The federal government is behind the hideous and inhumane experimentation on livestock animals, according to a new report by the New York Times.
The Times says that a little-known agricultural and veterinary research facility, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, conducts experiments in breeding and performs surgery on farm animals so that they’ll produce more offspring, yield more meat and be less expensive to raise. However, the Times says that these experiments have turned grisly, and many livestock have been subjected to unneeded pain, illness and even premature death.
The Times article accounts horrors at the huge agricultural facility in Clay Center, Nebraska. They include sows farrowing as many as 14 piglets (eight is the typical number), many of which are extremely frail and subsequently crushed when the sows roll over on them in their pens. The paper also reports that cows are being engineered to give birth to twins and even triplets, instead of the standard single birth. As a result, the calves “often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.”
Worse yet, the center has attempted to breed sheep that require less shepherding and shelter, and that could give birth in open fields. The results, however, have been devastating, as the sheep have not taken well to this experiment and they’ve been left unprotected from predators.
Last Mother’s Day, at the height of the birthing season, two veterinarians struggled to sort through the weekend’s toll: 25 rag-doll bodies. Five, abandoned by overtaxed mothers, had empty stomachs. Six had signs of pneumonia. Five had been savaged by coyotes.
However, a retired researcher who worked at the facility defends its practices, saying that such experimentation is necessary to keep up with growing global food demands. “We are trying to feed a population that is expanding very rapidly, to 9 billion by 2050, and if we are going to feed that population, there are some trade-offs.” said Sherrill E. Echternkamp.
At least 500 million animals are being experimented on at any given time in the U.S., and while such testing is typically associated with medical and pharmaceutical research, the agricultural industry’s experiments often hinge on genetic manipulation to optimize output and make meat products more appealing to the consumer. Much of the center’s research has focused on ways make steak less chewy, lamb chops bigger and pork chops leaner than previously.
But unlike animals that are experimented on for medical or pharmaceutical research, those that are subject to experiments by the USDA are exempt from compassionate protections under the Animal Welfare Act of 1996. And in the three decades since the facility has been open, some 6,500 animals have died of starvation and another 625 have died after an easily treatable infection of the mammary gland and udder tissue was neglected.
The facility has received plenty of criticism from animal welfare groups, but also from its own employees, but still denies any culpability and has failed to address the pain and suffering felt by animals there.
The research facility in Clay Center, a tiny town in southern Nebraska, has operated for more than five decades as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary farm research facility. Through the years, research at the site has helped farmers produce less fatty and larger cuts of meat, but it has also worked to protect livestock from disease and advance food safety for consumers. According to the Times, the center began to research getting larger litters from livestock about 30 years ago. The research into sheep began a decade ago.