"The present system of producing food animals in the United States is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food." In other words, concentrated animal feeding operations should be eliminated. This may come as a surprise to some of you.
The quote sums up a recent report by the Pew Commission on industrial farm animal production. The two-year study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trust through a grant to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The report, entitled Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America, serves as a road map for what Pew believes is wrong with animal agriculture.
The Federation of Animal Science Societies and the American Veterinary Medical Association agree that "…there are significant flaws in the Pew report."
Both organizations claim the Pew Commission did not ensure an unbiased work product and was quite critical of the Pew report, claiming that it did not "…incorporate the findings and suggestions of a significant number of participating scientists." The Putting Meat on the Table report is a 106-page document that is opposed to the way animal agriculture is conducted in the United States.
Notwithstanding criticisms of the report, it is important to review Pew's views.
The chapter on public health, beginning on p. 11 of the report, declares that industrial farm animal production (IAFP) is concentrated in areas that can affect human population centers, produces animal waste that harbors a number of animal pathogens and chemical contaminants, and is usually left untreated on the fields and raises the potential contamination of air, water and soils.
The report says that farm animal waste runoff is "…among the suspected causes of a 2006 Escherichia coli outbreak involving spinach leaves in which three people died and nearly 200 were sickened (CDC, 2006)."
The only problem with this statement is that it is misleading at best and partially false at worst. An FDA news release on March 23, 2007, described FDA's inquiries into the 2006 spinach leaves E. coli contamination case. FDA concluded that the potential environmental risk factors included E. coli contamination at or near the field "…included the presence of wild pigs, the proximity of irrigation wells…and surface waterways exposed to feces from cattle and wildlife." This is just one of many misleading statements made by the Pew report.
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