Belgian officials told us they knew in early June there was a potential problem over insecticide-contaminated eggs but kept it secret! “We knew since early June there was potentially a problem with fipronil in the poultry sector,” Katrien Stragier, a spokeswoman for Belgium’s food safety agency (AFSCA), told us. “We immediately launched an investigation and we also informed the prosecutor because it was a matter of possible fraud,” she added. “From that point on the secrecy of the inquiry took precedent. We understand that people have questions about public health and we are trying to answer them,” she added.
Belgian and German supermarkets have cleared eggs from their shelves, and in Germany and the Netherlands several million eggs from Dutch farms have already been recalled. The contaminated eggs have also caused concern in Sweden and Switzerland.
German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt pressed the authorities, particularly in Belgium and The Netherlands, to clear up the situation. “Someone has clearly proceeded with criminal intent to contaminate (the eggs) with a banned product,” Schmidt told us.
Dutch officials closed down 180 businesses earlier in the week and after tests, the Dutch food authority (NVWA) said 138 poultry farms — about a fifth of those in the country — would remain closed.
One batch of eggs posing in particular posed an acute danger to public health, the agency said. Eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of the insecticide, fipronil, for the food authority to warn against any children eating them.
Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. It is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens. In large quantities, the insecticide is considered to be hazardous and can have dangerous effects on people’s kidneys, liver, and thyroid glands.
Global Animal Partnership (GAP) is an international animal welfare rating program which includes the following:
- Using breeds with measurably improved welfare because most chickens are bred to grow so fast that many collapse under their own weight
- Ending extreme crowding and providing each chicken more floor space
- Keeping chicken litter clean enough to prevent eye sores, flesh burns, and respiratory distress
- Improving lighting standards, including at least six hours of darkness each night and 50 lux of light during the day, to decrease illness and disease
- Ending live-shackle slaughter in favor of less cruel systems, such as controlled-atmosphere stunning, which eliminates the suffering caused by shackling, shocking, and slitting the throats of conscious animals
It is time for leading restaurant chains to ban needless abuse from their supply chains. Consumers are demanding companies ban the cruelest practices from their supply chains, and those that fail to do so are quickly falling behind competitors. The best way for individual consumers to protect chickens and other farmed animals from cruelty is simply to leave them off their plates.
Here are five reasons for giving up meat:
- The environmental impact is huge
Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.
Nowhere is this impact more apparent than climate change – livestock farming contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport put together.
Climate change alone poses multiple risks to health and well-being through increased risk of extreme weather events – such as floods, droughts and heatwaves – and has been described as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century.
Reducing consumption of animal products is essential if we are to meet global greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets – which are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
- It requires masses of grain, water, and land
Meat production is highly inefficient – this is particularly true when it comes to red meat. To produce one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grain – to feed the animal – and roughly 15,000 liters of water. Pork is a little less intensive and chicken less still.
The scale of the problem can also be seen in land use: around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming. Since food, water and land are scarce in many parts of the world, this represents an inefficient use of resources.
- It hurts the global poor
Feeding grain to livestock increases global demand and drives up grain prices, making it harder for the world’s poor to feed themselves. Grain could instead be used to feed people, and water used to irrigate crops.
If all grain were fed to humans instead of animals, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people. In short, industrial livestock farming is not only inefficient but also not equitable.
- It causes unnecessary animal suffering
If we accept, as many people do, that animals are sentient creatures whose needs and interests matter, then we should ensure these needs and interests are at least minimally met and that we do not cause them to suffer unnecessarily.
Industrial livestock farming falls well short of this minimal standard. Most meat, dairy and eggs are produced in ways that largely or completely ignore animal welfare – failing to provide sufficient space to move around, contact with other animals, and access to the outdoors.
In short, industrial farming causes animals to suffer without good justification.
- It is making us ill
At the production level, industrial livestock farming relies heavily on antibiotic use to accelerate weight gain and control infection – in the US, 80% of all antibiotics are consumed by the livestock industry.
This contributes to the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance. Already, more than 23,000 people are estimated to die every year in the US alone from resistant bacteria. As this figure continues to rise, it becomes hard to overstate the threat of this emerging crisis.
High meat consumption – especially of red and processed meat – typical of most rich industrialized countries is linked with poor health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and various cancers.
These diseases represent a major portion of the global disease burden so reducing consumption could offer substantial public health benefits.
Currently, the average meat intake for someone living in a high-income country is 200-250g a day, far higher than the 80-90g recommended by the United Nations. Switching to a more plant-based diet could save up to 8 million lives a year worldwide by 2050 and lead to healthcare related savings and avoided climate change damages of up to $1.5 trillion.