United Poultry Concerns November 5, 2001
UPC Letter Re:Leagy-Fizgerald Amendment:
School Lunch/Forced Molting
Please use the below letter as a basis for writing a letter, or another letter, to your U.S. Senators urging them to support the Leahy-Fitzgerald Amendment to S. 1191, the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2002. If your Senator(s) support the amendment, please thank them.
November 5, 2001

The Honorable John Warner
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Warner:

I am writing to you on behalf of United Poultry Concerns to express our concern regarding your letter to voters who have asked you to support the Leahy-Fitzgerald amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (S. 1191) which would ban the purchase of eggs derived from food-deprived hens for the National School Lunch Program. Disturbingly, your letter appears to be based entirely on material that is currently being circulated by the United Egg Producers through Congress, and as such it is a disappointment to those of us who support you and who are urging you to support a provision that would help put an end to the inhumane practice employed by the U.S. egg industry of depriving hens of all food for 4 to 21 days at a time in order to manipulate the economics of egg production. I respectfully draw your attention to the following information in the hope that you will reconsider your position.

Contrary to what the United Egg Producers are publicly asserting, intentional food deprivation is a primary cause of Salmonella enteritidis in laying hens. Moreover, the U.S. egg industry does not merely "reduce feed" as stated in your letter; the industry deprives at least 75 percent of the nation's flocks of all food as often as three times in the course of two years. Food deprivation increases the susceptibility, colonization, shedding, transmission, and recrudescence of Salmonella enteritidis in chickens and other birds. According to Avian Diseases 1995, 39:248, food withdrawal from chickens and turkeys "has long been shown to markedly increase contamination with both Salmonella and Campylobacter. The birds look to other food sources during feed withdrawal, eating litter when they are hungry." Since laying hens being starved in their cages do not have access to litter, they are driven to pluck and consume their cage mates' contaminated feathers, adding to the spread of the disease.

The stress of forced molting by food deprivation is so severe that it weakens and can completely destroy the hen's immune system's ability to fight off disease organisms such as Salmonella. Natural molting, in which the physiology of the bird corresponds to the seasons of the year and is nature's way of maintaining good plumage throughout the year, is not associated with disease, as is forced molting. Chickens molting naturally do not stop eating. They do not lose all their feathers, and they do not develop transmittable infections and organ degeneration as a result of the natural process of maintaining good feather structure. When chickens molt naturally, their mortality does not double each week, as it does with force-molted hens (Dr. Joy Mench, Poultry Specialist, University of California, Davis).

Unfortunately, under pressure, Dr. Peter Holt, the USDA-Agricultural Research Service tax-supported researcher cited in your letter to voters, has publicly backed down from his own science showing the effects of depriving hens of food for 14 days in his laboratory. Holt and his colleagues summarized their findings, in study after study, in "The Effects of Induced Molting on the Severity of Acute Intestinal Infection Caused By Salmonella Enteritidis":

These results are important to the layer industry since they show that a prevalent industry procedure [starving hens to manipulate the economics of egg production] has a substantial effect on the severity of an SE infection and these effects are observed early in the disease process. Also, many organisms infect poultry and if molting has such rapid effects on an infection by SE, it is very possible that it could have similar effects on infection by other poultry disease agents. (ARS, Tektran, July 2, 1998).

Senator Warner, I and many others in Virginia are asking for your continued humane leadership on animal protection bills before Congress. We are grateful to you for being a co-sponsor of S. 345, which would make the interstate movement of live birds for fighting purposes illegal. We are asking you now to take a similarly humane and responsible position on the egg industry's practice of starving hens to reduce feeding and flock replacement costs. Please note that depriving hens of food is illegal in Europe because of its inhumaneness. Realizing that children are in the highest risk category of susceptibility to Salmonella enteritidis food poisoning severe enough to cause death according to the CDC, surely you will oppose a practice that combines extreme cruelty to animals with a strong potential to cause sickness in children subjected to products that can carry within them infections resulting from this despicable practice. Surely you will support the Leahy-Fitzgerald Amendment to S. 1191.

I have enclosed a copy of my letter of July 22, 2001, in which I respectfully asked you to support the Leahy-Fitzgerald amendment to the 2002 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, S. 1191. To date, I have no record of ever having received a response, even though several of our members in Virginia were sent the letter from your office which has prompted me to write to you now.

Once again, Senator Warner, thank you for your outstanding support for S. 345 and for your letter of September 25, 2001 advising me of your cosponsorship of this bill. I now ask that you take another look at the forced molting-Salmonella enteritidis link in relation to the National School Lunch Program and the Leahy-Fitzgerald amendment. Gary D. Butcher, DVM and Dr. Richard Miles, poultry scientists at the University of Florida, have summarized the forced molting-Salmonella connection thus: "No matter what specific or combination of factors are involved in causing increased susceptibility of laying hens to SE infection, the fact remains that laying hens undergoing a forced molt by feed removal are under stress and are more likely to become salmonella shedders as compared to non-molted hens."

In conclusion, I respectfully draw your attention to the fact that even if the USDA does purchase only pasteurized eggs for the School Lunch Program, as the department claims, pasteurization does not guarantee a Salmonella-free egg product that derived from Salmonella-infected hens and their contaminated eggs. In USDA studies, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, up to 1 percent of pasteurized eggs have been found to contain Salmonella. According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, former chief of the Acute Disease Epidemiology Section in the Minnesota Department of Health, "That might sound quite low, but even if only 1 percent of pasteurized egg product is contaminated, there could be the potential for far-reaching foodborne illness" (Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Feb. 16, 2000).

Senator Warner, I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and to sharing your response with our readers. We are very concerned about your stand on this matter.


Karen Davis, PhD

C: Our members and others on request; www.UPC-online.org

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United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(UPC Letter Re:Leagy-Fizgerald Amendment:School Lunch/Forced Molting)

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