The USDA pays farmers and livestock producers for dead animal
If you were one who raises livestock for a living, and you could either spend your own money to build adequate protection from the weather for your animals, or simply collect money for every animal found dead due to lack of that protection against the severely harsh weather, which one would you choose?
Unfortunately, many probably prefer profit over providing protection. And we know they do.
And guess who supplies the money for those payments? We, the taxpayers, do. It is handed over to them under the LIP (livestock indemnity program) “benefit” payments by the USDA, which makes it unprofitable for those livestock producers and farmers to protect their animals from such often lethal weather conditions as blizzards, hail, and extreme heat. As it stands right now, those payments are made whether or not those who receive the money ever bothered to even attempt to offer their animals the necessary protection. So even though the LIP payment is said to only be 75 percent of the commercial value of the animal — making it appear to be a losing proposition for the livestock producers — it is really not an incentive to spend any money at all to shelter the animals when they can bypass all that trouble and just put out their hand.
At the very least, if the requirement for receiving those funds hinged on their having protection from the weather for their animals, it would make sense and feel justifiable to reimburse them for a loss that was beyond their control, allowing them to continue in their chosen field.
And that is hardly the only thing that needs looking into with the USDA; some farmers — and we can refer to them as animal abusers — will do just about anything to make a profit, having no regard at all for the health and welfare of the general public. In 2014, Jack “Chicken King” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison for fostering eggs so foul upon the general population. In the quest for higher personal profits, they were willing to bribe a USDA inspector to release contaminated eggs to the public. But it didn’t end there. The DeCosters also mislabeled eggs so they would appear to not be as old as they were.
While they pleaded guilty to one federal count of introducing eggs which contained a “poisonous” and “deleterious” substance into
interstate commerce, according to a plea agreement, their company would have to pay a fine of about $6.8 million for the bribery charge, the misbranding of the eggs, and allowing contaminated eggs into interstate commerce. But they also pleaded guilty to allowing adulterated food into interstate commerce in their capacities as corporate officials of Quality Egg and were sentenced to three-month prison terms, a year of probation, and a $100,000 fine. They appealed the jail time.
We’ve all heard the expression “he’s a good egg.” Well, these two can only be referred to as “rotten eggs.” Not only did the father know what he was doing right along, but he managed to raise a son who was willing to take on his values — in essence, lack of values — and put profit above all. They were known as the nation’s most notorious animal abusers, and were responsible for a nationwide increase in Salmonella food poisoning. These kinds of crimes are always “fine” as long as they don’t affect your own loved ones, and so the DeCosters carried on for years, poisoning thousands, if not tens of thousands and more, and gaining profit through the use of bribes and lies.
The good new is that on May 19, 2017, the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal case, and the DeCosters will finally get to serve their jail time, either in a Federal Prison Camp or an Iowa county jail. But will their short jail time and any fine they paid make up for all the health problems suffered, attributed to their contaminated eggs — bad eggs that were served to children, the elderly, those trying to recuperate from an illness, and any number of trusting egg-consumers, to say nothing of forever causing mistrust of egg suppliers, and in this case, under the banner of “Quality” Egg?
There is an organization called the Humane Farming Association (HFA), which is a watchdog for exactly what its name says. It keeps us informed about inhumane practices that must be brought to our attention and eradicated as soon as possible. Under their wing, egg producers are required to give each laying hen an adequate amount of space, and the freedom to hunt and peck about in the open air to have at least a partially natural diet. There is also an organization known as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which apparently is not all that it would appear to be.The DeCosters were supporters of the HSUS/United Egg Producers’ legislation (also known as the Rotten Egg Bill) that would have kept laying hens locked in cages forever.
While things could look good on paper and therefore get the support they needed, in reality they were intended for the convenience and profit of humans, not for the good of the animals they were supposed to protect.
But within the bounds of “paper protection,” other livestock producers or animal farmers have chosen to totally disregard the comfort, safety, and wellbeing of the animals they have chosen to raise for their personal profits; one of the worst I can think of offhand is that of those who have chosen to raise veal calves. I first learned about the horrors of the veal industry’s tortuous and drug-based methods of operation in the 1980s, when I joined the National Veal Boycott, which thankfully resulted in about one million fewer veal calves being drugged, tortured and killed to please the palates ofthose who thought more of their taste buds being satisfied than the humane treatment of those baby calves, who were caged immediately after birth, and never allowed to even stand, let alone move about as a normal calf should. Fed on drugs and some kind of unhealthy milk solution, in order to keep the calf’s flesh tender and pale, and killed soon after birth, all for the sole reason of meeting the demand that they could supply.
Fortunately, there are alternative and more humane ways to raise veal calves and while those narrow and tortuous crates are still used in the United States, many of them have disappeared. As of 2016, veal production has plummeted from a high of 3.4 million calves to fewer than 500,000.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, responsible for tracking the records relating to enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare and Horse Protection Acts, has been important for providing a glimpse into what takes place inside of 9,000 animal facilities under federal regulation, including research facilities, zoos, circuses, dog breeders and horse shows. Unfortunately, this USDA service has changed its policy abruptly and removed tens of thousands of those records from its website. It is obvious that the USDA’s decision to so flagrantly do so shows that it has yielded to the industries it regulates. That removed information revealed which facilities failed to meet the federal government’s very minimum animal-welfare standards.
If we look up any government agency online, we will probably find all kinds of information about the good it does. If we listen to the words of our president and any active politicians who are trying to make America great again, we will seldom hear anything about the harm some government agencies are currently doing because, if we all learned about that side of what is going on, we would expect better and expect it as quickly as President Trump has been trying to get the healthcare situation fixed and the illegal immigrant situation under control.
While we all know that people things ought to always come first, we cannot forget about the animal world that is under our care. If we have ever looked into the eyes of a tortured animal — whether an abused and/or abandoned pet, or a farm-raised animal on the way to slaughter, after being abused from birth — we might have some idea of why how we treat animals matters.
We can never be a great nation if we can’t even be humane to our animals.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com