To “improve carcass merit” means to boost livestock industry profits. It’s a euphemism for animal abuse, in truth. I’m referring to the taxpayer-funded USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska, the world’s largest livestock research center.
A whistleblower, Jim Keen, writing on the truthabout.org website tells us that there was and is persistent and extensive animal abuse at this research facility. And, of course, it’s all funded by the taxpayer who is often blissfully unaware of what is going on.
Jim Keen refers to a long-term project at MARC to increase the rate that cows have twins in order to increase the number of offspring and therefore increase productivity. Over the period of 1981 to 2011 they raised the twinning rate of one herd of cows by over 50% using intensive selective breeding.
However, he tells us that it is unnatural for cows to have twins. He says that female cows who have twins, and their offspring, suffer from sicknesses, congenital defects and early death. The project was abandoned after 30 years and millions of dollars of wasted tax payers money. Nowadays most farmers cull cows who produce twins because of the well-known health problems.
After decades of supporting intensive livestock farming and working in research, Jim Keen turned his back on it and went to The New York Times as a whistleblower.
He also refers to a project at MARC called the “Easy Care” sheep project. The objective was to boost the sheep industry in America. The idea was to breed sheep able to cope on their own without human intervention. The project lasted from 2002 to 2017. Sheep birthing twins or triplets were kept on isolated pastures without shelter and without human care despite the fact that they are domesticated animals. They were treated as wild animals and over 15 years very many of them died for various reasons in an unacceptable manner e.g. from coyote predation, starvation, exposure, abandonment and disease et cetera.
Having become a whistleblower Jim was banished from MARC and described as “the most evil person on the planet” by the MARC director. The whole experience put him under enormous strain. He survived but he had to pay out large legal and medical fees. His marriage failed.
He felt obliged to be a whistleblower. I see that he is a veterinarian. A veterinarian has obligations towards animals under oath. He did a great job to expose this financial waste and animal cruelty but as usual whistleblowers are ostracised by the industry upon which they shed light.
The USDA was subsequently criticised but nothing really changed (as is usual). MARC changed very little and ‘major animal welfare problems persist’, he says. Polls suggest that Americans want to reduce taxpayer-funded research with respect to the agribusiness in the US.
Some time ago I wrote about the abuse of cats at a USDA research facility investigating toxoplasmosis. That led to outrage and legislation to prevent it happening called the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act. This was an exercise in more wasted taxpayer dollars spent on hurting innocent animals.