From meat to dairy and everything in between, animal agriculture’s scandals over the years proves that it is an industry without ethics or accountability.
Again and again, the animal agriculture industries find themselves involved in shady and secretive actions. Whether it’s creating brand new diseases and causing pandemics, colluding and paying off government officials, or lying to the public, these industries have done it all. So this is a round-up of some of the most shocking and shady actions committed by animal agriculture industries so far (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).
American Egg Board vs Hampton Creek
In 2014, US company Hampton Creek, now called Just, was experiencing a significant amount of interest in their plant-based egg and mayonnaise substitutes. This concerned the American Egg Board, a US government-appointed agricultural body, who as shown in emails acquired through a freedom of information request, viewed them as being a “major threat”. Consequently, they launched a concerted effort to attack Hampton Creek, including trying to get Whole Foods to stop selling the product and advising Unilever on how to go about building a lawsuit against Hampton Creek for false advertising.
On top of this, one of the heads of the USDA joined the attack on Hampton Creek and suggested that the American Egg Board should contact the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to see if they could help with their concerns. This led to the FDA ruling that the Hampton Creek product Just Mayo could no longer be called Mayo because it doesn’t contain eggs. And just when you thought that a story about government agencies and government-appointed organisations colluding against a start-up couldn’t get any more shocking, the emails obtained revealed that the head of the American Egg Board was involved in a conversation where an executive vice-president of an AEB member organisation said in reference to Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick, “Can we pool our money and put a hit on him?” On top of that, there was an email from the executive vice president of the American Egg Board who offered “to contact some of my old buddies in Brooklyn to pay Mr Tetrick a visit.”
An investigation into these emails resulted, looking into whether or not the AEB had illegally used funds in their anti-Hampton Creek campaign. However the investigation was led by the USDA, the government department that appointed the members of the AEB and who themselves were involved in the allegations. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, they found no criminal wrongdoing and decided that emails were made in jest. If the tables had been turned, and members of Hampton Creek had been sending emails about paying for hits on members of government-appointed agencies, would the USDA have still felt the same?
The BSE crisis
On the 22nd December 1984, a cow named ‘number 133’ who was being farmed in the UK developed head tremors and a loss of coordination. Two months later, she was dead. At the same time, other cows began to show similar symptoms and in 1986 BSE, also referred to as Mad Cow Disease, officially became recognised as a new disease. BSE is a fatal disease that slowly destroys the brain and spinal cord of cattle, causing severe neurological degeneration and holes in the brain which can lead to the animals trembling, falling over and showing signs of severe anxiety and distress.
BSE was created because farmers were feeding cows meat and bone meal, which is the rendered remains of the animal flesh considered not suitable for human consumption. The problem arose because in the meat and bone meal were the ground-up remains of other ruminants, including cows. Farmers were forcing herbivorous animals to cannibalise simply because it was a cheap way to feed them.
As the number of cases began to increase, the UK government began slaughtering millions of cows with 4.4 million being culled in total. The British public became increasingly worried that they could become infected by eating beef. So in 1990 the agriculture minister at that time, John Gummer, attempted to feed his own child a cow burger in front of the British press – she shied away from the burger and so he took a big bite instead declaring the burger “absolutely delicious”. Unfortunately, five years later, on May 21st 1995, 19-year-old Stephen Churchill became the first known human to die from vCJD, a disease that the UK government initially denied was linked to BSE, even going so far as to continue to emphasise that British beef was safe to eat. There had also been numerous dairy farmers who had died from CJD leading up to Stephen Churchill’s death, but the UK government was adamant there was no link, even though behind the scenes there was a growing unease. However, in 1996 the British government backtracked and declared that vCJD came from the consumption of BSE infected cow flesh, however by this point the damage was done. Nobody knew just how much infected flesh had been eaten.
vCJD, similar to BSE in cows, causes neurological decline with hallucinations, blindness, confusion, loss of speech, loss of bladder control and movement and eventually death. It is a disease that would not have existed if it wasn’t for the actions of the farming industry and the failure of the government to recognise the terrible problem. As of 2015, there had been 229 known cases of vCJD and 229 deaths. It is always fatal. And it is always an absolutely horrible death.
Worryingly, according to The Lancet, there is now evidence that vCJD can lay dormant for more than 50 years and a study in the British Medical Journal showed that as many as 1 in 2000 people in the UK may be carriers of the abnormal protein that is associated with vCJD. This means that the worst of the crisis for humans may be yet to come or may already be happening – the rate of cases diagnosed as ordinary human CJD has doubled since the mid-1990s. However, most of these cases are not given autopsies, meaning there’s no way of knowing if it is the variant caused by BSE or not. And there’s certainly no incentive from the government to further investigate this either, meaning there could be a silent epidemic happening right now.
Tyson and Government collusion
Dead zones are areas which due to pollution, manure and agricultural runoff become hypoxic, meaning that the oxygen levels in the water are too low to sustain most forms of life.
The worst dead zone ever recorded was in the Gulf of Mexico where a seasonal hypoxic zone forms every year. Its size varies from 5,000 to 22,000 square kilometres. This dead zone, according to leading environmental campaign group Mighty Earth, is the fault of the animal farming industries and in particular companies such as Tyson Foods, who generate around 55 million tons of manure every year. In fact, Tyson is the second-largest polluter in the US and has been subject to multiple lawsuits for illegally dumping manure and slaughterhouse waste into waterways, even polluting drinking water in Oklahoma.
The problem became so prevalent that in 2005 the Oklahoma attorney-general at that time, Democrat Drew Edmonson, sued major poultry producers including Tyson over the waste and pollution. The case eventually went to trial in 2009 and lasted for 52 days and included 60 witnesses. Once the trial ended it was left in the hands of the federal judge.
However, when Scott Pruitt, then became the Oklahoma Attorney General and took over the case, the judge decided to not issue a ruling and Pruitt did not file an appeal either. It was later discovered by the Environmental Working Group that Pruitt had received over $21,000 in campaign contributions from executives and lawyers at Tyson, during the time of the lawsuit and over $40,000 in total from the poultry industry. In fact, almost a tenth of Pruitt’s campaign contributions came from agricultural sources. To this day, over a decade later, the judge has still not issued a ruling on the case. Astoundingly, Pruitt later became administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, the government agency that is tasked to oversee environmental protection matters, with one of the core purposes of the job being to enforce the nation’s Clean Water Act.
And when Scott Pruitt was the head of the EPA, he even enlisted one of his staffers to set up a meeting with an executive of Chick Fil-A as his wife wanted to open up a franchised Chick Fil-A of her own.
There have been 415 dead zones identified worldwide, with the number of hypoxic areas increasing from 10 in 1960, to at least 169 fifty years later. The fishing industry also further contributes to the creation of marine dead zones with the Baltic Sea being home to many of the world’s largest dead zones, and with the overfishing of cod also being highlighted as a leading contributor alongside agricultural run-off.
Bottom trawling also adds to the problem. When the large, weighted nets are dragged across the seafloor, everything that happens to be in the way gets swept up too, leading to huge amounts of bycatch and damage to the seafloor. This in turn creates harmful algae blooms and oxygen-deficient dead zones.
2 Sisters investigation
Back in 2018, an undercover investigation was carried out into 2 Sisters Food Group, which is the largest supplier of chicken flesh to UK supermarkets and produces one-third of all poultry products eaten in the UK. The investigation revealed that the company was tampering with food safety records and duping consumers into buying flesh that was past its use-by date by switching labels, which workers confirmed they had been asked to do by supervisors.
The investigation also revealed that workers were altering the records of where chickens were slaughtered, which is extremely dangerous as it could mean that the flesh wouldn’t be recalled if there was an issue with food contamination or disease. On top of this, chickens who had been returned by supermarkets were being repackaged and then sent out again with new use-by dates. This was documented happening with chickens who had been packed for the supermarket Lidl but were then returned to the processing facility and so were then repackaged with pieces of other chickens, and packaged for Tesco with the label of one of its fake promotional farms, called ‘Willow Farms’, which comes with the statement that the contents of the pack are “reared exclusively for Tesco”.
This investigation followed on from another one back in 2014 that focussed again on 2 sisters food group and Faccenda, one of the other major chicken flesh producers in the UK. The investigation revealed factory floors flooded with chicken guts, with the company not stopping the slaughter line even as the guts continued to pile up. The undercover reporter witnessed carcasses with faecal contamination being packaged for sale, however, this isn’t abnormal. In fact, it is just widely accepted that meat is contaminated with faeces. The problem is so common that poultry companies in the US were considering using super glue to seal the anuses of birds before they were slaughtered so that they couldn’t excrete whilst being killed.
Faecal contamination is so prevalent that almost half of the chicken flesh in grocery stores in the US is contaminated with E-coli and two-thirds of fresh retail chicken flesh in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter, with 280,000 people becoming ill and 100 dying each year in the UK alone from campylobacter.
FBI informant recruitment
Back in early 2020, a truck driver for Iowa Select, the largest pig flesh company in Iowa, was growing increasingly frustrated by the law breaking and general disregard he was witnessing towards the pigs.The employee, Lucas Walker, was so frustrated he even called government state regulators, who didn’t care about his concerns or the law breaking that was going on at the company. But that was hardly surprising – after all, the owners of Iowa Select had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars towards republican election campaigns and were extremely well connected.
Walker decided instead to reach out to the animal liberation group Direct Action Everywhere instead. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit causing major supply chain issues in the meat industry, leading to millions of animals being culled including the pigs at Iowa Select who were slaughtered via the process of ventilation shutdown – this is where the pigs are trapped in barns that are sealed before the ventilation is turned off and hot steam pumped in. The pigs roast to death over the course of many hours.
Walker, disgusted by what he was witnessing, secretly filmed the process and sent the footage to DxE who released it, causing a public outcry and huge media attention. This caused significant problems for the animal agriculture industry and the Vice President of strategic engagement at the organisation Animal Agriculture Alliance, stated that she was “contacting our FBI and Department of Homeland Security contacts to raise our concerns.”
Walker was then called into the office one day and confronted by a private investigator working for Iowa Select. Walker discussed what he had done and was asked to attend a meeting a few days later with an FBI agent. The following week, an Iowa Select executive picked up Walker from his home and drove him to meet the FBI agent, who began questioning Walker about DxE. And although it may seem like the FBI would just be interested in getting some more information about Walker’s experiences with DXE, it turns out that their motives were even shadier. During the conversation, the agent’s true motivations were revealed when he asked Walker if he would be an infiltrator and report back to the FBI about what DxE were up to and what strategies could be implemented to undermine them.
A few days later there was a follow-up meeting in an unmarked van in a grocery car park. This time there were two FBI agents who began asking Walker again if he would act as an informant and infiltrate DxE to gain information and attempt to undermine them. Walker declined the offer, confused as to why an executive from Iowa Select was driving him to meet with the FBI who in turn were more interested in him infiltrating a non-violent organisation than they were addressing the crimes and animal safety violations being committed by Iowa Select, including the ventilation shutdown that he had exposed.
Disturbed by the fact that federal law enforcement agencies were effectively in the pocket of Iowa Select and working in their interests rather than upholding the law, Walker went public to the press to expose what had happened. He then received one last phone call from the FBI. The bureau no longer needs you as an informant, the agent said.
All of these stories represent the power these industries have and the complete disregard they have for the planet, the animals and for us. They poison us, they poison the environment, they collude with the government and they violate the bodies of billions of animals. For too long the animal farming industries have been able to operate with impunity, but we have the power to hold them to account. It’s time to exercise that power.
Original source: https://www.surgeactivism.org