The US Supreme Court in National Pork Producers v Ross upheld California's Proposition 12, which bans the sale of pork from pigs in stalls so small that they cannot stand, lie down, or turn around, so-called gestation crates. Proposition 12 is one of a growing number of state laws that impose more humane requirements on farmers.
There is a risk of animal to human spillover of viruses in the future. We neglect it at our own peril.
"DNR confirms highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild Red Foxes"
Three wild Red Fox kits represent the first detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Wisconsin mammals. Read the DNR press release here.
On 5/4/22 Wisconsin's Senator Ron Johnson moved the Senate to instruct the USICA conferees to reject any proposals to prohibit the possession, acquirement, receipt, transportation, sale, or purchase of mink raised in captivity in the US for fur production. The Senate agreed to the motion. Wisconsin's other senator, Senator Tammy Baldwin, supported the motion.
On 4/21/22 Senator Johnson wrote a letter (signed by himself and three other senators) to the Senate Conferees expressing their strong opposition to the language in the America COMPETES Act banning the farming and trade of American mink. Read Senator Johnson's letter here.
The U.S. House passed the America COMPETES Act which includes an amendment with a "sweeping ban on mink farming citing cruelty and contagion risks". The America COMPETES Act and the USICA (United States Innovation and Competition Act) passed by the Senate, will now go to a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two acts. Three members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation will be members of this conference committee: Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative Tom Tiffany and Representative Scott Fitzgerald.
Wisconsin is the largest mink-pelt producing state in the U.S (see WI details below). On April 17, 2022 the Detroit Free Press published an article, 4 Michiganders with Covid-19 strain unique to mink were likely 1st U.S. spillover cases. Read the article here.
"Highly pathogenic avian influenza strain confirmed in Wisconsin's wild bird populations"
As HPAI has continued to spread across the Midwest's commercial poultry factories it has now been detected in wild birds. "The samples were collected from a Cooper's Hawk and a Bald Eagle submitted from Dane County, a Lesser Scaup from Columbia County, a Red-tailed hawk from Grant County, a Canada Goose from Milwaukee County, and a Trumpeter Swan from Polk County." Read the DNR press release here.
Fur farms in Wisconsin
Mink farmers in WI have been added to the list to soon receive COVID-19 vaccines. In mink farms around the world they are finding that the virus is spreading rapidly and transmuting as well. Northern Denmark has gone on lockdown as a variant has been identified in 12 humans due to rapid spread among the farmed mink population. WI also fears that it could spread to the wildlife population as one case has already been documented in addition to the documented COVID-infected human fur farm worker.
11/06/20: COVID has quietly entered WI’s mega-industrial mink farm system. As of November 6, 2020 a second mink farm in Taylor County has now tested positive for COVID-19 leading to 2,000+ animal deaths. Wisconsin is the largest mink pelt producing state in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million animal skins sold annually,Due to COVID-19, the world’s largest fur auctioneer, which is Denmark, has announced (11/2020) it will shut down after this season due to a “coronavirus mutation” within it’s Denmark farmed mink population. “...a government agency tasked with mapping COVID-19 had discovered a rare mutated version of the virus in 11 people who had been infected by minks...” There is concern this could impact vaccine efforts across the world so research will continue. Earlier this month, Denmark ordered the killing of 17 million mink due to COVID-19.
It is well known that stress on caged animals, revealed in their repetitive unnatural behaviors as seen in all factory farms, compromises their immune systems not to mention their well being. One needs to only spend a few minutes in a mink factory farm to become aware of this.
COVID-19 & DEER
July 28, 2021: the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it had recently completed a study of blood samples of free-ranging white-tailed deer for antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 in four states (Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania) which indicates that the animals were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. The study was designed to determine exposure of the deer to SARS-CoV-2 in their natural environment. It was not designed to determine whether the deer were replicating and shedding the virus. "APHIS is working closely with federal and state partners, including the Department of the Interior, the CDC, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, to determine next steps."
August 27, 2021: the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) announced confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in wild white-tailed deer in Ohio. "These are the first deer confirmed with the SARS-CoV-2 virus worldwide, although earlier studies have shown both that deer can be experimentally infected with the virus and that some wild deer had antibodies to the virus. *** We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Based on the information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low. People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection." (Emphasis added)
November 16, 2021: the Wisconsin DATCP issued a White-tailed Deer and SARS-CoV-2 Update. "Recent studies have shown that white-tailed deer in multiple states have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans ... While there is no evidence of white-tailed deer being a source of infection for humans, we cannot rule out the possibility of viral mutation to become a source for human or other animal infections, as has been implicated with mink-to-human and mink-to-pet infections." Read the update here.
November 19, 2021: the Wisconsin DNR issued a release. "The Wisconsin DNR is aware of recent findings that people can spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to white-tailed deer." Read the release here.
February 2, 2022: the PBS News Hour reported that "Scientists discover shockingly high rates of COVID infections among white-tailed deer." Read the transcript and see the video here.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”
PANDEMICS AND WI'S FACTORY FARMS
We’ve always known that factory farms (pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, fur animals...) are inherently inhumane and unconscionably cruel. They’ve also led to detrimental consequences for Wisconsin’s watersheds, air and land and are the greatest contributors to deforestation around the world. Since the rise and domination of industrial farming by corporations over the last four decades there has been a constant drip, drip, drip of research warning us of all the hazards of CAFOs ( Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Now with the appearance of COVID-19 and its pandemic spread, on-going research has escalated the warnings that industrial farms are a ticking time bomb and harbinger of viral strains leading to more virulent pandemics to come (see research below). In November of 2019 the American Public Health Ass’n called for a moratorium on all new and expanding CAFOs, also known as factory farms.
Pig Factory Farms in Wisconsin
May 2022: The Wisconsin DNR has issued a wastewater permit for Roth Feeder Pig, Inc. to build a second facility in Crawford County that would house 8,160 swine and produce around 140,000 piglets each year. The site is expected to generate around 9.4 million gallons of manure and wastewater each year that would be spread on roughly 1,400 acres of land. Read the Wisconsin Public Radio article here.
March 2022: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to a California law which attempts to nullify California's voter-approved ballot measure dealing with hog confinement. The law applies to all pork sold in California regardless of where it was raised. Read the Wisconsin Examiner article here.
The 2009 swine influenza pandemic that lasted for about 19 months, from January 2009 to August 2010, and was the second of two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the first being the 1918–1920 Spanish flu pandemic). Worldwide approximately 284,000 people died of this 2009 influenza.
“...A 2015 study carried out by Martha Nelson, of the US National Institutes of Health, and colleagues mapped the genetic sequences of swine flu viruses and found that Europe and the US – the largest global exporters of pigs – are also the largest exporters of swine flu...the evidence is now strong that the way meat is produced – and not just in China – contributed to COVID-19...”
Past and ongoing research shows that the institutionalization of animal agriculture has made it a breeding ground for continued pandemics (some research listed below). We do know that pigs on industrialized farms are hosts of influenza viruses by virtue of their confinement in close quarters. Viruses by nature mutate and will move back and forth between confined animals and human workers.
Due to corporate agriculture’s control of the Wisconsin legislature, Wisconsin’s DATCP will confirm that we have NO regulations that require factory farm owners to regularly test their animals for viral disease, animal waste, waste runoff into watersheds or regular testing of humans working in any facilities associated with the industry.
The industrial factory farming of animals has created so much suffering for so many animals. Farm animals have been transformed into commodities devoid of any compassion for their fate. They have no access to soil, sunlight or free movement. These beautiful creatures are crammed into tiny cubicles, cages and the like preventing them from engaging in their most basic habits: grazing, foraging and wallowing. Inflicting this much suffering onto animals will come back to bite us as it does with any kind of cruelty. Another pandemic will most likely be that bite.
State and Local Level
Contact your elected officials such as Wisconsin legislators, county supervisors, city commissioners. They need to show leadership and press for reform such as moratoriums and regulations such as regular testing of animal waste, watersheds as well as farm factory workers within their jurisdiction.
For example, in January of 2020 Iowa environmental groups and Iowa residents rallied at the state capitol to push consideration of a House bill calling for a statewide moratorium on hog farm permits. The majority party blocked the bill from moving forward.
Request your town do an annual water test (nitrogen & E. coli) of its water facilities, especially if you live in rural areas. This is a public resource and you have every right to know what the pollutant levels are in your area’s watershed. This will put pressure on the town board as well.
CAFO networking group: https://sustainruralwisconsin.org/how-to-stop-a-cafo-in-your-community/
Don’t buy animal fur or animal skin apparel.
If you still eat animals, know your farm and buy local. Small farms that raise animals humanely will take bulk orders for their animal-derived food and will deliver as well. Families can group together as a buying club in this way.
Plant-based meat sources have made major strides in their tasty products. Proof of this is the fact that the top major meat processing corporations such as JBS and Tyson are investing in alternative plant-based meat products.
Join your local watershed group.
Call your Wisconsin federally-elected officials: Senator Booker reintroduced the Farm System Reform Act of 2023, S.271, on 2/2/23. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Call your U.S. House and Senate representatives to let them know you support this bill. “This legislation would crack down on monopolistic practices, place a moratorium on large factory farms, create level playing field for family farmers, ranchers...”
"COVID-19 is a wake up call, don't hit snooze"
"The apocalyptic virus that would make COVID-19 seem irrevelant"
Research (by no means exhaustive)
“Animal welfare in pig farming: Brazil” - https://www.pubvet.com.br/artigo/5561/bem-estar-animal-na-suinocultura-revisatildeo (click on U.S. flag for English - far right)