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Gov. Whitmer endorses Kamala Harris for president, says she's not leaving Michigan; Grilled by lawmakers on the Trump assassination attempt, Secret Service director says, 'We failed;' Teachers rally at national convention in Houston; Opioid settlement fund fuels anti-addiction battle in Indiana; Nonprofit agency says corporate donations keep programs going.

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Democrats consolidate support behind Vice President Harris, Republicans threaten legal action over changes to the presidential ticket, and a possible bipartisan consensus forms on the failure of the Secret Service to protect former President Trump.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Animal welfare report calls for livestock gestation crate bans

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024   

A prominent animal safety group is calling on restaurants to do more to ban the use of animal gestation crates where livestock and poultry are grown for meat.

A new report from the group Animal Equality said some chains have made progress but many are lagging. Dozens of U.S. restaurant companies pledged to end the use of gestation crates for pregnant pigs in their supply chains back in 2008. Since then, 11 states, including Iowa and others in the Midwest, have either restricted their use or outlawed them.

Devon Dear, institutional outreach manager Animal Equality, said some restaurant chains still do not comply but she is encouraged others do.

"We've seen some really big players in this industry move away from crates," Dear acknowledged. "For example, McDonald's, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Shake Shack, Panera Bread; these companies have all either significantly reduced or eliminated crates. We know that it can be done successfully."

Scientists said gestation crates, which amount to a space about the size of an airplane seat, are breeding grounds for disease. The report lists Denny's, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin, and KFC among 13 companies it contended have not been aggressive enough in reducing their use of the crates. Dear hopes the Farm Bill now being debated in Congress will put the issue in the spotlight.

In Iowa, the use of gestation crates grew along with the proliferation of large factory farms in the 1980s and 90s, where thousands of animals are confined in limited areas, creating health and environmental problems. Dear emphasized Animal Equality is concerned with the threats the conditions pose to animal welfare.

"When you have this many animals in one place, you're getting really high concentrations of feces, you're having all of the environmental impacts of this," Dear pointed out. "Pigs produce a ton of waste, and this has to be disposed of properly to not make nearby communities sick."

Dear argued the higher the pigs' stress levels, the higher the use of antibiotics, which often run off with manure into groundwater. Iowa's factory farmers have said they are responding to consumer demand for more consistently raised, high-quality pork and other products.


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