US Farmers' Hideous
Pursuit Of Profit

London Daily Mail
(First Published 6-12-99)

Amid the heat and dirt of a cattle ranch in the far north of Montana last week a grotesque and painful struggle was taking place. This remote region, a place of tough, pragmatic people, has become a testing ground for cattle farming methods which are so brutal they shock even the beef barons of America's Mid West. On this particular ranch, thousands of cattle had been corralled into a series of steel pens, called feedlots, around 200 to each. There was no shade, no shelter and no grass on the ground, only dust. On one side of each feedlot was a trough containing herbicide-soaked grain.
All of the cattle were enormous--the result of the grain diet and a series of steroid hormone implants inserted under the skin behind their ears. At least one of the hormones is feared to cause cancer in humans.
Because the cattle were carrying so much weight, and because their digestive systems are designed for grass not grain, some of the cattle's internal organs had fallen out. And because it would be too expensive to call a vet out to treat these problems a couple of sweating, panting farm hands in cowboy hats were going from cow to cow prising their organs back inside and stitching up the cows.
As (former beef rancher, now vegan) Howard Lyman explains: 'You get paid by the pound, after all. And cattle don't win any prizes for keeping their figures.' ( -ed)
'I spent countless hours stuffing 25lb of cow back inside the animal and then sewing the wound, the whole force of a 600lb heifer straining against me.'
Already this year Europe and the United States have gone to the brink of an all-out trade war over bananas and crossed swords over the issue of the labelling of GM foods. Now the new battleground is hormones in beef.
Next Tuesday the European Union will impose a new ban on all imports of American beef, believing that even stocks labelled steroid-free are frequently full of hormones.
The Americans plan to retaliate by imposing 125 million POUNDS-worth of import duties on European products as diverse as pears, chewing gum and motorcycles.
AS the trans-Atlantic dispute threatens to degenerate into all-out trade war, the Daily Mail has investigated the many bizarre and potentially dangerous ways in which American farmers are fooling around with nature.
WHAT we discovered will make any British consumer think twice before they bite into another American steak or burger.
At roughly the same time that the two Montana cowboys were going about their unedifying task, a herd of dairy cows 900 miles to the east in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was undergoing its fortnightly injection of a genetically engineered growth hormone called Bovine somatropin (BST) Some research claims the hormone has been blamed for wiping out almost 20 percent of some herds. The cows' immune systems become impaired, increasing their vulnerability to severe bladder and udder infections.
It is also claimed that BST also weakens their skeletons by draining calcium from their bones. Many cows which survive are unable to stand because their bones are too weak.
BST, which manufacturer Monsanto insists is safe, is another drug that has been linked to cancer in humans. However, it boosts milk production by up to a quarter. And when the cows have been pushed to the limits of their endurance, the farm hands follow up the hormone jabs with large doses of antibiotics to try to ward off infection.
The statistics are indeed terrifying. At least one in six farmers injects his cows with genetically engineered growth hormone. Around 90 pc of the 29 billion lb of beef consumed by Americans each year comes from cattle which have been fattened by hormone implants. For pork, the figure is almost 100 percent.
'There are some really terrifying things happening in the American food industry', says Ronnie Cummins, director of the country's Pure Food Campaign. 'But there has been very little research carried out here into the effects of hormones and even less reporting on television or in newspapers.
'One reason why the U.S. does not want hormonal beef to be labelled as such if it goes on sale in European supermarkets is that people over there wouldn't buy it. But the second is that people here would start asking, "Well, why don't we have the same labels?" And they really can't afford for that to happen.'
The American meat industry today is a far cry from the Wild West days when cattle were allowed to roam free on the range.
Calves are allowed to run with their mothers for six to 11 months and then herded into feedlots. There are now 42,000 feedlot ranches in the major cattlegrowing states and around half the country's 100 million cattle are confined within them.
Some farmers using feedlots have begun research trials adding cardboard, newspaper and sawdust to the feeding programmes to reduce costs. Other factory farms add manure from the chicken houses and pigpens making the United States the only Western nation where it is legal to feed raw manure to cattle.
Farmers are even reported to have experimented with cement dust, which is said to have produced a 30pc faster weight gain.


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