This month Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee passed legislation against veal and sow crate housing and tail docking of cattle. While some groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are rejoicing in these laws, it’s important to note that it’s not just type of housing that influences animal welfare and comfort, but also its management.
HSUS and ASPCA press releases are full of emotion-driven phrases that describe livestock that, “…all too often endure lives of agony and frustration on factory farms.” I won’t disagree that there are always bad apples in every industry, but the vast majority of livestock producers raise their animals with welfare, and yes, along with that the bottom line, in mind.
“All farmers and ranchers have the ethical obligation to the animals in their care,” says Sarah Hubbart of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “However, housing is just one component of animal well-being. It’s the individual management, and not the size or style of production, which has the greatest impact.”
Hubbart notes in the case of pregnant sows, the Animal Agriculture Alliance echoes the stance of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “There are advantages and disadvantages to any sow housing system,” she says. “Both individual stalls and group housing can be effective strategies.”
Hubbart stresses that it’s important to note that America’s veal farmers have already made the commitment to transition to group housing for all veal calves by 2017.
“ASPCA, much like HSUS, is not an umbrella group for local animal shelters,” says Sarah Hubbart of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “These organizations are increasingly working collaboratively to promote legislation and litigation targeting farmers and ranchers. They use tactics like these – which are based on emotion, and not science – to build legislative precedent in hopes of slowly restricting farm practices.”
There is one thing I can agree on with Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA farm animal welfare campaign in ASPCA’s recent press release. She said, “All animals, including those raised for food, deserve to be treated humanely.” I just think our farmers, ranchers, livestock producers and their veterinarians are already doing this despite unnecessary and emotion-based legislation pushed through by groups such as ASPCA and HSUS.