The Month in a Minute: February 2023

Media recap of the top stories in agriculture, climate, science and justice in 60 seconds.

Perspective Month in a Minute

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This month, public health news dominated the headlines. A catastrophe unfolded in Ohio: Train cars involved in a derailment were called “non-hazardous” as chemicals burned and pollution contaminated waterways. Residents were ordered to evacuate amid reports of “alarming numbers” of dead animals. Reports of avian flu spreading between mammals has public health officials on high alert while the Biden administration announces new plans to test vaccines. And: researchers warned that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is projected to increase by 8 percent between 2020-2030 even as a UN report calls antimicrobial resistance a top 10 health threat.

Plus: The U.S. Department of Labor fined a food sanitation company $1.5 million for employing over 100 children in meat plants, some cleaning “razor-sharp saws,” using “caustic chemicals” and working overnight.

The Kanaloa octopus farm in Hawaii was ordered to cease illegal breeding efforts. 

The Food and Drug Administration strengthened its requirements for labeling foods “healthy.” 

Consumers spoke out for subsidy reform, as Americans called for funding of food over feed for farmed animals

59 percent of people in the U.K. are in favor of subsidies for plant-rich foods. Animal protection groups alleged that U.S. auction operations are serving a “slaughter pipeline” that sells 20,000 horses to be killed in Canada and Mexico each year.

Here are more stories that caught our attention this month: 


A report on working conditions alleged that meat producers are ignoring unions and not providing enough sick benefits to reduce risk of injury and illness. 

Canadian scientists questioned the validity of a Fisheries and Oceans department finding that sea lice from salmon farms do not significantly impact wild salmon populations.

Meanwhile, 95 percent of the fish on a Canadian Arctic char farm died when “extreme cold” knocked out power and a generator that kept oxygen pumping through their tanks.

A farm housing 3 trillion beetles is part of a growing insect farming industry in France, as the top beef producer in Europe explores ways to reduce emissions.

And when a decision allowing the use of an EU-banned pesticide was overturned, farmers drove tractors through busy Paris streets to protest. 

The United Soybean Board confirmed animal agriculture remains the biggest U.S. consumer of soy, receiving 97 percent of the nation’s soybean meal.

A survey of more than 2,800 Germans found that animal welfare considerations were more likely to sway consumers to support taxation of meat than climate concerns.

Vox projected that 1.45 billion chicken wings would be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, as it detailed the history of the now $30 billion-dollar U.S. broiler chicken industry.

The New Yorker infused humor into its take on conditions faced by farmed animals, creating labels for “super-realistic meat alternatives” that were “separated from their mother plants.”

In an op-ed for the New York Times, an investigator described her footage of the killing of farmed pigs in gas chambers — some filled up to 90 percent with carbon dioxide.

In the U.K., investments in the field of cultivated meat were 5 times higher in 2022 than the previous year.

Plus, U.K. scientists said they produced the first-ever cultivated pork steak, taking only a month to grow it compared to the 45 days typical of other cultivated meats.

Climate & Environment

New Census Bureau data showed that climate-fueled natural disasters displaced 3.4 million U.S. residents in 2022.

Plus, a report paints a harrowing picture of U.S. biodiversity, with 40 percent of animals and 34 percent of plants facing extinction.

As one report found that top meat producer JBS was among 24 corporations with misleading net-zero commitments, another scathing analysis revealed that 40 percent of the “Forest 500” — companies most linked to deforestation, including Nestlé and Mars — do not have any policies to address it. 

University of California researchers found that animal feed accounted for most of the environmental footprints of broiler chicken and fish farming, at 78 and 69 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, Spanish scientists determined that marine protected areas are not enough to reverse the damage that intensive fishing has done to ocean ecosystems.

Related: Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle cautions that unless we restrict industrial fishing, we could lose one million species — and Japan is building a new vessel to continue its controversial Antarctic whaling program.

Danone promised to slash methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, but environmentalists are skeptical that the dairy producer will make necessary cuts to its supply chain.

In Brazil, deforestation of the Amazon fell 61 percent in January compared to 2022, although a recent study revealed 38 percent of the Amazon is already degraded.

Plus: Researchers from around the world found that losing forest elephants could harm tree growth, leading to a 6-9 percent decline in aboveground carbon storage.

Author and investigative reporter George Monbiot debunked Russell Brand’s far-right conspiracy theories surrounding Dutch legislation to reduce nitrate pollution from animal agriculture.

A growing global population and encroachment into some habitats led to an increase in carnivore attacks on humans between 1950 and 2019, with 32 percent of attacks fatal.

Researchers studied data spanning a century, finding that rising temperatures have forced mosquitoes to expand their range and migrate to higher elevations, raising the risk of malaria in humans.

In the Netherlands, a coalition of 87 groups is aiming to double consumption of plant proteins by 2030 in a bid to achieve the nation’s climate goals while also strengthening the economy.

And: varieties of apples long grown in Britain could soon die out thanks to climate change, as winter months are no longer cool enough for their trees.


Experts say we cannot yet be sure of the health impacts of Ohio’s train derailment, but warn one substance involved — vinyl chloride — is known to cause liver cancer in high doses.

Scientists continued to see Spain’s October 2022 outbreak of bird flu on a mink farm as a troubling sign of the disease’s ability to spread in mammals.

The Netherlands reported a case of mad cow disease, and announced that other farmed cattle would be tested for the fatal illness.

Recent research suggests that diets high in plant-rich foods can reduce the chance of prostate cancer progression by 52 percent.

We have to address animal agriculture, which accounts for around 70 percent of antibiotics considered medically important, if we are to address antimicrobial resistance, reports Scientific American.

Conagra recalled 2.6 million pounds of its canned meat products for potential spoiling. 

Related: Penn State researchers found recalls can reduce consumer demand for fresh meat — especially government-mandated recalls, which caused 8 percent larger declines than voluntary recalls.

Recent studies tie the consumption of “ultra-processed foods” such as fast food to an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive decline.


Seven or more lawsuits have been filed against Norfolk Southern in the wake of the Ohio derailment, as residents remain concerned chemicals were not safely disposed of.

In 2022, the USDA granted loans to just 36 percent of Black farmers who applied, while giving loans to 72 percent of white farmer applicants, according to an analysis by NPR.

And an Alaskan fish hatchery was ordered to pay $1 million for the burning of hazardous waste and the resulting explosion that seriously injured a worker.

The U.S. Forest Service will shoot 150 cows in the Gila National Forest, saying the feral animals risk the environment and public safety — a plan ranchers are reportedly calling “inhumane.”

U.S. veterinarians were prohibited from joining a conference on euthanasia, after vocally opposing the rising use of ventilation shutdown plus to cull farmed animals.

In Colorado, ranching associations successfully opposed a bill that would have criminalized the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and now offers only limited transport protections.

France launched an investigation of Lactalis amid allegations that the dairy producer committed fraud and failed to recall baby formula contaminated with salmonella.

In Madrid, thousands of animal advocates protested when hunting dogs were left out of welfare protections.

An undercover investigator described what her hidden cameras revealed: Pigs raised for Smithfield Foods, gassed in chambers filled with up to 90 percent carbon dioxide.

Attendees of the Food Not Feed Summit in D.C. urged a 2023 Farm Bill that provides nutritious produce benefits and combats meat industry consolidation.

The federal Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act was reintroduced in an effort to protect workers in one of the nation’s most dangerous industries.

Meanwhile, Louisiana sought to reenact a law — ruled unconstitutional in March 2022 for violating free speech — to restrict the labeling of plant-based alternatives.

A Canadian dairy farmer launched a petition to oppose the dumping of milk on farms in Ontario, which donated over 1 million surplus liters to food banks in 2022.

Plus, U.S. conservation groups filed a petition urging Oregon to strengthen protections for endangered southern resident orcas, who now number only in the 70s.

Brazilian researchers have vaccinated over 300 endangered tamarin monkeys against yellow fever, in what advocates call a “novel” effort to protect wildlife for their own benefit.

A survey of 2,000 people across the U.K. found that 75 percent want the government to end the captivity of large wildlife such as elephants and tigers in zoos. 

In 2022, U.S. shelters took in 4 percent more animals than were adopted out, reports PBS, a trend attributed to the economy and return of pets adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Something Different

In a University of Iowa study measuring pigeon intelligence against that of AI technology, the birds completed the tests with 70 percent accuracy. 

The research comes at an opportune time, as another study found that humans often do not realign their views of other species with evidence of their intelligence.

Meanwhile, recent research showed that some fish can pass the “mirror test,” demonstrating they can recognize their reflection like species of dolphins, great apes, birds and elephants.

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