L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Farm Animals

Investigators recommend changes at Virginia factory farm where Humane Society alleges abuse against pigs

Pig Farm

RICHMOND, Va. — An independent investigative team is recommending changes aftermistreatment of breeding pigs at a Virginia farm operated by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork producer.

The recommendations include reviewing training programs and euthanasia procedures, initiating unannounced inspections by third parties, and increasing the number of site visits by corporate management of the Smithfield, Va.-based company.

Smithfield released the independent investigators' recommendations late Wednesday and said each will immediately be addressed, although the statement did not say if or when they would implemented.

The Humane Society of the United States last week released results from an undercover investigation that showed breeding pigs abused and crammed into small gestation crates at the Waverly farm of livestock production subsidiary Murphy-Brown.

Photos and video from the Humane Society's investigation showed about 1,000 large female pigs crammed into metal crates that severely limited their ability to move. The pigs stay in the crates, also called sow stalls, during their four-month pregnancies. Afterward, they are moved for about three weeks to a crate large enough to nurse their piglets before being artificially inseminated and placed back into the gestation crates.

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Pigs subject to abuse at Virginia factory farm, Humane Society of the United States says

Pigs

RICHMOND, Va. — The Humane Society of the United States said Wednesday that an undercover worker at a farm owned by the world's largest pork producer saw breeding pigs abused and crammed into small gestation crates.

The animal welfare organization released the results of a monthlong undercover investigation at a Waverly, Va., factory farm owned by Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc. Murphy-Brown is Smithfield's livestock production subsidiary and is the world's largest producer of pigs for slaughter. The Humane Society called on Smithfield to renew its commitment to phasing out the crates.

Photos and video from the investigation showed about 1,000 large female pigs crammed into metal crates that severely limited their ability to move. The pigs stay in the crates, also called sow stalls, during their four-month pregnancies. Afterward, they are moved for about three weeks to a crate large enough to nurse their piglets before being artificially inseminated and placed back into the gestation crates.

Seven states have passed laws banning gestation crates, and the European Union is phasing out their use by 2013. However, the crates are legal in Virginia.

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Caption this: Donkey kicks up its heels at UK sanctuary

DonkeyRoll

Don't worry -- nothing bad has happened to this donkey. In fact, something very good has happened to it: Once in need of rescue, it now resides at a virtual paradise for equines, England's Donkey Sanctuary, which is one of the largest charities of its kind in the world.

The sanctuary consists of eight farms across Devon and Dorset that have collectively housed more than 14,000 needy donkeys and mules, many of which were rescued from abusive or neglectful situations. Better still: Some of the sanctuary's rescued donkeys participate in a riding program for children with special needs. Others perform different types of outreach work, including visiting hospice facilities.

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Farm Sanctuary asks Obama to send pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys to its rescue facility

Turkey

The humble turkey's connection to American politics dates back at least as far Benjamin Franklin, and more recently, of course, it has figured prominently in an event that has become political tradition: The President's annual pardoning of a bird otherwise destined for human consumption.

Although many animal lovers can get behind the idea of sparing a bird, one advocacy group, Farm Sanctuary, is asking for an adjustment in the turkey-pardoning protocol. Farm Sanctuary, which operates two large-scale rescue farms, is asking President Obama to allow this year's pardoned turkeys to be moved to its Watkins Glen, N.Y., sanctuary, rather than to a Disney park as planned.

According to Farm Sanctuary, it is uniquely qualified to provide care for turkeys bred for food, which are a far cry from their wild ancestors and often experience leg problems and other maladies as a result of breeding programs that emphasize fast weight gain rather than long-term health. "At Disney theme parks, which have been entrusted with the care of pardoned turkeys since 2005, many of the birds have died within one year," a petition circulated by the group reads in part. "At Farm Sanctuary, these birds can live happily and comfortably for many years."

Farm Sanctuary isn't the only animal advocacy group to have qualms about the pardoning ceremony. Jennifer Fearing, California state director for the Humane Society of the United States, told Unleashed last year that she sees the ritual as "an odd one, in that it suggests that turkeys have committed some offense for which they can be pardoned. In reality, these turkeys have done nothing to deserve the punishment we force them to endure on our nation's factory farms."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has previously urged President Obama to send pardoned turkeys to an animal rescue farm instead of a Disney park.

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Former President George W. Bush pets a turkey named Flyer after pardoning him in a 2006 ceremony. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

Study shows fewer veterinary students are planning to work with large animals

Cow Vet

FRESNO, Calif. — The number of veterinarians who work with cows, pigs, chickens and other farm animals is on the decline as many prepare to retire and fewer students opt for large animal practice, results from a recent study showed.

Current vets said they already drive for hours to meet with clients, and officials are worried about the impact on food safety because large-animal veterinarians serve as inspectors at ranches and slaughterhouses.

"They're basically on the front line when it comes to maintaining a safe food supply, not only in the U.S.  but in products we export. Vets diagnose diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans," said David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Assn. Results of a survey conducted by the group were released last month.

The study found that only 2% of veterinary school students in 2010 graduating class said they planned to work mostly with large, non-pet animals. An additional 7% studied a mixed curriculum that included all types of animals, but the majority of responses leaned toward practicing pet care.

"We have known for years anecdotally that vets were having a difficult time finding people to work at their practice or selling it when they retire," Kirkpatrick said.

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Spanish party seeks to overturn Catalonia's recent ban on bullfighting

Bullfight

MADRID -- Recent legislation banning bullfighting in a region of Spain was challenged in court Thursday by a major political party.

Pio Garcia-Escudero, spokesman for the Popular Party, said the appeal to the Constitutional Court argues that legislators in the powerful northeastern region of Catalonia violated several articles of the Spanish Constitution. They include the right to attend cultural events, artistic liberty and rights of bullfighting businesses in the area, he said.

Catalonia's parliament banned bullfighting in July because of its alleged cruelty to animals. The ban takes effect in 2012.

Speaking for his conservative opposition party, Garcia-Escudero said that although Spain's regional governments had control over bullfighting, they could not prohibit it.

The Constitutional Court can take months or years to make decisions.

Bullfights, and the bull runs that often precede them, have become the focus of debate since Catalonia became the second region to ban such fights, after the Canary Islands in 1991.

The Popular Party has campaigned for nationwide protection of bullfighting.

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-- Associated Press

Photo: Bullfighter Jesus Millan performs during a bullfight at the El Pilar Fair in Zaragoza, Spain, on Oct. 12. Credit: Javier Cebollada / European Pressphoto Agency

Ohio dairy farm worker sentenced in animal cruelty case after release of undercover video

Conklin Dairy

MARYSVILLE, Ohio — An Ohio dairy farm worker accused of beating cows while unwittingly being filmed has pleaded guilty to six counts of animal cruelty.

A court clerk says Billy Joe Gregg Jr., 25, was sentenced Friday in Marysville on the misdemeanors to eight months in jail. That was cut to four months because of time already served.

Gregg must also have no contact with animals for three years.

He was fired in May by Conklin Dairy Farms Inc. after the group Mercy for Animals released video it said showed Gregg and others abusing cows with crowbars and pitchforks.

The group released a statement Friday calling Gregg's sentence "a slap on the wrist" and "an outrage."

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-- Associated Press

Photo: A screen grab from Mercy for Animals' video depicts a dairy farm worker prodding cows with a pitchfork. (The video in its entirety is available for viewing on the group's website. Warning: It contains graphic images.)

Spanish region of Catalonia endorses other bull-related events after banning bullfighting

Bull with flaming horns

MADRID — Lawmakers who banned bullfighting in Spain's Catalonia region this summer voted Wednesday to endorse other traditions that have been criticized as cruel to bulls, such as attaching burning sticks to their horns as they chase human thrill seekers.

The vote will only affect the Catalonia region of northeast Spain, but it addresses another manifestation of this country's timeless fascination with bulls and the testing of people's bravery with the snorting animals.

Besides watching the deadly duel of matador and bull, Spaniards run with bulls in Pamplona every year, spear them to death from horseback in another northern town -- neither are in Catalonia -- and cordon off town squares to let even children dodge feisty calves of the kind used to breed top-grade fighter bulls.

In July, Catalonia banned bullfighting on grounds of cruelty, becoming only the second Spanish region to do away with the centuries-old tradition, after the Canary Islands.

Wednesday's bill -- approved by a 114-14 vote, with five abstentions -- protects other bull-related traditions in Catalonia that activists find repulsive.

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Your morning adorable: Dog and chicken play together

We love the funny relationship between Maya the dog and Dora the chicken, who both enjoy a good game. How many times have you seen a dog and a chicken play together -- and with the chicken initiating it to boot? Not many, that's for sure.

"I know Dora is not scared of Maya, because she'll stop in the middle of playing to preen herself, or just lie down for a while, and Maya will just wait until Dora starts the game again," YouTube user Baileydonk, the guardian of both animals, explains. "I guess all young animals need to play fight -- maybe Dora is learning skills that will help her with cats later."

We love the way Maya's tail wags nonstop as her game with Maya progresses, and we love how gentle she is -- not one tooth or claw touches that chicken -- with her much smaller friend. (Incidentally, Maya is equally gentle with Baileydonk's infant son, as you can see in another video.) Oh, Maya and Dora, we could all learn a thing or two from you!

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Video: Baileydonk via YouTube

New Guinness world record holders include long-tongued dog, giant bunny, balloon-crazy terrier

The release of a new list of Guinness world records always means crazy animal feats and statistics. We typically await a fresh Guinness book with a mixture of enthusiasm and dread, and this year's list didn't disappoint.

Above, meet Puggy, a Pekingese from Texas who scored a world record for Longest Tongue on a Dog. (We have a bit of trouble with the wording of this record, which is Guinness', not ours. If, say, Gene Simmons were to lick a dog, could he theoretically win the record, ousting an honest long-tongued dog like Puggy? We humbly suggest to the Guinness folks that they reword this record in future book editions, something along the lines of "Dog With the Longest Tongue." But then, we are nit-picky.)

Puggy is a rescue dog -- making him tops in our book -- who was adopted by Becky Stanford eight years ago. "From being a stray dog, being dumped, to being a Guinness World Record holder is just phenomenal," Stanford told CNN. "I just can't believe it."

If you're wondering -- and how could you not be? -- Puggy's tongue measures 4.5 inches. As viewers of the above video will be able to tell, it doesn't fit too well in his mouth and can make eating a bit difficult, but it doesn't seem to slow him down!

See more animal world record-holders -- from the smallest cow and the smallest dog to the tallest dog and the longest rabbit -- after the jump!

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