Julie Berry is a freelance science writer. In this week's blog, she shares her observations from the recent Center for Food Integrity's Food Summit held in Chicago, IL.
By Guest Blogger: Julie Berry, Science Writer, BS, Cornell University, MA, Johns Hopkins University
Move Over Local. Move Over Organic. Humane Is Stepping In.
The US needs uniform national legislation guiding care of animals, said Paul Shapiro, Senior Director, Farm Animal Protection, for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) during the Food Animal Well-Being “Creating Alignment Between Customer Expectations and Supply Chain Practices” session at the Center for Food Integrity’s Food Summit 2011.
HSUS is an animal rights activist group and an active proponent of proposition 2 legislation and animal care standards that passed in California, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Maine and Florida. This legislation focuses on battery cages for hens, veal crates, and gestation crates for pigs.
“There are anticruelty laws. Cock fighting is illegal. Dog fighting is illegal. What about farm animals,” he said.
The standards passed are inconsistent between states. There is no federal law, many state exemptions, and virtually no protection for farm animals, Shapiro said.
“Research has confirmed what common sense already knew. Animals built to move must move,” he said quoting Bernard Rollin, Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University.
Shapiro challenged using animal productivity as a measure of animal welfare. And he challenged participants to raise the bar, be transparent and find common ground with animal activist groups. Decisions should not be about competitive advantage or disadvantage. Choice lies with the consumer, he said.
“Future generations will look back and ask how could we have let these practices be the norm? It’s a blessing that consumers are removed from the food system,” he said.
He cited a 2001 USDA survey that found nearly 51 percent of US dairy operations tail dock even though, he said, science overwhelmingly does not support this practice. He cited statements opposing tail docking from the University of Wisconsin Agriculture and Extension Service Center, National Milk Producers Federation, American Veterinary Medical Association, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program and Dairy Herd Management editor Thomas Quaife.
“The issue is where the science is overwhelming but the practice continues,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro also raised concern about pain management in animals. Farm Bureau and Oklahoma State University’s national telephone survey respondents indicated that 81 percent believe farm animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans, 68 percent say that the government should take an active role in promoting farm animal welfare, and 75 percent would vote for a law in my state requiring farmers to treat their animals better.
Animal welfare ranks as the 3rd most important social issue to restaurant patrons, following health insurance coverage and living wages, according to a Technomic Information Services survey, Shapiro said.
“Move over local. Move over organic. Humane should be top of mind for food retailers,” Shapiro said quoting Phil Lempert, who is known as the Supermarket Guru.
Food needs to be affordable, and we need to have science-based decision making, Shapiro said. Consumers are interested in making conscious food choices, humane management, socially responsible products, animal well-being, the environment, and food safety and worker safety.
Slides of Shapiro’s presentation are online at: http://www.foodintegrity.org/main/event/5.