Tonight our program focuses on the health and welfare of farm animals and the humans who consume them.   We  have two guests tonight.

In the first part of the show we talk with Robert Martin, Executive Director of the independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), which was formed to conduct an examination of key aspects of the farm animal industry.

Our second guest is Nicolette Hahn Niman, attorney, livestock rancher, and author of  Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms . She has also written three essays on the problems resulting from industrialized livestock production for the New York Times.

Some (Relatively) Good News About Animal Welfare

For example, From PR Newswire, a business media service, comes this from The American Humane Association describing their program providing independent certification of the humane treatment and care of farm animals. They explain:

American Humane Certified is the United States’ first animal welfare program dedicated to the humane treatment of farm animals. [The labeling program represents] more than 60 million farm animals through American Humane’s science-based program. Contracted third-party auditors are rigorously trained in American Humane Certified species-specific standards. […] American Humane Certified believes animal welfare should not only be good for animals, but also economically viable and feasible for producers. American Humane Certified works with agriculture to educate and motivate producers and demonstrate the economic and social benefits of animal welfare.[…]

You can read the full press release at

From Farm and Dairy, September 28, 2009, is this press release from Ohio State University, where an October symposium will address farm animal welfare issues. They quote Ohio State ag extension specialist Naomi Botheras :

“Animal welfare is a prominent issue in Ohio and the U.S. and even the world. It’s a topic of interest to producers, consumers, veterinarians, health care professionals, legislators and anyone who has a stake in sustainable animal agriculture”

[The press release explains that he symposium will include] Well-known animal welfare experts and social scientists from around the world [who will] discuss the scientific, ethical, legal and social contexts embedded in the animal welfare debate.

[Conference topics will provide an opportunity to learn abut animal welfare, agriculture issues, legislation and regulation, and]  “what the science says about the welfare of animals in different housing systems.”

DVM NEWSMAGAZINE, an online source for veterinarians, reported on Oct 2, 2009 that “Michigan lawmakers pass farm-animal welfare bill.”  Reporter Brendan Howard writes from Lansing, Michigan that

. . . lawmakers passed legislation that mandates housing requirements for veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows.[…]The new law will restrict housing for veal calves, pigs and hens by requiring that “any pig during pregnancy, calf raised for veal and egg-laying hen that is kept on a farm” be housed so the animal can lie down, stand up and turn around freely. Exemptions include research, veterinary treatment, transportation, at rodeos and state fairs, during slaughter and, in the case of pregnant sows, housing seven days before expected birth. Michigan farmers will have three years to comply with the veal-calf restrictions and 10 years to comply with the rules for pregnant sows and egg-laying hens.

Of course, California’s controversial Proposition 2 passed in November of 2008 with 63.5% of the vote. Ballotpedia reports that:

Prop 2 creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Voters in other states have voted to eliminate calf and pig crates, but Proposition 2 in California […] is the first […] to eliminate the practice of confining chickens in battery [small, confining] cages.”  Ballotpedia reports on specific provisions and expected impact of the initiative.  The site also lists opponents and supporters of the measure. Not surprisingly, many egg producers and food services opposed the measure.

Our Questions for Robert Martin:

Robert Martin Executive Director of the independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), which was formed to conduct a comprehensive, fact-based and balanced examination of key aspects of the farm animal industry.

  • Please give us a little background. How and why did the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production come into being?
  • Tell us about the assessment that PCIFAP recently conducted of the animal industry. What was the Commission trying to learn? How did they conduct the assessment?
  • Who are the commissioners?
  • What did the commission, in fact, learn? What are the most important findings? (report issued on April 29, 2009) What most surprised, interested you, or shocked you? (This will likely lead to the big concerns about antibiotics, which we should spend some time on. Are there any findings about hormones?)
  • What are some of the practical recommendations of the report? Who are these recommendations directed toward? What “force” do they have?
  • How do you use the findings of the Commission? Do you go to farmers directly? Do you work through political channels? Government policy groups (FDA, CDC, EPA)? Are there farming organizations that you target?
  • What indications do you have that things are changing or might change?

              You can learn more about the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) by going to their website,

              Our Questions for Nicolette Hahn Niman

              Nicolette Hahn Niman.

              She is an attorney and livestock rancher living here in California. Much of her time is spent speaking and writing about the problems resulting from industrialized livestock production, including the book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms (HarperCollins, 2009). She and her husband, Bill Niman, were featured in an August 2009 TIME magazine cover story about America’s food system

              • Your book, Righteous Porkshop, has gotten rave reviews as among the best books on industrial animal farming ever written. Why did you write Righteous Porkchop?
              • What are your biggest concerns about factory farming? What should we be most worried about? (Antibiotics will be a major part of this discussion. Other pharmaceuticals? Hormones?) What is the environmental impact of industrial farming?
              • What concerns do you have about the animals themselves?
              • What alternatives do we have to eating industrial animals (and eggs)? What should we be aware of? What can we do to become good consumers?
              • What do you hope will be the impact of your book and your other writing and speaking?
              • Are things changing? What do you see for the future?
              • Tell us about how you got started as an animal and environmental activist.
              • You’re married to Bill Niman, whose farms are famous for naturally produced meat and healthy animals. You have access to very good meat. Why are you a vegetarian?

              We’ve been talking with Nicolette Hahn Niman, environmental and animal activist. Her book is Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms published by HarperCollins this year.

              The Ecotopian Library

              Listeners who phone in a pledge to KZFR can take their choice of these fine Ecotopian books–available while the supply lasts.

              Daniel Arnold. Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers.

              Amy Bach, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court.

              Anthony Barnosky, Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming.

              Dan Chiras. Power from the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity.

              Greg Grandin. Fordlandiai: The Rise Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten City.

              Chip Haynes, Wearing Smaller Shoes: Living Light on the Big Blue Marble

              Richard Heinberg, Blackout: Coal, Cliimate, and the Last Energy Crisis

              Peter Laufer, The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Culture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists.

              Parker, Graham. Fair Use: Notes from Spam.

              Alvin Powell: The Race to Save the World’s Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po’ouili.

              Christopher Steiner, How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better.

              Tristram Stuart. Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.

              Playlist for Ecotopia #55: Industrial Animals

              1. Pigs, Sheep, And Wolves   3:58  Paul Simon       You’re The One

              2. Farm Animals  3:20  Spook Less      Trail Riding Edition

              3. Factory Farms 3:40  Trouser       Factory Farm Songs

              4. Farm     2:57  Imagination Movers       Juice Box Heroes

              5. Nature’s Way  2:40  Spirit        Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus

              6. Weave Me the Sunshine    4:28  Peter, Paul And Mary      The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

              7. Rain On The Scarecrow    3:46  John Mellencamp       Scarecrow

              8. Piggies   2:04 The Beatles         The Beatles (White Album