Is organic livestock kept in ethical conditions?
In the European Union (EU) guidelines, the ethical conditions for organic livestock are vaguely defined, only stating that livestock shall be kept in the open as much as it is naturally acceptable; significant definitions are missing for livestock stress reduction, whereby animals may experience stress due to overcrowding in the farms. Animal mutilation is clearly banned in the EU.
Conversely, US regulations do not mention mutilations but are more explicit than the European counterparts on how to minimise animal stress, by designing spaces that allow for exercise, freedom of movement and reduction of stress, as appropriate to the species.
Can organic livestock be fed non-organic feed?
In the European Union (EU), non-organic feed is allowed in some cases, for instance where a feed material is not available in organic form in sufficient quantities or qualities or if alternatives are not available. Also, synthetic additives and processing aids can be used minimally, but are restricted to essential technological or zootechnical needs or for particular nutritional purposes. Regulations strictly prohibit the use of GMO (genetically modified organism) products as feed, growth promoters and synthetic amino acids.
In the USA, while feed must be organic, some synthetic substances are allowed as feed additives under defined circumstances, although no feed supplements are approved. Similarly to the EU, US regulations clearly ban GMO input feed for organic livestock.
Can synthetic vaccines and drugs be given to organic livestock?
There is no definitive European Union (EU) list of approved synthetic substances that can be applied in organic livestock farming. There is also a lack of clear criteria defining when the use of organically approved medicines and drugs is inappropriate, or when synthetic substances can be applied for organic use on an individual basis upon permission from the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD), with the subsequent withdrawal periods (based on VMD directives) extended under EU regulations.
Regulations in the USA are generally similar to the EU, but further specify that farmers must not withhold medical treatment from a sick animal in an effort to preserve its organic status; the Food and Drug Administration has a transparent and defined list of synthetic substances with predefined withdrawal periods. In both the USA and the EU, medicinal GMO (genetically modified organism) veterinary products such as vaccines are allowed,,  and a defined list of synthetic allopathic veterinary medicines, including antibiotics, may be used in the event of sickness, but only under certain circumstances and with withdrawal periods based on the fully tested and defined conditions.