The thousands and thousands of farms that dotted the countryside in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were for the most part family-run operations that usually had a few pigs, some cows, chickens and row crops.
Today, such farms are almost anachronisms. The world is a much bigger place, and the farms of yesteryear have adapted to accommodate a more global world. While the majority is still run by families, farms have gotten larger and embraced modern technologies and production methods, allowing fewer to feed a growing world. So pork production operations have evolved to meet the tremendous domestic and international demands for abundant, safe, high-quality meat products.
But some critics of modern livestock production are trying to force us to return to the farms of yesterday. Chief among them is the animal-rights movement, led by the Humane Society of the
Rest assured it’s not just rhetoric that HSUS and other groups are using in their efforts. They are actually pouring millions of dollars into public relations campaigns, state ballot initiatives, and state and federal lawmakers’ election coffers.
According to ActivistCash.com, HSUS is “big, rich and powerful,” with assets of $113 million. It spent $1.7 million in 2006 on an
Their efforts are paying off. In addition to winning in
Now the activists are targeting
Animal-rights groups aren’t stopping there; they’re taking their fight to the U.S. Congress. Again, led by HSUS, their sites are set on the 2007 Farm Bill or agriculture funding provisions. They are pushing to add legislation to prohibit fatigued hogs from entering the food supply, to restrict the use of certain antibiotics in livestock and to stop the federal government from purchasing meat from farms that use individual sow housing methods.
As pork producers, you know such efforts are misguided. On the fatigued-hogs issue, it’s well documented that some pigs will lie down and refuse to move for a period, after even an hour-long ride to the packing plant. Those same pigs will recover after given adequate rest. Further, USDA inspectors check all hogs for their fitness to enter the production line. The pork industry also has a Trucker Quality Assurance program that educates truckers on proper handling, loading and transporting of hogs, with attention to biosecurity and animal well-being.
As for antibiotics, the industry’s “Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly” program, which includes judicious use guidelines, promotes the protection of public health, and animal health and well-being. The Pork Quality Assurance Plus program educates producers on responsible animal care by applying scientifically sound practices, including proper housing, management, nutrition, as well as disease prevention and treatment.
When it comes to sow housing, you know first-hand that management, not the type of housing, is most important to ensure animal well-being. Again there is documentation from leading animal scientists, who say the evidence shows that sow physiology and behavior are essentially equivalent in well-managed gestation-sow stalls and group pens.
But you also need to convey to the public and to policy makers, loudly and often, that you raise hogs in a humane, compassionate and socially responsible manner; and that, while it’s nice to remember the farms of yesteryear, meeting the demands for abundant, safe, high-quality pork means there’s no going back.