The livestock industry has a new organization; one that’s designed to make some sense out of and provide guidance to the animal-welfare auditing programs.

Joining forces to create the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization are the Federation of Animal Science Societies, American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, American Association of Swine Veterinarians and American Association of  Bovine Practitioners.

The organization’s purpose is “to promote the humane treatment of animals through education and certification of animal auditors and to promote the profession of animal auditors.” 

Unique to this new organization is the fact that it combines two professions, animal scientists and veterinarians, for the single purpose of promoting humane animal treatment.

“The formation of PAACO is a great example of animal scientists and veterinarians working together to address an issue looming before animal agriculture. The increasing potential for auditing animal-production units requires training and educating qualified animal auditors,” says John Waddell, AASV president. “One of PAACO’s strengths will be the solid base of professional experience required of auditors before training even takes place. Producers will appreciate the fact that they will be working with auditors with practical production experience.”

Livestock producers already have a handful of audits from which to choose. However, each entity has a specific set of qualifications for its auditors, and they differ for every group.

“As important as welfare is for all animal industries, and its impact on the industry, we need educated, experienced, trained, tested and certified professionals,” says Angela Baysinger, DVM, PAACO chairman and Farmland Foods’ vice president of on-farm food safety.

“Our intent is not to create audits themselves, but to certify that auditors are qualified to conduct audits.”

Joining Baysinger on the 12-member board from the pork industry are veterinarians Daryl Olsen, AMVC Management, Audubon, Iowa, and John Deen, University of Minnesota.

PAACO’s belief is that auditors need a minimum amount of hands-on training, and they should concentrate on one species. Prospectives will shadow experienced auditors to view the different ways to raise animals. Otherwise, they could use personal biases to conduct audits.

PAACO has established a standards committee designed to establish training specifications that auditing programs need to meet, including education and experience background, individualized training, audit processes and species-specific programs. “You can’t be an auditor of all animals,” notes Baysinger.

“ARPAS members are committed to the continued well-being of animals and animal agriculture. ARPAS is pleased to join with other like-minded animal organizations to ensure that domestic animals are humanely treated,” says Ken Cummings, ARPAS president.   

“PAACO will provide to animal scientists and veterinarians educational and training programs without undue duplication by individual groups working separately,” says Dave Schingoethe, FASS president. FASS represents three professional food animal societies — the American Dairy Science Association, American Society of Animal Science and the Poultry Science Association.

Members of the founding organizations will be eligible to take training specific to each farm-animal system, and to take qualifying examinations. Qualified individuals will then be free to provide welfare audits independently for producers, or for specific animal-welfare auditing firms.

An independent body will assure the livestock community that any certified auditor doing on-farm visits are experienced and qualified. 

“We’re not advocating on-farm audits, but if they have to become a part of our industry, they need to be done by qualified people,” says Baysinger. “The end goal is animal welfare.”