Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Science and Farm Animal Welfare

In response to an interesting scientific study on the vocal communications of chickens, the blog Advocates for Agriculture comments...

Trying to get sound science back into the animal rights debate will always be difficult. However, when talking about animal welfare, sound science should be ruling the day, but lately it hasn’t. If we want what’s best of our livestock, then decisions about how to raise them should be made based on good information. Anti-agriculture groups realized before we did that emotional arguments will trump rational ones and that has been the key to much of their success. As farmers and ranchers, we need to speak up on this issue and relate to the consumer how important proper animal care is. After all, proper animal welfare should make the animals feel more comfortable, not ourselves.

Farmers may want to pause before urging farm animal welfare to be based on scientific studies of what makes hens happy.  Every study ranking cage systems to alternatives ranks the cage system last--every study.  I asked some prominent U.S. researchers if there have ever been any study ranking egg systems that placed the cage system ahead of the cage-free system, and they replied that no such study exists.

I am not a member of HSUS, so my comments here are only meant to help clarify the debate for interested consumers. Readers can go to the HSUS website and download numerous white papers, which documents the scientific studies that support every argument they make.  No such documentation exists supporting arguments by the industry.  

Let the debate ensue, but let it be honest.