Animal rights group contacts accused chicken killer

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SALISBURY — A national animal rights organization has sent a letter asking the Delmar man accused of killing almost 70,000 chickens to become a vegetarian as “penance” for his alleged actions.

The group, Mercy for Animals, also sent a Vegetarian Starter Kit with tips and recipes to Joshua D. Shelton, 21, using the Wicomico County Department of Corrections address. The letter is dated Aug. 30.

Shelton allegedly turned off the power to farmer Mark Shockley’s Delmar chickenhouses, which killed nearly 70,000 chickens that became deprived of food, water and cooling fans, according to charging documents. He faces burglary, malicious destruction of property, trespassing and animal cruelty charges.

Shockley, who estimated his total loss at about $25,000, said he doesn’t feel becoming a vegetarian is the solution for Shelton.

“I think, first of all, he should give his life to God, and I’m not a real religious person, but I do believe in God,” Shockley said.

He also said an incident like this shows how going too far with alcohol affects innocent people.

The boy should pay for this,” Shockley said. “He should have time to sit and think about what he did. And that’s what jail is for.

Mercy for Animals, which is headquartered in California, found out about the incident through the media, according to Matt Rice, its director of investigations.

Rice said the organization had read that Shelton did feel some remorse about the incident.

“This is the perfect opportunity for Mr. Shelton to prove he means what he says,” Rice said.

Much of the letter goes into what the lives of billions of factory-farmed chickens in the U.S. are like.

Mail sent to inmates is normally from family, friends or attorneys, said WCDC Director George Kaloroumakis.

“This is a first that I’m aware of,” Kaloroumakis said. “But I’m sure it’s not the first time someone who’s incarcerated has received a letter from an organization.”

Kaloroumakis described having a news release sent about the letter sent to an inmate as “something out of the norm.

As for the incident itself, Shockley said, “It’s been a very bizarre, hard-to-believe, devastating thing for us.”

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To read the letter sent to Joshua Shelton by Mercy for Animals,

Genetically engineered pigs killed after funding ends

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Canada‘s only herd of genetically engineered pigs has been killed, putting in jeopardy a plan to turn the technology into the first GE animal approved for human consumption.

The University of Guelph, which holds the patent for the so-called Enviropigs, quietly killed the remaining animals last month after failing to find an industry partner to continue to fund the project that began in 1999 with an ambitious commercialization plan.

There were 10 remaining animals in the herd from the 10th generation of the pigs, which were first created with a snippet of mouse DNA introduced into their chromosomes and engineered to produce low-phosphorus feces and reduce waste at large factory farms.

The project’s future was put into doubt earlier this spring, when industry association Ontario Pork decided to end its financial support.

The genetic information is being preserved in long-term safe storage at the Canadian Agricultural Genetics Repository Program operated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon, university spokeswoman Lori Bona Hunt told Postmedia News Thursday.

Still, the depopulation of the herd could torpedo the university’s applications with Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States for the Enviropig to become meat on kitchen tables.

In a statement, Bona Hunt said the applications “to assess the safety of Enviropigs for human food and animal feed are currently under review,” but raised the spectre of the university pulling the plug at some point, saying “they will remain active until a regulatory decision is made or until such time that the university no longer desires to obtain a final decision from the regulatory evaluators.”

Calling the deaths a “sad but necessary conclusion to an unwanted and unnecessary GE experiment,” Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network said the regulatory review process should be aborted immediately because there is no longer the scientific capacity at the University of Guelph to answer any questions arising from Health Canada’s ongoing safety assessment of Enviropigs for human food and animal feed.

“The university has no business wasting public funds on a review for a technology that no one wants, that’s so commercially unviable,” said Sharratt, who also placed blame on the federal government.

“It’s unacceptable that Health Canada would continue spending time on this file when it’s obviously being packed away. There needs to be a clear process for shutting down review processes for GE products that are going nowhere.”

Health Canada has repeatedly said the government cannot comment on any applications to assess the safety of any GE animal for human food.

The pigs were euthanized on May 24.

It occurred just days after North America’s largest farm animal protection group launched a public campaign to save the lives of the swine. New York-based Farm Sanctuary offered to work with the university to find “loving homes for the Enviropigs” to “live out their unnatural lives as naturally as possible.”

Bona Hunt said that the university received “many generous and well-intentioned offers,” but there was “absolutely no opportunity for this to occur, as adoption, donation or transfer of the animals would represent a breach of protocols and Canadian policies.”

Added Bona Hunt: “Releasing the Enviropigs would also have violated Canadian regulations for the containment and use of transgenic animals, and possibly compromised consumer safety and market protection.”

The University of Guelph had previously filed an application with Environment Canada to permit the GE pig to be farmed commercially, and cleared an important hurdle in February 2010. At the time, the department determined the GE pig did not harm the environment under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and accepted the University of Guelph’s notice of significant new activity — meaning the GE pig could be farmed commercially.

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