor of Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Life of Tiny Kline (2008). Her 2016 book, The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America, is reviewed on page A-12 of this issue.




Why is Animal Welfare Important?

Most NOFA members automatically support strong animal welfare standards. Many of us keep poultry or livestock and track their health and condition as carefully as we might that of our children or grandchildren.

But big changes are happening in the world of animal welfare and we need to be up to date on them.

  1. First off, important, tighter changes in organic standards have been proposed. As organic producers, we need to understand them and help them be-come the best standards for us all.
  2. Second, a number of the major poultry and livestock brands are voluntarily abandoning cages, crates and antibiotics in favor of pasture, free-ranging, and probiotics
  3. Third, a Massachusetts ballot initiative in November calls for a vote on livestock standards for cows, pigs and chickens that could well ban Massachu-setts sales of some animal products produced in other states and shipped here for sale in our markets.

In this issue we look at the details of some of these proposals, examine how they are changing agriculture, and what the future is likely to require of us. We look at two farms that are successfully meeting high animal care standards while maintaining farm viability. We look at the animal care suggestions of world-class animal handlers, read a short history of the animal care movement in America, and consider the thoughts of various people on the topic of what a world without livestock might look like.
We hope it gets you thinking and acting on your own values!




Understanding Flight Zone and Point of Balance for Low Stress Handling of Cattle, Sheep, & Pigs

This picture illustrates the flight zone of a large flock of sheep. Herds of cattle behave much the same way. Notice that the sheep are circling around the handlers while maintaining a safe distance and keeping the people in sight. Note that the sheep tend to move in the opposite direction of handler move-ment. Walking in the opposite direction of the direction of desired movement can be used to move groups of animals. Walking in the opposite direction tends to speed up movement and walking in the same direction tends to slow down movement. These principles work with all herding animals. When ani-mals are completely tame they will have no flight zone. Leading is usually the most effective way to move very tame animals. Handlers on farms and ranches can reduce the size of the flight zone by spending time walking through the herd or flock.

The point of balance is usually at the animal’s shoulder and it is determined by the animal’s wide angle vision. All species of livestock will move forward if the handler stands behind the point of balance. They will back up if the handler stands in front of the point of balance. Many handlers make the mistake of standing in front of the point of balance while attempting to make an animal move forward in a chute (race). Groups of cattle or pigs in a chute (race) will often move forward without prodding when the handler walks past the point of balance in the opposite direction of each animal in the chute (race). It is not necessary to prod every animal. If the animals are moving through the chute (race) by themselves, leave them alone.

This diagram illustrates the general flight zone of an animal. The actual flight zone of an individual animal will vary depending on how “tame” the animal is. An animal’s flight zone will vary depending on how calm it is. The flight zone gets bigger when an animal becomes excited. The flight zone is also bigger when you approach “head on”. Calm cattle are easier to move. If cattle become excited, it takes 20 to 30 minutes for them to calm back down. People should be quiet when moving animals. Yelling and loud noise is very stressful. High pitched noises are especially stressful.

This diagram introduces the concepts of the flight zone and point of balance. The two curved lines on the diagram represent a curved single file race. The flight zone diagram is especially useful for teaching people how to move cattle through single file races and other confined spaces such as crowd pens. When cattle are handled in a single file race, the point of balance will be at the shoulder. On pastures and large pens, the point of balance may move forward and be slightly behind the eye. The behavior of groups of cattle in pasture is different because they are not confined in a single file race or small pen. The simple flight zone diagram may not work for groups in pasture or large pens because the animals are free to move and are not confined in a race (chute) or small pen. When mov-ing groups of cattle in open spaces, refer to other diagrams on www.grandin.com.

Handlers who understand the concepts of flight zone and point of balance will be able to move animals more easily. The flight zone is the animal’s personal space, and the size of the flight zone is determined by the wildness or tameness of the animal. Completely tame animals have no flight zone and people can touch them. Tame animals should be led instead of being driven. Calm leading of groups of cattle is an excellent low stress way to move cattle on pastures. An animal that is not completely tame will begin to move away when the handler penetrates the edge of the flight zone. If all the animals are facing the handler, the handler is outside the flight zone. There principles will work on ranches, stockyards, lairages, feedlots, and many other places.

When the handler is outside the flight zone but had entered the zone of awareness (pressure zone) the animals will turn and face the handler, and maintain a safe distance. When animals become accustomed to a calm handler and learn to trust the handler they will have less of a tendency to look at the handler. They will walk away straight without turning. The animals have learned that the calm handler will back up and remove pressure from the flight zone when they go where the handler wants them to go.

When the handler enters the flight zone the animals will turn away. The approaching handler is outside the flight zone of the light colored animal that is still lying down. However, the handler has entered the zone of awareness of the light colored animal because it is looking at the handler.

Handler movement pattern to keep cattle moving into the squeeze chute in a curved chute system.

Handler movement pattern to keep cattle moving into a squeeze chute or restrainer. The handler steps forward into the flight zone and then walks quickly in the opposite direction of desired movement to make an animal move forward.
Cattle and other ruminants have a tendency to move in the opposite direction when a handler walks deep in their flight zone. The principle of these two diagrams is that the handler walks inside the flight zone in the opposite direction of desired movement. When the handler returns, he or she walks outside the flight zone in the same direction.

When an animal is being held in the squeeze chute the handler should stand outside the flight zone. To move the next animal into the squeeze chute, the handler enters the flight zone and the animal will move forward after the handler crosses the point of balance at the shoulder. If an animal rears up in a single file chute, the hanlder should back away from it. Never hit the animal. It is rearing because it is attempting to get away from the person who is deep in its flight zone.

To move only one animal, the handler should stop walking when the point of balance of the animal is crossed.

Keeping Cattle Calm in the Single File Race

People handling cattle in a single file chute (race) must learn to stay back and not continuously stand inside the flight zone when animals are waiting in line. A common cause of cattle rearing or becoming restless while waiting in line in a race is a person who continuously stands inside their flight zone. The animals will usually calm down and stand quietly when the person backs up and removes themselves from the flight zone. The flight zone diagram is useful for teaching this concept. It is especially important when a chute (race) has open sides for people to always stand outside the edge of the flight zone. When a single animal or a group of cattle need to be moved, the handler enters the flight zone to move the animals. After the animals have been moved forward in the race, the handler should immediately backup and retreat from inside the flight zone.

Working Crowd Pens and Tubs

The most common mistake is putting too many pigs or cattle in the crowd pen or tub. Fill the crowd pen half full so animals have room to move. Good handling will require more walking to move small groups of animals into the crowd pen. Use the crowd pen or tub as a “passing through” pen. If animals wait in the crowd pen they are more likely to turn around. The next small bunch of animals should be brought into the crowd pen when the single file race is almost empty. This enables you to use following behavior and the animals will immediately pass through the crowd pen and enter the single file. In round tubs, never attempt to push animals with the crowd gate.

There is a species difference between cattle and pigs versus sheep. Cattle and pigs should be moved through the crowd pen in small, separate bunches. Sheep have such intense following behavior that they can be moved in a more continuous flow. If animals fail to move through a crowd pen easily, try po-sitioning the handler on the opposite side. In a round tub, positioning a handler with a flag outside the pen at the crowd gate pivot point often works really well. The cattle will circle around a person standing at the gate pivot and enter the single file race.

Working Groups on Pasture

When cattle are being handled in confined areas such as races and chutes the point of balance will usually be at the shoulder as shown in the diagrams. When a group of cattle are handled in an open pen the location of the point of balance may be more variable. Ron Gill, a cattle handling specialist, states that the point of balance may not be at the shoulder. He conducts many cattle handling demonstrations where cattle are handled in large open pens. Often a cow will move forward when the handler moves just past her eye. The point of balance on any one particular animal in a large pen or field may vary depending on how it is moving with the group. There are many situations and it is impossible to diagram all the possible angles for moving groups of cattle on pasture. The main purpose of the diagrams is to illustrate the concept that both individual animals and a group of animals have a point of balance.

Basic Principle

Moving inside the collective flight zone in the opposite direction of the desired movement will spread movement of the entire herd up. Moving outside the collective flight zone in the same direction will slow the herd down.

When moving livestock from a large open area, understanding flight zone behavior and utilizing a few basic principles, moving animals in a calm and or-derly fashion at a walk becomes very easy. To keep the animals moving in an orderly manner the handler alternates between penetrating the collective flight zone and withdrawing from the collective flight zone. Alternating pressure on the flight zone is more effective than continuous pressure. Continuous pressure on the flight zone may make the herd run. The handler should back out of the flight zone when the herd is moving in the right direction. This rewards the herd for doing what you want. When the herd slows down or stops, pressure should be applied again. When the handler moves in the zig-zag pattern he/she penetrates the flight zone when walking in the opposite direction of desired movement and retreats from the flight zone when walking in the same direction of desired movement.

This diagram shows the movement pattern when two people are moving a group of cattle. To keep the group moving, the triangle pattern is repeated mul-tiple times. The dotted line with long dashes represents the outer edge of the collective flight zone. The dotted line with small dashes represents the outer edges of the animal’s zone of awareness (pressure zone). When the pressure zone is entered, the animals become aware of the handler’s presence. The handler is inside the outer edge of the collective flight zone when he walks in the opposite direction of desired movement to speed the herd up and move them forward. The handler is outside the collective flight, but still inside the pressure zone when he walks in the same direction of desired movement. This double triangle pattern diagram is adopted from the work of Guy Glossom, Mesquite, Texas. He warns that it is essential to keep the angles on the triangle sharp. Never allow the triangles to turn into circles.

Move in straight lines and do not circle around the animals. Do not chase a lone animal or a few stragglers. The motion of the herd will attract them back. A group of animals will have point of balance for the entire group. A good stock person can move the herd by working the group point of balance. The handler should avoid the blind spot behind the animal’s rear. Deep penetration of the flight zone should be avoided. Animals become upset when a person is inside their personal space and they are unable to move away. If cattle turn back and run past the handler while they are being driven down a drive al-ley in the stockyard, overly deep penetration of the flight zone is a likely cause. The animals turn back in an attempt to get away from the handler. If the animals start to turn back, the handler should back up and increase the distance between himself and the animals. Backing up must be done at the first indication of a turn back. If a group of animals balk at a smell or a shadow up ahead, be patient and wait for the leader to cross the shadow. The rest of the animals will follow. If cattle rear up in the single file chute (race), back away from them. Do not touch them or hit them. They are rearing in an at-tempt to increase the distance between themselves and the handler. They will usually settle down if you leave them alone.

A group of cattle moving as a herd maintains eye contact with each other, that way the entire herd can move as a coordinated whole.

The next animal behind the leader is positioned just behind the leader’s point of balance. This is the same position that a person would stand in to move the animals.

Using the principles of flight zone behavior, a handler is able to move cattle into a pen in a calm and orderly way. Using the positions shown on this dia-gram will enable the handler to control the flow of cattle through the gate. Cattle movement can be slowed or speeded up by moving forward or backward.

Diagram for moving cattle quietly out of a gate. The handler moves in a small triangle as shown on the diagram. Sometimes the handler barely has to move after the flow is started. A good way to visualize the movement is that after the flow through the gate is started, the cattle moved around the handler on the edge of a bubble that is like a “force field” around the handler. The cattle position themselves in relation to the handler so they maintain a flight zone between themselves and the handler.




Glynwood:

Glynwood pond and farm is a lovley sight seen from a farm field

From a farmer’s point of view, soils in southeastern New York abutting Connecticut are sadly lacking in the limestones, shales, and sandstone which make central and western New York such excellent farm country. Metamorphized rather than sedimentary rock often translates into stony fields with the occasional massive boulder. This is the case in much of Putnam County, east of the Hudson River and just over 50 miles from Manhattan.

Agriculture never took off there as well as it did further north and west. Instead, commerce along the Hudson and manufacturing were important. Geological deposits throughout the river valley contain veins of magnetite iron ore. Access to these deposits, as well as trees for charcoal and steam, and water power to drive machinery, meant that from colonial times into the 19th century iron works were established along both sides of the Hudson River.

At the urging of no less a person than James Madison, the West Point Foundry was set up on the east bank of the river after the War of 1812 to improve cast iron armaments. The small town of Cold Spring (across the Hudson from West Point) was chosen as the site. It was a crucial armaments foundry during the Civil War, producing over 2000 cannon and 3,000,000 shells, employing 1400 people and even visited by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. After the war, however, as steel became more important, the iron foundry declined and ultimately went out of business in 1889.

Ken Kleinpeter, Glynwood’s vice president of operations, talks about his meat chickens

Forty years later George Perkins, a New York financier, purchased 2500 acres in Cold Spring for a country estate. Upon the 1993 death of his wife Linn it was preserved with most of the forested uplands going to make Fahnestock State Park, while the 225 acre core farm, open land, ponds and buildings went to a land trust and was leased to the non-profit Glynwood Center, endowed by the Perkins family, to aid it in working for a Hudson Valley defined by food: where farm-ers prosper, food entrepreneurs succeed, residents are nourished and visitors are inspired.

One of the most important ways Glynwood fulfills its mission is by running the Glynwood Farm, a diverse small scale farming model where young farmers learn the practical and managerial skills needed to survive. At the Farm they raise and market produce, eggs, meat chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. All the animals are on pasture and those who need it (poultry and pigs) receive non-GMO grain supplements. Ruminants, pigs and turkeys are already Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and the chickens are nearing approval. The Farm’s produce is certified organic, and the animals are raised organically except they do not get certified organic feed.

In charge of the animal operations at Glynwood are Ken Kleinpeter, vice president of operations, and Don Arrant, livestock manager

Ken joined Glynwood in 2005 and manages all of the agriculture activities, as well as buildings and grounds maintenance. He was a founding partner of Hollow Road Farms, the first sheep dairy operation in the United States, and later served as general manager of The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. He also was the farm and genetics center manager for the Heritage Breeds Conservancy, and spent time in Bosnia as a USAID consultant. He holds a journalism degree from Louisiana State University.

Don Arrant is responsible for overseeing Glynwood’s diversified livestock operation. His previous farming experience includes acting as field manager at Red Wagon Organic Farm and apprenticing at Frog Belly Farm and Cure Organic Farm, all in Boulder CO. Don holds a degree in history from Earlham College.

AWA is an organization that audits and certifies family farms that use high-welfare methods of raising animals on pasture or range. The farms then can use the organization’s certification in marketing their animal products. AWA standards and helpful fact sheets on particular issues are available at www.animalwelfareapproved.org.

Among other things, Animal Welfare Approved:
• requires animals to be raised on pasture or range
• prohibits dual production (some animals AWA approved and some not)
• awards approval only to family farmers
• charges no fees to participating farmers
• incorporates comprehensive standards for high welfare farming

Animal Welfare Approved standards try to address every aspect of each species’ lifecycle needs from birth to death and works diligently to maintain a farm’s ability to be economically viable. AWA has standards for all commonly domesticated farmed animals. A number of exotic species are managed for meat and fiber in this country but AWA will only consider accrediting other species if they are indigenous to the country where they are being produced. Currently the only uncommon species they will approve in the US is Bison.

AWA will not consider the following non-indigenous species in the US: Yak, Water Buffalo, Ratites (Ostriches, Rheas, Emus), Llamas and Alpacas, Beefalo

Glynwood’s certification by AWA was initiated because a major AWA funder, the Grace Communications Foundation, is also a supporter of Glynwood. But being able to meet the standards is important to the mission of the farm, showing that high standards of stewardship and economic viability can go together. Ken and Don are generally supportive of AWA standards as workable, although they have some quibbles.

“I don’t know the other animal welfare certification organizations,” says Ken, “so I can’t really compare AWA to them. Most AWA standards are reasonable, but a few I have trouble with. For example, for goats, they have a square foot requirement which is fine. But you also have to build platforms for the goats to play on. (AWA Goat Standard 8.1.25 ‘When goats are off pasture, raised platforms must be provided.’) Now I’ve set some broken legs on goats from jumping off the platform. But I can live with that.

“I also don’t really have any issues with their standards on pigs or cattle or poultry,” he continues. “My only issue with the chickens is that they recommend against using [but do not prohibit – ed.] very productive breeds. They define that as varieties exceeding 280 eggs per laying cycle. We have managed highly pro-ductive layers here for years and if you feed them right and they are roaming they are just as healthy as any other chicken.”

Concerning the sheep, however, Ken does have one complaint with AWA standards – tail docking.

“The sheep requirements won’t let you dock the tail,” he says, “even of ewes that you are going to save as replacement stock. If you have long tails on sheep they get very wooly, and if they are on pasture and have the slightest loose manure on them because of green grass diarrhea, you have a much higher chance of fly strike. Fly strike happens when blowflies lay their eggs in the manure adhering to an animal. Those maggots work their way to the skin and then start consuming their way inward. Fly strike is hard to spot early, but easy to spot later when the ewe’s whole rear end is infested and the animal is in great distress – hundreds of thousands of maggots are eating her alive.

Meat birds relax in shade of shelters during the heat of the day.
Apple trees surround the area.

“When you say that to AWA,” he continues, “they reply: ‘Oh, you just have to bring them in a few times in the summer and crutch them’ (shave their rear ends – ed.) That is fine except that your whole plan is to avoid stress on an animal. To handle animals 3 or 4 times a summer, to crutch them, is stressful on the sheep, the people, and our time and labor. Our sheep are scattered all over everywhere. You are telling me it is less stressful to haul a sheep in 3 or 4 times a summer, hold them down, shave their rear ends –doing that, as opposed to taking one second when they are babies, and docking their tails and then it’s done? Having to deal with fly strike is not more humane than docking the tail when they are young.”

The AWA standard on this at 5.9.3 says simply ‘Tail docking is prohibited’. When I looked up ‘tail docking’ on the ‘Standards and Program Definitions’ web page, however, I saw that it reads: ‘The removal of all or part of the tail. This practice is prohibited under Animal Welfare Approved standards, however sheep farmers who meet all other Animal Welfare Approved standards may apply for a derogation to this standard while they work towards the goal of no tail docking.’

Ken adheres to the AWA standard, anyway, and Glynwood has not applied for derogation.

Regarding parasites among lambs on pasture, Ken feels that the AWA standards are quite reasonable.

Layers in poultry net with wagons

“We move them every two or three days,” he says. We try to work around the parasite cycle. After a certain amount of time, the eggs that the parasites are putting down will hatch and can re-infect the sheep. So you want to get them out of that pasture before that happens. You are never going to be perfect. Parasites are not stupid. But you can certainly reduce the parasite load with smart management. Young animals are much more susceptible to being badly parasitized than mature ones. These were all born this year in February, mostly.
“AWA does allow some wormers,” he continues. “Even the organic standards allow some. AWA calls for the primary method of managing parasites to be pasture management, which is perfectly proper. After that, wormers are allowed if they are not organophosphates or similar products. And of course fecal samples must be taken at least annually to assess how well you are doing.

Of course, like much of western New England and eastern New York, Glynwood has lots of pasture that is difficult to maintain. It is hilly and rocky, soils are poor and want to go back to forest. But the farm needs less forest and more open land.

“You can’t mow it, you can’t do anything here but graze some goats,” asserts Ken about some of his brushy areas. “Twenty years ago this was all open pasture, for cattle, and managed by a crew of landscapers because the cattle couldn’t keep it all in grass. But that cost a lot of money, to maintain it. A lot of it was hand work. You can’t brush-hog this stuff.”

Lambs graze in electronet fencing

The goats are contained, mostly, with a 42 inch electronet fence, powered by a battery and solar charger. Water is brought out on a truck. The goats are primarily to keep the land open and the invasive species down, but the farm has found a steady market for goat meat – not only ethnics but suddenly it is fashionable with the chefs in New York City! At Glynwood they usually wait 18 months for a goat to grow to sale size, however, as opposed to lambs that can be ready in 8 months.
The farm raises both layers and meat chickens. As AWA standards require, both are out in the open on pasture when the weather permits. The meat birds are in slightly shorter versions of the lamb and goat electronet. Their yard is in the orchard and contains the shelters where they spend the night and also can hang out in the shade on sunny days. The shelters are moved every day, advancing through the yard, and the yard is moved every few days when fresh shelter locations are no longer available.

Ken has found the pasture yards are excellent at keeping out 4-footed predators, but not so much the winged ones.

Eviscerating chickens using the on-farm exemption.

“We have problems with hawks and owls, but that is a cost of doing business if the chickens have to be free ranging” he sighs. “We use the electronet fence so we rarely lose birds to ground predators, but we lose them to other birds. We started putting chickens in at night because the worst losses we got were in the early morning from owls. They were coming at dawn and really killing us. So after dark everyday someone has to put the birds in.”

One other downside of open pastures is that the feed and water is kept there, not in the moving shelters. Which means that wild birds are often coming for break-fast, lunch and dinner. Ken estimates that sometimes he is feeding 100 times as many wild birds as domestic ones!

The layers are similarly contained in yards, with wheeled Conestoga wagons, containing their egg boxes and required roosts, for housing. Ken brings the layers out gradually from their winter barn through a series of yards.

AWA is happy with the farm’s poultry-raising system, and Ken is happy with their standards.

“They care about having enough ventilation, space to move around, roosts, etc.” he relates. “I don’t find those standards unreasonable.

“We are taking steps toward completing our AWA certification for slaughter of poultry,” he continues. “We are not AWA certified for our slaughter yet because we don’t have the captive bolt system they want us to use for stunning. It costs $300.”

During my visit the farm was processing a batch of birds in a room in one of their buildings. They slaughter under the federal on-farm exemption so that it doesn’t require a USDA inspector, and compost the guts, heads, feet and feathers.

Don Arrant at the chicken processing work

“You can do up to a thousand birds under that exemption,” explains Ken, “but you can only sell them from your own farm. You can’t put them in a store. If we were to be state licensed for slaughter, we would need two rooms, one for killing, scalding and plucking, and one for eviscerating. We have a walk-in cooler here in the processing building, and a walk-in freezer in another building just a few steps away.”

The captive bolt equipment the AWA requires is a smaller version of that used to kill large animals. Driven by either an explosive cartridge or compressed air, a metal ‘bolt’ is driven into the head of the animal a certain distance, but does not fully leave the device (thus is ‘captive’) and is reused. Although the device often kills the animal instantly, its purpose is to stun and cause immediate unconsciousness, avoiding any sensation of pain. The bird’s neck is then dislocated or cut to ensure death.

“I have the paperwork from AWA,” says Don. “We need to get the device and meet with them to inspect it. It is used for cows and pigs for the most part, large an-imals, but they have a small one for poultry. It runs off air pressure or a CO2 cartridge. You put it right against the animal’s head and the charge sends the bolt into the brain. It is supposed to be instantaneous, as opposed to cutting the head off, which involves some pain.”

“What we have done,” adds Ken, “is use a very sharp knife to sever the jugular vein, but not the windpipe. That way they bleed to death in a pretty peaceful way. But if you sever the windpipe they can no longer breathe and they start to panic and flop around.”

A detailed AWA fact sheet on poultry slaughter is available at: www.animalwelfareapproved.org




A Brief History of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

On April 7, 2016, USDA posted a proposed rule — the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) Rule — to clarify existing federal organic regulations re-lated to animal welfare standards. The rule was published in the Federal Register on April 13, and the comment period closed on July 13. The department is now evaluating those comments and will likely publish a final rule in the next few months.

This rulemaking was based on a 2011 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation, which sets standards for indoor and outdoor space require-ments for organic poultry and livestock, and adds definitions to which practices are allowed and prohibited under organic regulations.

Key Changes to Current Regulations in the Proposed Rule

The detailed list of the proposed changes from the Federal Register is printed in this issue of The Natural Farmer, but a short summary is:

• Distinct welfare provisions are provided for mammalian and avian liverstock
• Outdoor access for poultry cannot have a solid roof overhead
• Outdoor space requirements for poultry must be less than 2.25 poinds of hen per square foot of outdoor space
• Outdoor space must have 50% soil cover
• Indoor space requirements for poultry must be less than 2.25 pounds of hen per square foot of indoor space (allowances up to 4.5 pounds per square
foot are made for pasture-based and aviary-stype production systems)
• Further clarity is given on justifications for confinement indoors for livestock and poultry
• Further clarity is proviced on physical alterations that are allowed and prohibited
• Proposed implementation timeline following the issuance of a final rule is: 1 year for all new organic operations; 3 years for new livestock housing construction; 5 years for all certified operations to be in full compliance

Background

These USDA’s proposed rules have been a long time coming. In 2002, when the National Organic Program (NOP) was finally established, the NOSB, a committee that includes farmers, processors, retailers, and environmentalists, overwhelmingly approved recommendations specifically stating that “bare surfaces other than soil (e.g. metal, concrete, wood) do not meet the intent of the National Organic Standards.”

But that wasn’t binding—it had the legal effect of a suggestion. Thus the 2011 NOSB clarifications, after years of debate and input from stakeholders, in which the board put more specific recommendations that would guarantee the hens a minimum of 2 square feet each, both inside and outside, and access to soil.

After considering all these concerns, the USDA finally presented the rule to the public last spring.

In the fourteen years since the NOP was established, tremendous changes have taken place in the marketplace. Growing at double digits the whole time, the US organic food market is now at $39 billion per year, over four times as large as it was when the NOP was established. During that time, more and more organic production has gone into packaged, processed products. These products, in turn, have been increasingly produced by large companies — many of which are divisions of, or wholly owned by, some of the largest corporations in the country.

Many of the recipes for these processed products are dependent upon eggs. Even though it still makes up just a tiny fraction of the overall egg market, the growth in organic egg sales has been nothing short of explosive. From 2014 to 2015, when total egg sales in the U.S. were down 1.1 percent, organic egg sales increased an astonishing 119.8 percent.

Up to now processors have been able to purchase organic eggs from very large suppliers (one hates to call them “farmers”) with 100,000 or more layers. But growers at that scale cannot realistically give their birds access to soil. The amount of land they would be required to own to physically do so would be uneconomical, without even figuring the costs of security, food and water delivery, manure management, and personnel.

While an estimated ninety-five percent of organic egg producers are already following the proposed rules, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the 5 percent who haven’t been following the USDA’s lead just happen to sell one in four organic eggs on the market.

How have they been able to remain certified when the current standards call for “access to outdoors”?

“We wrote ‘access to outdoors,’ but somehow the words we tried weren’t clear enough,” said George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative of organic farmers, with more than 1,800 members producing dairy, eggs, and produce and a key advocate of the 1990 Organic Food Production Act. “We’ve had a bunch of people start up egg houses that have a little screened porch,” he said. “We had nothing like that in mind.”

Right from the beginning of the NOP, in the fall of 2002, The Country Hen, a Hubbardston, Massachusetts egg producer, was turned down for organic certification by the NOFA/Mass certification program. The program recognized that the company’s 5 acre operation was not large enough to provide out-door access for their thousands of layers.

Owner George Bass, unwilling to be so easily deterred, immediately called Washington, set up a meeting with Richard Mathews, the NOP head at the time, and emerged from that meeting the next day with a ruling that porches would meet the outdoor requirement.

Although the NOFA/Mass certification program still refused to back down and the matter was ultimately settled by a lawsuit (in which the judge ruled the USDA had the ultimate authority to waive it’s own rules), other large egg producers quickly adopted the screened porch approach. These were usually on pavement, under a roof, and without a large enough door or floor space to admit many birds at a time.

The new rules by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally eliminate this option, specifying that outdoor access must include soil (as opposed to asphalt), open air without a roof, and no more than 2.25 pounds of bird for every square foot of outdoor space.

It is understandable that the egg producers who have used this “porch” waiver to the rules are now up in arms. The changes they must make to their op-erations to accommodate these new rules will be expensive. That is why organic eggs raised in a truly pasture-based or free range system, which is possible on smaller farms, sell for $5 a dozen and up. The care and management to maintain such a system is not cheap.

In addition to having to pay more for organic eggs, processors might find that suppliers of such eggs may not as easily produce to the volume and timing standards required for industrial food production.

Industrial organic egg production, a strange phrasing if ever there was one, has been well documented by Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog which released the second edition of its report, Scrambled Eggs, last December. It points to such producers as Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch as an example of inadequate outdoor access.

Greg Herbruck, executive vice president of the company, stands by their housing system. “A porch is an approved method, approved by the USDA and National Organic Program,” he said. “We have been certified every year.” His company’s Green Meadow site in Saranac, Mich., will eventually house 2 million hens in 18 houses and currently holds about 1.7 million to 1.8 million hens.

Herbruck also appears to be one of the largest of the industrial organic egg producers in the country, saying his company alone has at one point or another produced almost 20 percent of all organic eggs sold in the U.S.

Herbruck has been in Washington raising concerns about the rule. He says that 70 percent of organic egg production would have significant trouble meet-ing the regulations and that his 2-million-hen operation doesn’t have enough land to meet the requirement. He also argues that his hens, if living outside, would be exposed to diseases and predators.
In his comments to the NOSB he says: “We fear these changes will limit consumer access to organic products rather than encourage growth of the organic market.” The requirements for soil-based, uncovered living areas, he said, both “assaults hen health” and “greatly increase[s] the risk to public health.” Similar concerns were raised in 2010 by a group of commercial-size egg farms, including Herbruck’s, as well as Cal-Maine Foods, Kreher’s Farm Fresh Eggs, and Oakdell Egg Farms.

Even though the early Congressional opposition to the changes through an appropriation rider did not pass, there are still plenty of opportunities for Congress to throw a monkey wrench into the mix. Rumors of them abound and the financial interests at stake are significant. We probably have not heard the end of the lobbyists’ complaints about how these are too burdensome!

Opponents of the Agriculture Department’s organic animal welfare proposal also have allies among state veterinarians. In comments filed on the rule the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials and several individual state veterinarians say “outdoor access” provisions would undermine biosecuri-ty instructions that the USDA gave to poultry producers after the avian influenza outbreak last year, as well as FDA requirements for preventing salmo-nella. The USDA in the proposal acknowledges that direct outdoor exposure and contact with wild birds and animals is a known risk, wrote Susan Keller, president of the NASAHO. “It must be questioned whether this proposal emphasizes marketing above poultry health, and if so, whether the risk to the entire national poultry industry has been considered.”

While it’s the impact on the egg industry that has drawn the loudest complaints, the opposition to the new standards isn’t just about eggs. The proposed update includes stricter requirements for the production of poultry, beef, pork, and dairy as well. Some groups representing these industries, including the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers’ Council, filed requests for more time.
“We have not been a part of this process in the past and have requested additional time to review the standards being put forward,” an NCBA spokesper-son said.

The rule’s supporters saw this as an election-year attempt to get it kicked down the road to the new administration, which may be less friendly to organic farmers. While the proposed regulation would have a direct impact on organic beef and pork farmers, that’s not what these concerns are about, said An-drew deCoriolis of Farm Forward. “Those industries are not worried about the small percent of organic operators they represent,” he said. “They are more concerned with having [animal welfare] standards be part of a federal livestock program.”

Some in the organic food sector, meanwhile, were embroiled in a furious lobbying battle over a possible amendment to block or weaken the proposed new regulations. Shortly after the proposals were released, a one-page rider was slipped into a congressional appropriations bill. Although it was ultimately defeated, it would have eliminated all funding for the stricter new rule.

It said funding can’t be used “to write, prepare, or publish” the final rule on organic animal welfare, or “to implement or enforce the proposed rule” pending an independent economic assessment.

“This sort of rider is not that uncommon with rulemaking,” said Cary Coglianese, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Program on Regulation.

The USDA, for its part, stood by its embattled proposal. “Strengthening standards for organic livestock and poultry will ensure that we meet consumers’ demand for transparency and integrity,” the agency said in a statement. “The proposed rule meets the recommendations of the National Organic Stand-ards Board and USDA’s own Inspector General, setting needed standards for organic animals … and establishing a level playing field for all producers.”

Charges that producers cannot afford the new standards are disputed by proponents of the new rules. “Producing food that meets the USDA Organic label is a choice for farmers. And consumers who choose to buy certified organic foods want that label to mean something. If any producers choose not to up-date their production practices to fall in line with the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, there are numerous farmers eager to fill any gap in supply that may occur with some producers exiting the organic market,” says the Organic Trade Association.

As for the risk to public health, OTA’s Senior Crop and Livestock Specialist Nate Lewis points out that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has reviewed the proposed rule and concluded that there wouldn’t be a negative impact on biosecurity related to avian flu or other poultry diseases.

Animal welfare groups also see the new rule as an improvement, though they would like provisions on pain relief for dehorning animals and space re-quirements for pigs, among other things. Farm Forward, the ASPCA, and the Animal Welfare Institute, for example, have all expressed their support. “No system is perfect,” said Suzanne McMillan, content director of ASPCA’s farm animal welfare campaign. “[But] the rules are a significant leap for-ward for animal welfare.”

A number of other farm groups also support the rule. During the scare about the Appropriations rider, the National Farmers Union and 36 other farm, consumer and industry groups sent a letter to the committee urging the senators to leave the rule alone. The rule “will provide certainty about what pro-cedures are allowed under the organic program … and maintain the integrity of the organic seal,” the groups say.

The Organic Trade Association was actively involved in fashioning and pushing for the rule, both behind the scenes and in public action alerts and letters to members.

During the concern about a blocking rider in congress, the group developed a “Don’t Play Chicken with Organic” slogan that brought it a lot of attention. It pointed out the voluntary nature of organic certification, reviewed the long study period taken to deliberate on new standards, and concluded that strong welfare standards are critical to preserving trust in the organic label.

In response to USDA’s request for comments, OTA convened a task force to analyze the proposed rule. The mandate of the task force was to assist OTA in developing comments to USDA-NOP on the rule that would reflect the current perspectives of the organic livestock sector. The focus of the task force was to ensure that the specifics within the proposed rule accurately reflect NOSB recommendations, lent themselves to consistent implementation and en-forcement by Accredited Certifying Agencies and USDA, and leveled the playing field for organic livestock and poultry producers across the nation. Over the course of the spring and summer task force subcommittees comprised of organic livestock operators representing eggs, broilers, beef, dairy, and swine, along with accredited certifiers, have met and discussed the proposed revisions and their impact on the organic sector.

Most of the smaller organic farmers were represented in this process by their own groups, such as the NOFAs, which in turn were members of, or actively consulted by, the National Organic Coalition (NOC). NOC ultimately called for support for the rule and suggested several amendments to make it strong-er, such as requiring that the 50% of poultry outdoor space which must be soil but also be covered in green vegetation and requiring more outdoor space for layers than the suggested level of 2.25 pounds of bird per square foot.

An article by NOC executive director Abby Youngblood is being printed in this issue for those interested in their position.




The Proposed Organic Livestock & Poultry Practices Rule










National Organic Coalition Calls on NOP to Strengthen and Move Forward with Organic Animal Welfare Standards

Organic regulations currently require year-round outdoor access for all livestock raised in organic systems. Despite this requirement, not all organic producers are providing true outdoor access. This lack of consistency in the organic standards hurts both consumer and producer trust in the organic label. And organic livestock and poultry operations that already adhere to high standards are being undercut economically because of loopholes that allow a few very large opera-tions to deny meaningful outdoor access.

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) has long advocated for regulatory action by USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to address animal welfare stand-ards for organic poultry and livestock operations. We strongly support the passage of new rules to create clarity and consistency in the standards and to facilitate level enforcement.

Because the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and organic community have consistently called for meaningful outdoor access for poultry dating back to 1998, it is disingenuous for poultry operations that do not meet these requirements to claim that they have been taken by surprise. Furthermore, the pro-posed rule provides ample time to comply. NOC is urging the USDA to move expeditiously with the rulemaking process and implement the much-needed changes to the organic standards that will assure consumers and producers alike that farms meet basic animal welfare standards, including meaningful outdoor access for organic poultry.

In our detailed comments we suggest significant changes to strengthen the proposed rule and also list parts of the proposed rule that we support.

For poultry:

  • NOC urges the NOP to require that at least 50 percent of outdoor areas are covered with vegetation, rather than bare soil. The NOSB recom-mendation for outdoor space requirements for poultry was developed in concert with their belief that the area would also be vegetated. This vegetation is a cornerstone of providing a healthy, beneficial environment for the birds.
  • Pasture-based systems of poultry production provide a high level of animal welfare because birds have access to vegetative cover, are moved frequently to new pasture, and are not left to sit in excrement. These systems are distinct in several key ways from poultry production that relies on sta-tionary houses. The NOP must put forward a separate set of requirements for pasture-based operations pertaining to space, perches, and dust baths, and we have provided specific language and suggestions in our draft comments.
  • We support the clarification in the proposed rule that porches cannot be considered outdoor space (§ 205.241(c)(6)), that outdoor areas must in-clude enrichment (§ 205.241(c)(1)), that producers are required to introduce birds to outdoor spaces early in life (§ 205.241(c)(1)), and that forced molting is prohibited (205.238(c)(10)).
  • We urge the NOP to require more outdoor space for laying hens in systems that rely on stationary poultry houses. 2.25 pounds of hen per square foot of outdoor space is simply not enough space to allow for freedom of movement and living conditions that accommodate the natural behaviors of laying hens.

For cattle:

  • Requiring that 50 percent of outdoor access be on soil is not appropriate during much of the non-grazing season and would create permanent condi-tions that threaten soil and water quality. This issue was grappled with and ultimately addressed via the “pasture rule”. We suggest changes to ensure that this proposed rule does not conflict with the “pasture rule.”
  • We also ask for clarification through the regulatory language that bedded packs, compost packs, tie-stalls, free-stalls and stanchion barns are all acceptable as housing systems for dairy cattle.

For swine:

  • The proposed rule is inadequate in addressing the range of production systems for swine in a holistic way. While NOC supports the parts of the rule that do address animal welfare for swine, including sections 205.239(a)(8 – 11) and 205.239(a)(4)(i), we believe the NOP must more fully address stocking densities and minimum space requirements, swine production in hoop houses, wallowing, types of bedding, pasture farrowing, and issues around soil and water quality.
  • The NOP must provide further opportunities for public debate and input to ensure that the regulations provide high animal welfare for swine and are tailored to the multiple systems of production in use.
  • We support the clarification provided by this proposed rule that swine in organic operations must have access to the soil, though we would like to see a three-year implementation period to ensure the producers who do not currently meet this requirement have time to comply.

Avian Influenza
We are aware of arguments that chickens should be confined continually indoors in order to protect food safety and animal health. These arguments seem to be primarily from producers whose poultry houses would not be able to accommodate the outdoor space requirements for all chickens. We do not agree with these arguments, as scientific studies indicate that indoor confinement is a risk factor, and therefore not part of the solution, for food safety and ani-mal health problems.

In July of 2015, NOC published a policy paper summarizing scientific research that demonstrates that confinement increases the risk that low pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) will mutate into highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) because confinement decreases access to fresh air and because the birds are sitting on top of contaminated feces and dead bird carcasses.

NOC asserts that organic systems that require that birds exhibit “natural behaviors” and require true outdoor access contribute to good animal health and food safety. Preventing future outbreaks of HPAI, salmonella, and other diseases and food borne illnesses should involve addressing the root of the prob-lem, by building a system of poultry farming with low densities, outdoor access, and healthy birds with strong immune systems.

NOC’s detailed comments on the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule and our policy paper on avian influenza are available at http://www.nationalorganiccoalition.org/news-items/animal-welfare.




Consider Bardwell Farm:

Sign and old farmhouse

The village of West Pawlet is a third of the way up the state of Vermont, on the New York border. Pawlet itself was chartered to 62 residents in 1761, held its first town meeting in 1775, by 1800 contained almost 2000 souls, and peaked ten years later, in 1810, with a population of 2233. Now it is around 1438, almost half of whom are in West Pawlet. The town lies in the foothills of the Taconic Range, in the Champlain Valley, and has always been very rural. Nearby lakes are Lake St. Catherine, Little Lake, Lake Bomoseen, and Cosayuna Lake.

Here is where Angela Miller, a successful Manhattan literary agent, and her architect husband Russell Glover, who had been visiting friends in neighboring Dorset in 2000, checked out some available properties and bought themselves a 305 acre farm!

“I was a child in Pennsylvania and grew up in a rural area,” she relates. “We lived near the Rodale Institute and my mother was a part of that early organic movement. I developed a career in book publishing in New York City and stuck with it, but I always wanted to get into small scale farming.

“My husband,” she continues, “is a city boy. He grew up in London, went to Cambridge, studied architecture, and ran a business in New York doing architec-ture for the rich people on Long Island. I thought I would like to live in Vermont and we looked at a few properties but they weren’t right and then we found this one available and bought it – land, houses and defunct buildings – all for $525,000, similar to what we sold our apartment for in New York City!”

They are both still working at their city jobs, combining telecommuting with the real thing, but have built a successful farm and award-winning goat and cow cheese business at the same time.

Angela Miller and Pete Brooks by goats, way in back are Jersey gows which come on this field after goats there 12 hours

Angela Miller and Pete Brooks by goats, way in back are Jersey gows which come on this field after goats there 12 hours

The first story of their brick farm house was originally built in the 1780s and expanded with a major 2-story addition which is still marked with the year it was added, 1814. A man named Consider Bardwell from Deerfield, MA, and his father-in-law, from Wells, a town 5 miles away, bought the farm in the 1840s.
In the 1860s the Civil War and the industrial boom was draining the area’s farms of men-folk and cooperatives were forming as a way to more efficiently man-age some of the farmwork. In 1863 Bardwell started the state’s first cheese-making coop, drawing from among the 40 or so neighboring dairy farms. Morning milk was all brought to Bardwell’s farm, where he had erected a cheese factory. A spring-fed pond he built was used to power the factory and there was a rail-road running through the property that enabled them to ship cheese to the city. Bardwell eventually sold the farm to his sons-in-law.

It continued as a cheese operation, although no longer a cooperative, until the Depression. In 1931 or 1932 it failed and returned to being just a dairy farm sell-ing to larger coops. The last owner got ill, auctioned off the cows, and closed the farm down in the late 1990s.

Half of the farm’s land is in Vermont and half is actually in New York. The buildings are all in Vermont, however, and the New York land has no access from New York roads, so for all purposes beyond taxation it is treated as a Vermont farm and its purchase in 2000 caught the eye of local officials.

Taking Care of the Land

“Because it is a relatively big property,” explains Miller, “it was very much under the nose of the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). We weren’t here for a month before the NRCS people were down here to show us what we needed to do to keep the river clean, asking what would we be willing to do to maintain the water quality? We didn’t even have animals then. But they told us we had a big responsibility, which scared the life out of my husband.”

The couple began working actively with the NRCS as they built up their herd of goats.

“They were giving us grants to build fences,” she relates, “so the goats on pasture aren’t getting in the streams and wrecking the banks. Every time we did something with the NRCS, part of the deal was that we transition to organic management. We have a lot of water around here they are concerned about protecting. We had to build 50 foot riparian buffers to protect the waterways and plant native trees and bushes there.

“We did a tremendous amount of that work as we were building the herd,” she continues. “We were the Sustainable Farm of the year in 2013. But we have pretty much exhausted all we can do with them in terms of projects. We sold a perpetual easement to the USDA to keep our land in grass. Even if we sell the land, it has to remain in grass. No one can plant annuals on it. It is designed to bring the soil back from when they were rotating corn on it. Our whole farm is now grassland reserved.”

The Animals

Angela and the farm staff currently milk 142 dairy goats (no longer by hand), have 5 bucks for breeding, raise 50 male kids for meat, and have 25 or so female dairy goat replacement kids. In addition they have 50 laying chickens, as well as 2 breeding sows and 50 piglets to drink the whey that the cheese operation produces. They also graze 27 Jersey cows owned by a neighbor and make cheese from that milk.

The goats are bred seasonally, the bucks moving in with them in October and the kids then being born in February and March — the busiest time of year on a goat or sheep farm. Goats born in February can be bred in the fall (or slaughtered if male) so fit neatly into an annual cycle.

Angela explains: “We market the pork and goat meat in the fall (at 7 or 8 months). We also market the veal from the Jersey cows — it is rose veal, not white veal. It is from very young calves that are fed milk and grain for a time, and then put on grass. Their movement is not restricted and they are not bled or denied iron. The chickens are layers. We market the eggs.

One of the three cheese-making vats at Consider Bardwell Farm DSCF4724

“After the goats have been on a paddock 12 hours,” she continues, “we move them to a new one. Once they have eaten that down to about 6 inches we put the Jersey cows on it. They will graze after the goats and chomp it down lower. We do that because the goats like the higher grasses but also they are sus-ceptible to intestinal parasites. Those parasites are mostly in the lower 4 to 6 inches of the grass. The cows will eat that without any problem. After another 12 hours we move the cows off and then put chickens on. They eat up all the manure and the parasites too. The goats don’t go back for 65 days, which is how long it will take for the parasites to disappear. We haven’t had to use any wormer for three years since we have been doing this rotation.”

Miller’s farm manager is Peter Brooks, son of one of the neighboring farmers from whom she buys Jersey milk. Having grown up on a grass-based dairy farm, Pete is used to the complex issues involved in managing grazing — time of year, expected weather, conditions in a field (wetness, type of grass, height of grass), haying needs, condition of animals – which need to be juggled. Rather than have a fixed plan for an extended period, he will determine the size and placement of a paddock almost on the spot.

“I never go by size,” he says, “but by pasture quality. We keep an eye on the bulk tank reading for each milking so we know if they have gotten enough pasture. If not, their milk average drops and I’ll give them a little more. It all depends on quality of pasture, too. There are a lot of variables. I grew up on a dairy farm raising cows. So I’ve been around pasture my whole life. And I’ve been here for four years, learning.”

Goats prefer browse to grass, but Peter doubts if they do better on it. They eat hedgerows down to nothing, but when given good pasture their milk aver-age is definitely higher. He says he likes to put goats onto a pasture that is between a foot and a foot and a half tall. That seems best for milk production. Too tall and much of the grass is lignified, too short and there is too much protein. They seem to love orchard grass, which grows well in West Pawlet.

Peter describes some of the thinking that goes into his management of the pastures: “Pasture management is a huge part of my job. We have a 65 to 70 day rest between grazings. So there is a lot of management of when to cut the hay on pastures so that when the goats get back into it, it is growing back. Which is what we did with this field. Last night’s paddock was the first half of this strip. Today we opened up the other half. Tonight this strip will basi-cally get moved sideways down the field. We will either take a cutting of hay between grazings, or we’ll put the cows in. The field the cows are in now is wet and it’s hard to get in with tractors, so that’s why we have the cows there. They’ll graze it down. We might try to go in there for hay later if it is dry-er.

“We rotate the chicken coop on these fields, too,” he continues. “They go into a wagon at night with egg boxes and roosts. Right now they are on a field we want to get more nitrogen on. We move them a couple of times a week. Everywhere they have been there is this dark green grass coming up!

“We cut the hay on 170 acres,” he concludes. “This field the goats are on now was never grazed for many years, just used for hay. But it is nice having so many fields near the barn that we can graze on. It makes the fields way more productive to have them grazed and animals spreading their manure on them. It works pretty well, but there is a lot of time spent moving flexnet around! These two fields are on one plug-in fencer. We have other fields that are run off solar fencers.”

The pigs were down in one of the back fields the day I visited. They are brought feed a couple of times a day and rotated from field to field every season, generally into fields that aren’t productive for hay or pasture. They root the fields up pretty badly and Peter replants them by frost seeding. Red clover does well for that, as well as orchard grass. He has put in trefoil with a no-till drill and that is doing well. The trefoil makes a nice hay which is also high in tannins, helping with parasites for the goats. The goats don’t seem to prefer the trefoil, but they eat it. The farm works with UVM on seeding research and is currently trialing red clover and forage chicory.
Building the Goat Dairy

Although knowing nothing about building a goat dairy, Angela set to work to do it once they bought the farm and tended to some badly needed repairs.

AWA label coil

“I connected with a woman who had been milking dairy goats in Provence, France,” she recalls. “She had come to Vermont and wanted to do her own dairy. She helped me find goats of the same breed she used, build a primitive milk stand, and taught me to milk them by hand. We started by buying 6 dairy goats from a farm in New Hampshire in 2002. She made cheese with me in my kitchen so I could learn how to make fresh goat cheese. It was just one kind of soft cheese – chevre.

“But she decided she didn’t like Vermont,” Miller continues. “The food wasn’t good enough! So she moved to Maine to be near seafood. Green Mountain College is nearby, however, so then I got a young girl from there who would come and take care of the goats if I couldn’t be here. I bought more goats and gradually grew the herd to where it is now. But we don’t milk by hand anymore. It isn’t really clean enough, and it’s hard on your hands!”

In 2004 the Consider Bardwell plant was certified by the state.

To get enough milk for a while they bought in goat milk from a local goat farmer. Since goats are seasonal breeders they need to be bred in the Fall and then stop lactating until they pick up again until the Spring when they kid. So in order to have a product you can sell all year, you need cow’s milk. Angela started buying milk from a cow dairy called Jersey Girls 50 miles away.

“We also hired a guy who was a professional cheese maker,” she relates, “who had trained in Europe. I didn’t think I would ever be able to develop my skill to the point where I could make an outstanding cheese. So we hired him to help us develop the different cheeses.

“Fresh goat cheese can’t be stored,” she continues. “It will go bad after a week. Once I got the professional cheese maker, we developed 3 different kinds of goat cheese. My husband built a cave or big room in the barn where you can age cheese. So pretty soon we were aging three cow cheeses and 3 goat ones.”

Making Cheese

In order to visit the cheese plant I had to go through some standard food safety steps – put on a disposable coat and hairnet, change my shoes, wash my hands before entering every room, refrain from touching anything, wear no jewelry, carry no food or drink, and wipe down my camera and recorder with a sanitizer. Then, once they had read me the list of prohibited activities, I was allowed in.

It is easy to see why such precautions are taken. Cheese making is all about which microbes are present. This has to do a lot with how hot it is and how damp, but also with how clean and sanitary it stays. Since the proper microbes are continually purchased and reintroduced, the best environment for them to thrive is a totally sanitary one.

Angela Miller Holds Dorset cheese ready for shipping

First I visited the packing room, where the finished cheeses, once ready for market, are wrapped and labeled. All the Consider Bardwell cheeses are named after towns in Vermont, currently: Manchester (goat), Danby (goat), Dorset (cow), Pawlet (cow), Slyboro (goat), and Rupert (cow). Once wrapped and labeled with the cheese variety — and the Animal Welfare Accredited (AWA) label that the farm has earned — they are sent to a cooler to await ship-ment. Here they are kept below 40˚F to arrest the further development of the cultures the cheese maker has been so careful to introduce. There is a recipe for each cheese, and certain microbes or cultures will develop the specific flavors wanted for each one.

“Cheese making starts,” explains Angela, “with raising the temperature of milk in big several hundred gallon vats. The outside wall of the vat contains water in a jacket that is heated to warm the milk to whatever temperature the recipe calls for. A rotary machine in the middle has stirrers or paddles or knives that you can put on. When the milk gets to the right temperature you put your cultures in. Those are bacteria that create the flavors you want. We get them freeze-dried from France. They ferment the milk sugar or lactose into lactic acid. For about a half an hour they do their work while the milk is stirred. Then you put in rennet to make the milk form a curd. We use a synthetic chymosin that is a vegetarian alternative to the original rennet — which comes from the stomach of calves. Europeans say calf rennet is the only one to use, but we have many vegetarian customers who would object to an animal product being used. Then knives are mounted on the stirring machine and the curd is cut, which releases the whey. Then the curd is packed into hoops (actually into linen cloths in the hoops which leave a nice pattern) and the whey is drained off. The total process takes about four hours.”

Once the whey is drained, the hoops are removed and the cheeses placed in a brine for a few days. That brings down the pH to the right level, adds salt, stops the growth of bacteria, and hardens the skin to start a rind.

The recipe for each cheese is designed for a specific size and age, as well as flavor. The moisture level in the cheese will affect how long it takes to age properly. The Manchester, for instance, is a 3 pound cheese called a tomme and is dryer and ages out longer (90 days) with less water activity than, say, a Dorset (2 pounds and 60 days). The Dorset has what is called a washed rind and has more moisture than many other cheeses. It gets tastier faster. But if you made the Dorset bigger, it would not ripen all the way through properly because of its higher moisture level. You don’t want the outer edges to be dif-ferent from the center.

The skin or rind of a cheese begins to develop while it is in the brine. When it is removed from the salt solution, mold spores are brushed on the rind and the cheese is stored in a cool “cave” where it continues to develop. The cheeses in the cave get almost daily attention. They’re washed twice a week, brushed with bacterial solutions to form the mold, turned. That is part of why they are expensive!

As they get older they develop more of a rind. You can tell how old each is because the shelf it is on is marked. The rind of the Dorset turns bright orange and is super active. The Manchester is covered with a black and blue mold, which acts more slowly. Each cave has a dehumidifier that controls the hu-midity and brings it to the proper level for that cheese. The caves are kept at 50˚F to 55˚F, and 85% to 90% humidity to help the cultures develop the best flavors.

cheeses soaking in a brine

“Each batch will have a somewhat different flavor,” adds Miller, “because of slight differences in the production process – the temperature or humidity in the air, the cheese maker was in a bad mood, etc. We try to record every thing we can think of just so we can determine what affects the taste. Each batch has a wheel that is devoted to testing. We insert a probe, pull out a piece of cheese, and taste test it. We have tastings on Friday – three of us taste them and grade each cheese. We save out cheese batches in which the flavor profile is perfect for the competitions. We haven’t lost a cheese for any reason for a while. We used to, sometimes a batch would go bad. But now we seem to know what we’re doing!”

Marketing

The cheeses, meat and eggs from Consider Bardwell Farm are marketed locally, regionally, and nationally in various ways. There is a farm store at which all their products are sold. Because the farm is in somewhat of a tourist area, and has such a history, up-scale people stop by almost every day. When I was visiting a middle aged couple from Philadelphia was in the store. They were just staying nearby for the week, they said, and heard about the farm at the local farmers market. They wanted to visit and buy some cheese.

They also do a large business in the New York City Green Market system, which is the city’s farmers markets. Those markets serve 75 neighborhoods. Angela had always been a customer of them when living in the city. Once she was making goat cheese and had a product to sell, she wanted it at those markets.

“Mayor Bloomberg wanted a new market at City Hall,” she recalls, “so I filled out the 28-page application and went there every Friday to sell. It was just the chevre at the time, but I sold out! It was pretty wearing because I had markets up here all weekend, so I hired a part time kid to do another Green Market location. He was from Brooklyn and liked selling the cheese so pretty soon we got him to sell at markets Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I didn’t have to go anymore.”

Now the farm has a staff of three full-timers and four part-timers selling in New York, and a warehouse in Long Island City. They are in 14 of the markets now. The Green Markets together represent about a third of their total revenue, Miller estimates. Everything else is wholesaled across the country through 9 distributors with separate territories – a Vermont one does New England and Eastern New York, another does the Whole Foods stores on the east coast, one in Chicago, Seattle, etc. They ship out cheese twice a week on an 18 wheeler. It is now more cow cheese than goat cheese, and it is all aged. They stopped making fresh cheeses because they mold so quickly.

“It works,” Angela says, “because the milk is good, from good farming practices and good cheese-making. We have won national prizes every year at events. Winning prizes is probably the best way to get attention from national distributors. We’re now making 130,000 pounds of cheese a year (one-third of it goat, two-thirds cow milk) and have 4 full time cheese-makers. Last year I hired a general manager who has really made things easier around here! He was the manager of a giant cheese importer in New York, but wanted a lifestyle change so he brought his family up here and was willing to take a giant pay cut. He does the marketing, too. I go to the fancy food shows in New York, but otherwise have been involved on the farm side rather than the cheese side.

“They are all raw milk cheeses,” she continues, “which is a very fast growing sector of the market, as well as being artisanal, handmade, and farmstead cheese. We get $26 to $30 a pound, retail. Not that anyone buys artisanal cheese by the pound. You might buy $5 worth.

“We sell our eggs for $8 a dozen, retail,” she concludes. “We just sell them at Green Market or our store here. The AWA certification doesn’t matter so much around here. If the customers come to the farm store they can see how things are raised.”

Miller feels the certification helps with sales of their meat, though – goat, veal and pork. Heritage Meat in New York did a promotional campaign around goat meat and insisted all suppliers they bought from had to be AWA certified. That created a market all around the country in really high-end restau-rants for goat meat.

“They have a month called ‘Goatober’,” she reports. “They figured it is top down — if you get the highest end chefs introducing goat meat to their cus-tomers, then they will go to other restaurants and ask for goat meat. It tastes very similar to lamb, but is less fatty. It is very, very good. I don’t know what old goat tastes like. We make sausage out of our culls, when we have to do that. But that is a little sensitive for me because I know some of these old goats and babied them and milked them for a while. I hated seeing my old girls go off. But it is a business!”

On the expense side, their $52,000 a month payroll is the farm’s biggest expense. Milk supply is second, which they buy in from two neighboring farmers raising a total of 67 Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and a few Holsteins. Insurance is third (including workers compensation), then feed is next.

“We have 20 people on the payroll,” sighs Angela. “We’ve been growing every year for the last 12 years. Every year we up our production and have to up our payroll and infrastructure. Now we have 7 caves in our barn. Very shortly we are going to have to build a new plant altogether. I want to stop at 300,000 pounds of cheese a year — I want a nationally recognized brand making a top notch product. Then maybe one day one of my employees or some-one else will want to buy it.”

So far Miller hasn’t taken any money from the farm for her services, choosing instead to plow it back in. While the farm is marginally profitable, she says, there is so much to do she doesn’t want to impede its growth.

“I had an unexpected second career,” she smiles, “and I’m very proud of what we have done.”

One of the hassles of owning a food business is needing to pay attention to the strict standards required to protect public health. Angela doesn’t have any problem with the requirements for sanitation and testing with which any cheese maker must comply, but she feels it is an extra burden having to deal with federal as well as local inspectors.

“The FDA is involved with us,” she sighs, “because we make raw milk cheeses. Their inspectors visit us, as well as the state ones. They are mostly con-cerned with listeriosis. It has actually been more prevalent in pasteurized cheeses and meat, but they are still wary of us not pasteurizing.

“We test our milk four times a month,” she continues, “once for the state and 3 times for their food safety quality. If anything is wrong we will have al-ready made the cheese but we can flag that batch and have the finished product tested.”

Largely at the suggestion of NRCS and UVM advice to consider organic certification, in 2009 Miller cut off the 2 farmers who were leasing some of their land so she could make the 3-year transition. The farm was certified organic for its pastures and hay in 2012.

That means they could sell their hay as organic, but they use all they produce for the goats and cows. So they don’t really sell anything as organic. But as long as they are keeping everything in grass, Miller feels, organic seems the right thing to do.

The animals aren’t certified, however, nor is the milk. Angela says there are two barriers to organic certification for the livestock and animal products.

“I can’t get over the problem of not being able to treat them if they are sick,” she explains. “I would have to sell them or have a separate facility. Here we are having a closed herd and not bringing in other animals, and breeding for high production instead of raising the population like crazy. We had one goat get sick with an untreatable mastitis and we did cull her. But if a goat had a treatable mastitis we’d take her out of the line, give her the antibiotic, put her on hold for the required amount of time and dump her milk, and then when she is ready to go back online she is still a really good goat. Organic means we would not be able to put her back into the milking string and would have to cull or sell her.”

The other problem with having the animals organically certified is the price of organic grain. Although the goats on Consider Bardwell Farm and the cows whose milk they buy in are all grass-fed, they do get a small amount of grain at the time of milking — a cupful each when they are on the milk stand. Right now that is from a local dealer who grows GMO crops. Just going non-GMO is a big hoop to jump through, but Miller is committed to doing that.

“I joined a group called the Northeast Dairy Project,” she says. “We did some research and the only place where I can get non-GMO grain is Morrison and Sons, right above Montpelier. It’s twice the price of GMO, and there are 3-hour hauling fees. But nobody else makes a goat pellet around here except Morrison. We need a truck full every two weeks to serve the 2 cow farms and our goat farm. We use 3 tons every month here, for the goats. I forget how much the cow farms get. Our supplier currently is Cargill, and Cargill has made a commitment to start selling non-GMO in 2017. But all of us in the Dairy Project are going to go non-GMO in the next year.”

The certification program Angela feels has helped her farm a lot is that of Animal Welfare Approved. Their blue, green and white sticker goes on every cheese and helps validate the farm among buyers who care about the treatment of farm animals.

“AWA made a pitch to the Green Market,” recalls Miller. “The executive director of AWA, Andrew Gunther, and the Green Market set up a luncheon in a New York City restaurant for all of us who sell animal products. AWA spoke at the luncheon and talked about the benefits of the program. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea, so the following year I applied. It has been quite beneficial because we can put the logo on our products. The people in New York City want to know how the animals are raised and believe in animal welfare certification.”

AWA standards are pretty strict and are based on research into animals, their origins and natural behavior. The standards are designed to minimize stress and pain on the part of the animal, even if they impose new expenses or management responsibilities on the farm. Not everyone can or is willing to abide by such strict requirements. Consider Bardwell Farm, however, feels that most of the standards are things that they ought to be doing anyway.

There are, of course, exceptions. When AWA first inspected the farm they had 75 layers in their outdoor wagon. For that many, the inspector said, they needed two doors. The whole wagon would have had to be rebuilt, so Angela reluctantly got rid of 25 birds. She figures they will build another eventually and increase the flock. Similarly, AWA feels that the space in the barn is full and there is not space to expand the goat herd unless a new barn is built, a major and costly project!

Another issue is that AWA, like the organic program, does not let you use preventive medication. You have to have a diagnosed problem first. And then if an animal is sick you have to have a vet in, develop a treatment plan, and do a herd check-up.

But there is one intestinal parasite, coccidiosis, about which Angela is particularly worried. It is caused by a protozoan, results in diarrhea in goats, and even if a doe is ultimately cured of it the disease leaves her weakened and less productive for the rest of her life. Most goat dairies buy a “medicated” grain (containing a parasiticide) to feed kids for this purpose. AWA won’t allow it’s use, however, and the farm has lost baby goats because of it.

Also, the AWA standard on reproduction for goats is that a doe can’t kid before she is 13 months old. Since gestation takes 5 months, that means a goat can’t be bred before she is 8 months old. So a goat born at the end of February could not be bred until November.

This is somewhat controversial, says Miller: “The vets I have talked to say it is better to breed them early. Over a lifetime they will be healthier producers. On the other hand, there is a very strong contingent of goat people who feel it is bad for a goat to be bred at 8 months. It would be like a thirteen year old girl having a baby.”

Peter would rather leave it to the farmer, or have a weight standard rather than an age one, because goats vary so: “If there is one that is really small at nine months, I wait until she is a little bigger. They will keep coming into heat for several months.”

Because goats originated in mountainous areas, AWA wants them to have chances to climb. To certify goat operations they require the farm to have some sort of platform or other device to enable climbing.

“We put some of the original milk stands out for them to jump on,” laughs Angela, “when they are loafing in the barn. No comment! We’re trying to run a business!”

AWA also requires that all slaughter occur at AWA certified slaughterhouses. Peter struggles to meet this one.

“I don’t know the exact standards for slaughter,” he says. “I know the unloading process has to be stress-free, so it feels more like you are just taking them to a different farm. That just has to do with the gates and the way they are set up. It cuts down on the adrenaline. But finding slaughter dates is hard, especially for goats as a lot of the slaughterhouses don’t like working with goats. Both of the ones we use are in New York state, an hour or more away. But we’re on the back burner for them.

“Another one of the things that we have been frustrated with,” he continues, “is that AWA wants us to give the goats constant access to the barn. That means we would have to leave the gates open all the time so they could go back to the barn whenever they want. If they are on pasture they are making milk, but if they are just laying in the barn they aren’t making anything. AWA is particularly interested in that access if it is raining. They don’t want goats to be in the rain. They don’t mind if cows are in the rain. They say it is scientifically proven that goats don’t like the rain.”

So he has developed moveable shelters for all the young goats, but finds that to give a shelter to every 40 goats in the milking herd, along with moving them every 12 hours and changing fences, etc. is impractical. So they leave a gate open if the weather is really bad.

“To us,” he says, “it seemed a management thing that we should be able to decide, based on the weather — hot or stormy. Our argument is that this time of year (early July) the pasture is so good that they make way more milk when they are out on pasture.”

I asked if AWA has much to say about the types of grasses used in the fields.

No,” Angela replied, laughing. “Don’t suggest it to them!”

Perhaps the most upsetting standard, as far as Miller is concerned, is that AWA wants them to take fecal samples from all the animals, including the chickens!
“How am I going to go around,” she wonders, “and catch chicken poop? I think most of the AWA standards are things that we would be doing anyway – pasturing the goats, having them outdoors, doing fecals on them and the young kids — things that any good farmers would do. Except for taking chicken fecal samples!”

AWA inspections occur once a year. Angela is impressed by the knowledge of the inspectors: “One guy who has inspected us twice is a former convention-al dairy farmer. A woman has inspected us twice, too, who is super thorough! She is a vet in the south, I believe. They are really nice people.”

They seem to want to schedule the inspections, however, for the exact time when Miller is most busy – kidding time in February.

“Twice they wanted to schedule when we were kidding,’ she groans. “That is a terrible time, when all the goats are having babies. I pleaded with them that I couldn’t spare a minute with them. That guy said: ‘What do you have to hide?’ I said, ‘All right, come. But don’t expect to talk to me!’

AWA seems to have no need for money. They give competitive grants to certified farms to help them design and upgrade housing and other facilities for the animals. Consider Bardwell got a grant for a doeling house on wheels. (Doelings are baby girl goats who have not reached reproductive age.)

“We give them their mothers colostrum right after birth,” Angela explains, “then move them to a separate barn where we have an AWA required square — a bucket with ten nipples — per pen. For the meat goats they get goat milk for the first 2 weeks, then cow’s milk. For the replacement does they get goat milk throughout.

“But AWA is amazing,” she continues. “They stay very involved with their farms. They do any kind of marketing assistance you need and don’t charge a fee. They are the only certifier who doesn’t charge a fee. I believe they are funded by a foundation formed by a very wealthy couple. The woman was dis-tressed about animal use and suffering in medical research and brought a lot of attention to that.”

Another humane label is Certified Humane, which is also pretty well established. But you have to pay for their certification, and Miller feels the onus of paying has a little taint on it. It is like you have to buy your way in, she says.

I asked Angela if what she has wrought in West Pawlet is what she was hoping when she decided to buy the farm 16 years ago.

“My intention at the outset was just to dabble with animals and cheese making,” she laughs. “The hardest part of building this business has been manag-ing and keeping all the people necessary to make it work. I didn’t have to do that in New York. I guess I didn’t really have a vision of something of this size at all.”




Thoughts on Killing and Eating Animals

There are many individuals and groups with strong feelings on the topic of raising animals for food. In preparing for this issue I contacted probably a dozen animal welfare groups and asked them if they would write, or could recommend something already written, that I could publish about how the world would be different if veganism were adopted as the prevailing practice.

I acknowledged that sometimes fundamental changes come rapidly and there are certainly people who have strong moral concerns about how we treat animals, just as there were people opposed to slavery long before it became a critical national issue. I thought readers would like to mull over what changes would come about if we made such a major alteration in the way we live

No one was interested in writing such a piece, and only one previously written piece (below) was suggested. I was surprised at this. I expected that responsible organizations would have some sort of program for how the changes they are recommending might take place, and what the world would look like afterward.

Nevertheless, I have drawn together a few short existing pieces relevant to killing and eating animals for your perusal. They are from all points of view. I hope they get you thinking.

These Animals Might Go Extinct Because No One

Wants to Eat Them

by Alastair Bland for NPR

Did New Zealand’s majestic moa go extinct because of humans’ taste for meat?

The Steller’s sea cow, the passenger pigeon and the New Zealand moa all went extinct because people developed a taste for their meat.

But other animals are going their way precisely because they are no longer preferred table fare. The Livestock Conservancy, a North Carolina organization that advocates for the preservation of rare and vanishing breeds, keeps an official list of nearly 200 domesticated birds and mammals which today are at risk of vanishing. The group is trying to generate interest in these breeds, among both consumers and farmers, to keep the animals from going extinct.

“We sometimes say, ‘You need to eat them to save them — just don’t eat them all,’ “ says Ryan Walker, the marketing and communications manager of the conservancy.

The Red Wattle, a pig with exceptionally juicy flesh, and the Randall Lineback, a cow that produces beautiful rose-red veal, are two success stories — breeds that were close to oblivion but that foodie ranchers have revived.

But others haven’t been so lucky. And it may be because lately no one has wanted to eat them.

There are fewer than 200 Choctaw hogs left, for example. This pig was prized by the Native American Choctaw tribe as a meat source. But displacement of the tribe led to the breed’s downfall. Today, Choctaw hogs live on just a few farms in a single county in Oklahoma. The animals are still extremely vulnerable to inbreeding and, Walker says, to natural disasters. “They could potentially get wiped out by one tornado,” he says.

But Walker says the conservancy has received calls from people around the country interested in rearing the pigs, and he guesses that within several years the breed’s population will start to increase. If the Choctaw is lucky, it should start appearing in butcher shops for the first time.

Many, if not most, heritage food animals are said to have a flavor that’s distinct from modern mainstream breeds – flavor that can now be appreciated by foodies seeking novelty and quality. But many of these breeds have been swiftly declining since about 70 years ago, when certain breeds began to dominate industrial livestock production.

UN Urges Global Move To Meat And Dairy-Free Diet

by Felicity Carus in The Guardian

 

A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, poverty and the worst impacts of climate change a UN report says.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals.

The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.

Meat-Eating Is the Number One Cause of  Worldwide  Species  Extinction

by Natasha Gelling from Think Progress

According to a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment by researchers at Florida International University in Miami, livestock production’s impact on land use is “likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions” — a problem the researchers think will only get worse as population growth increases the global demand for meat.

The study is particularly interesting to scientists because research linking livestock’s relationship to biodiversity loss has been lacking, says Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College who was not involved in the study.

“Now we can say, only slightly fancifully: You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot,” Eshel said.

To understand livestock production’s impact on biodiversity, researchers at Florida International University mapped areas that have exceptionally high percentages of native plants and animal species — known as biodiversity hotspots.

The researchers then mapped areas where livestock production is expected to increase in the future, and determined how much land would be lost as a result of expanding meat operations, using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization and other studies about historic livestock production and land use conversion in those areas. Then, they compared the biodiversity hotspots with the expected expansion of meat production.

They found that of the areas expected to have the greatest conversion of land use for agriculture — from forest to land dedicated to livestock production — 15 were in “megadiverse” countries that have the greatest diversity of species. The study concludes that in the 15 “megadiverse countries,” land used for livestock production will likely increase by 30 to 50 percent — some 3,000,000 square kilometers (about 741 million acres).

“These changes will have major, negative impacts on biodiversity,” said Brian Machovina, the study’s lead author. “Many, many species will be lost.”

And though meat consumption in the United States has fallen steadily since peaking in the 1970s, meat consumption worldwide continues to rise, driven by technological advancements, liberalized trade, and growing economies. Livestock production is also an incredibly important source of economic security for millions of the world’s poor, providing stable income for 987 million around the world.

Machovina and his colleagues do suggest some mitigation efforts that could curb the loss of biodiversity from meat production — namely, eat less meat. The study says that in order to limit the worst biodiversity losses, the average diet should get no more than 10 percent of its calories from meat, and that pork, chicken, and fish are less resource-intensive options for meat eaters.

But while meat production can have a negative impact on species biodiversity and climate change, it’d be unwise to quit meat production altogether says Clayton Marlow, a grassland ecologist at Montana State University, Bozeman. He argues that the real issue facing biodiversity loss isn’t the expansion of meat production, but the expansion of urban sprawl, which takes away land that could potentially be used for agricultural production.

Excerpts from:

Will Animals Go Extinct If The World Becomes Vegan?

by Stian Karlsen

A very common question from meat eaters is that of what would happen to animals if vegans had their way. Would they become extinct if we all stopped eating them?

First, this makes the assumption that a life in captivity, torture and slaughter is beneficial over not being born in the first place.

Second, people often act like we’re doing the animals a big favor, and that we’ve created some sort of mutual bond, wherein we breed and house them, and in return, they “give” us their flesh and skin to eat and wear. I don’t recall them ever signing up for that.

The reason there are so many farm animals to begin with is because humans create (breed) them. While I can’t speak for any individual cow, I assume that being bred, abused and killed isn’t very desirable. If the cow was never born, she’d never have any thoughts on the matter. So please don’t act like we’re doing this because it’s the best thing for the animals. That’s a preposterous justification at best.

If there were no money in farm animals anymore, the meat and dairy industry wouldn’t bother breeding and feeding them either. That makes sense, and is likely a reality we would have to face. Not breeding such extreme numbers, the animal population would definitely dwindle into smaller numbers. Some animals could make it in the wild, while others couldn’t. To those lucky enough to be released, at least they’d have a chance compared with none at all. Most, though, would probably be killed. But if the world went vegan, there at least wouldn’t be another batch of animals ready to take their place, only to keep the misery machine going. The bottom line is that we would cease to breed animals into a cruel and unjust system meant only to exploit and kill.

I could be wrong, but I imagine that if it were me, and my life and date of death were absolutely determined, I might be inclined to die. Rather that, than live a life of suffering, only to be killed anyway.

Regardless of what would happen to the animals if we all went vegan, asking about extinction isn’t really that relevant. The bottom line is that if some species went extinct, that does nothing to justify the cruelty taking place here and now. Nor does it do anything about the detrimental effects the meat and dairy industry has on our air, water and environment. And it certainly doesn’t address the animals we are driving to extinction through ruining natural habitats to make room for this industry to stay alive.

These are the things we should focus on, not the possible extinction of some of the species we eat today.

If you were guaranteed a life of misery and death, would you say that’s a life worth living?

Excerpt from:

“Animals Make Us Human”

by Temple Grandin

Over the years I have done lots of thinking and have come to the conclusion that our relationship with the animals we use for food must be symbiotic. Symbiosis is a mutually beneficial relationship between two different living things. We provide the farm animals with food and housing and in return, most of the offspring from the breeding cows on the ranches are used for food. I vividly remember the day after I had installed the first center-track conveyor restrainer in a plant in Nebraska, when I stood on an overhead catwalk, overlooking vast herds of cattle in the stockyard below me. All these animals were going to their death in a system that I had designed. I started to cry and then a flash of insight came into my mind. None of the cattle that were at this slaughter plant would have been born if people had not bred and raised them. They would never have lived at all. People forget that nature can be very harsh, and death in the wild is often more painful and stressful than death in a modern plant. Out on a western ranch, I saw a calf that had its hide ripped completely off on one side by coyotes. It was still alive and the rancher had to shoot it to put it out of its misery. If I had a choice, going to a well-run modern slaughter plant would be preferable to being ripped apart alive.

Hog Slaughter

by Garrison Keillor

Choctaw Hog

This is the time of year when people would slaughter, back when people did that — Rollie and Eunice Hochstetter, I think, were the last in Lake Wobegon. They kept pigs, and they’d slaughter them in the fall when the weather got cold and the meat would keep. I went out to see them slaughter hogs once when I was a kid, along with my cousin and my uncle, who was going to help Rollie.

Today, if you are going to slaughter an animal for meat, you send it in to the locker plant and pay to have the guys there do it. When you slaughter pigs, it takes away your appetite for pork for a while. Because the pigs let you know that they don’t care for it. They don’t care to be grabbed and dragged over to where the other pigs went and didn’t come back.

It was quite a thing for a kid to see. To see living flesh, and the living insides of another creature. I expected to be disgusted by it, but I wasn’t — I was fascinated. I got as close as I could. And I remember that my cousin and I sort of got carried away in the excitement of it all and we went down to the pigpen and we started throwing little stones at pigs to watch them jump and squeal and run.

And all of a sudden, I felt a big hand on my shoulder, and I was spun around, and my uncle’s face was three inches away from mine. He said “If I ever see you do that again I’ll beat you ’til you can’t stand up, you hear?” And we heard.

I knew at the time that his anger had to do with the slaughter — that it was a ritual and it was done as a Ritual. It was done swiftly, and there was no foolishness. No joking around, very little conversation. People went about their jobs — men and women — knowing exactly what to do. And always with respect for the animals that would become our food.

And our throwing stones at pigs violated this ceremony, and this ritual, which they went through. Rollie was the last one to slaughter his own hogs. One year he had an accident; the knife slipped, and an animal that was only wounded got loose and ran across the yard before it fell. He never kept pigs after that. He didn’t feel he was worthy of it.

It’s all gone. Children growing up in Lake Wobegon will never have a chance to see it. It was a powerful experience, life and death hung in the balance. A life in which people made do, made their own, lived off the land, lived between the ground and God. It’s lost, not only to this world: but also to memory.