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AGRICULTURE REPORT – July 16, 2002: Rules for Treatment of Farm Animals - 2002-07-11

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

People rarely consider the life of a chicken whose meat they are planning to eat. Yet the way chickens and other farm animals are treated has become a big issue in the United States.

Last month, two American trade groups announced measures designed to improve the living conditions and treatment of farm animals. The groups are the Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants. They represent thousands of food stores and eating places across the country.

Animal rights activists have long urged the American food industry to establish rules for the treatment of farm animals. They say the new measures are a good first step.

American agriculture has changed greatly over the past century. For example, some farms today have thousands of animals. The systems used to raise animals have become increasingly like those used in factories. In recent years, pressure to improve conditions has increased.

An animal rights group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is leading the effort.

PETA organized a campaign against the McDonald’s fast-food company in nineteen-ninety-nine. A year later, McDonald’s approved rules for its suppliers. The company said it would not use suppliers who violated the rules. PETA then targeted other companies. All agreed to make changes.

The Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants spent almost two years developing the new measures. They asked a team of scientists and experts to study existing rules for the treatment of chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs. Team members identified problems and suggested changes.

The new measures call for all farm animals to have enough food, water and space to live. They include a number of issues about the treatment of farm animals. For example, one measure says farmers should stop starving chickens to make them lay more eggs. Another says pregnant pigs should not be housed in very small metal boxes. And all animals should be unconscious and feel no pain before they are killed.

The trade groups say they are now developing ways to make sure food suppliers honor the new measures. They say additional measures will be announced in October.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.