News Briefs

Md Gov. Glendening Goes Almost Vegetarian

Chickens Fed Cattle Brains Causes Concern

The Baltimore Sun reported April 21 that Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's "mostly vegetarian meals" have given the governor a "svelte profile," but the poultry industry opposes the Maryland governor's personal health plan. "Quietly, for about two years now, the governor has abstained from meat and poultry." His doctors advised his new healthier diet, but Maryland chicken companies want him to eat chickens until he has a heart attack or stroke. The governor's diet is "not good for the market, or for sales," says Carole Morison, a Perdue chicken farmer and executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance. However, she agrees that meat and poultry are "not very healthy," and says that the feed Perdue gives her contains animal byproducts and antibiotics, and who knows what else: "It kinda makes me wonder if he [Glendening] knows something we don't know."

The Maryland poultry industry already hates Glendening for having instituted environmental policies to curb its destruction of the Chesapeake Bay with daily mountains of poultry litter. In 1998, Glendening signed into law regulations restricting use of poultry litter on cropland after Pfiesteria piscicida, a one-celled toxic microbe linked to the abundant excess of poultry manure on the Eastern Shore, was discovered eating holes in fish and causing neurological injury in people using the Bay. Currently, the poultry industry is experiencing declining exports and low prices along with new environmental clampdowns.

The Delmarva Peninsula, comprising Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay, an area also known as the Eastern Shore, produces a million tons of poultry manure a year, according to The Washington Post, Oct. 3, 1997. This manure is called "litter" because it is the main thing the birds bed in from the time they are born-a mixture of fecal droppings, antibiotic residues, heavy metals, cysts, larvae, decaying carcasses, sawdust, ground up chicken heads, USDA condemned slaughter products, and the mammalian nervous system tissue responsible for Mad Cow Disease. Poultry litter is used as crop fertilizer and is fed to cattle. On April 17, 2001, Reuters reported that the Food & Drug Administration is considering "whether feeding chicken litter to cattle poses any risk of transmitting the deadly mad cow disease." FDA rules enacted in 1997 prohibit feeding cattle or sheep brain tissue protein from their own slaughtered bodies, but they can be fed chicken litter. Is this a problem? Some wonder whether chickens fed "brain food" prohibited for cattle could then recycle the banned material back to cattle who are fed their litter. "The abnormal proteins believed to cause mad cow disease have proven resilient, and it is unknown whether a chicken's digestive tract could kill them," says Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.