Monday, July 6, 2009

Discussion of Feedstuffs Commentary

Friendly Discussion of Animal Welfare, Animal Care, and Ballot Initiatives: What's The Solution?

In regard to animal care and welfare, animal agriculture’s message is that current animal production systems produce safe, nutritious, affordable food by means of state-of-the-art technology based on sound science. Moreover, that animal production must be protected from special interest groups having vegetarian and other ethical agendas whose legislative efforts are simply attempts to stymie modern animal agriculture.

However, "sound science" has also showed that the methods HSUS is pursuing is superior to the status quo (see here and here)

Results of studies on the behavior and function of closely confined farm animals consistently indicate chronic stress. And behaviors suggestive of negative emotions are often observed.

For the record, however, similar problems can be found to varying degrees in animals kept in the alternative accommodations promoted by humane organizations.

Still, although stress is counterproductive in producing human foods of animal origin, contemporary animal agriculture has prioritized animal health and productive and reproductive performance over freedom to express a wide range of normal behavior patterns.

Conversely, HSUS’s rhetoric has focused primarily on animal behavior. Their message is simple and apparently reasonable: An animal should be able to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably and easily. Unfortunately, to honor such a dictum would create a financial and logistical nightmare for contemporary U.S. animal agriculture. Furthermore, it would not sufficiently consider other aspects of animal welfare.

Thank you for acknowleding the fact that traditional egg and pork systems have flaws, and thank you for pointing out the other systems have drawbacks for animal welfare as well. However, let us first acknowledge the fact that wanting an animal to be able to lie down comfortably and turn around is not naive. Second, if the alternative system one is considering is comparable in terms of animal welfare to systems where an animal cannot turn around, one should reconsider what that alternative is.

First, the conventional stalls, crates and cages used for much of the country’s livestock and poultry production would have to be either altered or abandoned. The cost of this alone would put many farmers out of business.

Any time one does anything that raises the cost of production, there will be some economic harm. But since those who are put out of business or lose their jobs can always find work elsewhere (unfortunately, this job-hunt can be difficult), people who are opposed to factory farming on ethical grounds will not accept this as an argument. One should not condone unethical behavior just because it makes money.

With that said, it is disingenuous to suggest that the only options for Ohio are either: (1) to make minimal or no changes to livestock and poultry production practices — in other words, to simply defend the status quo, or (2) to risk having food produced that is actually unsafe and unwholesome or so expensive that some Ohioans will starve.

Well said!

The respective parties could instead work together to maintain our safe, affordable food supply and better protect animals and people in the process. This, however, would require each party to state what they are willing to give up as well as to vow to act in good faith to ensure a positive outcome for all stakeholders: win-win-win for animals, consumers and farmers alike. This would require a couple of intentional actions by everyone.

The first would be proactive, sincere consideration of the values held by all stakeholders.

Second, it would require fuller use of current knowledge in animal-welfare and animal-production science, veterinary medicine and agricultural economic

The question facing citizens across the nation nowadays is this: Do we engage in an expensive and protracted battle of faulty referenda or can we put aside personal agendas and create a feasible plan that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of farmed animals and people?

No, it can't work like that. It probably shouldn't. This is a battle for how farm animals are raised. The industry and HSUS have different opinions on what farms should look like. It is pollyannism to think they can compromise, because there is no compromise to be made. This is how a democratic world works; both parties lobby, fight, smear, and persuade for their cause. Both are backed by money representing different desires of the public. People love pork and eggs, and prefer them cheap, hence the industry's political power. People want animals to be treated humanely, hence HSUS's power. The winner will be determined largely by the power of these two constituent groups, by the intensity of these two societal desires. While a bit ugly to watch, allowing this uncoordinated political process to battle is much better than a committee of animal welfare czars.

Thank you Dr. Croney and Dr. Curtis for your thoughts.