Friday, May 30, 2008

What's your vision for California?

Should California be a home to factory farms? Should farm animals in the Golden State have room to move around?

California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura wants your thoughts on the future of agriculture. This is a classic opportunity to speak up for millions of farm animals.

Visit to learn more about some of the cruelties that occur in California everyday. As well, it is a good occasion to plug the Humane California Campaign.

Namely, the CDFA wants your thoughtful answers to the following questions:

* What is your vision for California agriculture by 2030?
* What will be the biggest challenge in achieving that vision?
* In 2030, how has the public perception of agriculture changed?
* What is a "must have" in an Ag Vision for California?

By July 18, 2008, please send your opinions to

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Five-Years of Advocacy Anniversary

Please join us for a very special event!

"Five-Years of Advocacy Anniversary"

Sunday, June 29, 2008
3:30 - 6:30 PM

Micio Mambo
474 Santa Clara Avenue

Enjoy Seasonal Vegan Appetizers, Specialty Beer & Non-Alcoholic
Cider.Admission is $25. Please RSVP at Can't attend, please consider making a donation online at

Friday, May 23, 2008

Oh, those old hens...

At two to three years of age, matured hens complete their egg production cycle within the industry. 'Spent hens' are slaughtered without any protections under California's 1990 Methods of Slaughter law. California producers no longer have a facility to bring its 'spent hens' for processing. In May 2006, Valley Fresh Inc., California’s only 'spent hen' slaughterhouse, ended its live poultry processing operations.

Now, the slaughtering of 'spent hens' is carried out by the individual egg companies. Producers have used gassing/composting and woodchippers as methods of euthanizing 'spent hens'.

As The Modesto Bee reports today, a Ceres egg producer was caught red-handed illegally burying its old hens. Read the full news report:

"Dead hens, possibly numbering in the thousands, were illegally buried in a trench by a Ceres-area egg producer, Stanislaus County officials said Thursday.

The carcasses were dumped at Niemeyer Farms on Crows Landing Road before the practice was halted about three weeks ago, said Sonya Harrigfeld, director of environmental resources for the county.

'We issued a cease-and-desist order to them,' she said. 'My staff witnessed dead carcasses on the ground.'

Owner Jack Niemeyer said the burial was part of a legal composting operation for hens past their egg-laying prime.

'We're converting it to fertilizer to market,' he said.

Harrigfeld said composting livestock is illegal without a permit from the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Niemeyer Farms is not on the state agency's online list of permitted composting sites.

The case will be referred to the district attorney's office, which can seek fines of up to $5,000 for each day the violations took place, Harrigfeld said. When the burial began is not known, she said.

The county responded to neighbors' complaints about odors and flies.

Niemeyer declined to say how many hens were buried, but Rowe Barney, assistant director of the county department, said it likely was in the thousands.

Barney said about 25,000 dead birds were awaiting disposal when the county ordered that they be taken to the Darling International rendering plant near the town of Crows Landing.

Rendering, which extracts useful products from carcasses, is the preferred method of disposal, Harrigfeld said.

Too degraded for rendering

The buried carcasses are too degraded for rendering, so Niemeyer will have to dig them up and haul them to an approved landfill, she said. They will be reburied with extra precautions to prevent pollution, similar to the handling of the cattle and poultry killed in the extreme heat wave of July 2006, she said.

Harrigfeld said county officials aim to have the cleanup done within two weeks. The county has given Niemeyer until today to estimate the number of buried hens and the extent of the operation.

Burying dead animals can pose an environmental hazard because decomposing biological material could percolate through the soil and into into groundwater in the surrounding areas.

Barney said groundwater in the area is 10 to 20 feet from the surface, and the trench appears to be 4 feet deep, so prompt removal is needed to prevent seepage of contaminants.

Complaints are rare

Niemeyer said he has had the business for more than 30 years but might retire soon. No live hens are there, he said. The farm is relatively small compared with other egg producers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

Harrigfeld said complaints about illegal carcass burial are rare, happening perhaps once every three to five years.

The egg industry strives to follow the laws on hen disposal wherever it operates, said Stevan Allen, spokesman for the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association in Sacramento.

'The industry guidelines do allow for composting, but the caveat there is that it is done in accordance with state and local ordinances,' Allen said.

Niemeyer said composting hens, a process that takes about nine months, is part of the nutrient cycling that is vital to agriculture.

'If you stopped all of this conversion,' he said, 'the cultivation and the crops and everything would be gone.'"

Before the holiday weekend, e-mail your opinions about this distributing topic to The Modesto Bee.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Troubling ag policy is down and out

The plight of disabled cattle has once again been spotlighted in the public eye. As The Associated Press reports today:

"Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced Tuesday a total ban on meat plant slaughter of cows too sick or weak to stand. The planned change comes in the wake of the nation's largest beef recall. It would shut down an exception — which critics call a loophole — that allows a small number of so-called "downer" cattle into the food supply if they pass veterinary inspection."

Get the full report online.

Friday, May 16, 2008

EBAA provides emergency relief for impounded broiler chicks

Earlier this week, Oakland Animal Services impounded a "shipment" of 500 day-old broiler chicks bound for Washington State. Thanks to your generous support, EBAA was able to provide emergency supplies to care for the young birds at the shelter. If you are able to provide homes for a group of these birds, please contact us at or (925) 487-4419.

Read an excerpt of a NBC-11 news report about the rescue:

"Oakland Animal Services took into custody 500 day-old chicks at the airport that were being transported by the United States Postal Service from a Santa Cruz hatchery to a destination in Washington State.

The Oakland Airport Postal Service discovered many sick and some dead chicks among the shipment of five boxes.

The workers contacted Oakland Animal Services for assistance who found 47 birds dead.

The chicks were from Cal Cruz Hatchery in Santa Cruz and by the time they reached the Oakland airport they had already been traveling for over 24 hours.

Animal Place, which frequently works with animal control agencies to help find adoptive homes for farmed animals confiscated in cruelty cases, is working to help place the chicks.

The birds were "broilers," or chickens raised for meat that are bred for rapid growth so they can be slaughtered at six weeks of age.

'Shipping chicks through the postal service is common practice,' said Adam Parascandola, Oakland Animal Services director. 'It is a given that many will die in route, but the losses are expected and accepted by industry. These poor chicks were less than a day old before their nightmarish journey began.'

It is legal to ship young birds through the mail, as long as they are under 24 hours old when presented for shipping, and delivered to the receiver within 72 hours.

The practice of sending chicks through the postal service began over 100 years ago, when the first commercial hatchery in America sent 50 chicks from New Jersey to Illinois in 1892."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Egg-actly the right time

It's that time of year again. May is National Egg Month. This is the best time to educate the public about egg factory farming in California. Our friends at Compassion Over Killing and Mercy for Animals have great ideas for you to help chickens this month and every month. Please visit and for the 4-1-1!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do you have a sweet tooth?

If the answer is YES, you won't want to miss our Advocates Forum on Saturday, May 17 at 3 PM at Berkeley's Herbivore--The Earthly Grill. We want to treat you to a vegan dessert in exchange for writing a few good letters to stop animal abuse in agriculture. Enjoy some good company and sweet eats with EBAA. To RSVP, email