Thank you for the many comments received on our article entitled, “Animal rights groups exploit ‘gap of knowledge.’” We appreciate your input and believe it’s important to provide a forum for people to express their opinions on issues, however controversial.

Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Wanda from Minnesota writes: “…The sows receive individual care, each is fed the right amount of feed and given any necessary medical attention. In fact, when we moved our sows from group housing to individual pens, the sows were immediately very content.”

Mark writes: Pork producers! You do a great job producing the best quality product in the world, affordably, safely and with great care for the animals. It is common sense that to deliver a great quality product you have to take care of your product.”

Kyle from Ohio offers: “Are these housing systems perfect - no. Would we like to improve how we raise the animals that are the basis of our business - yes.…We want to make changes but only in a way the moves (the industry) forward in animal care, not backwards. As pork producers we donate a certain amount of money from the sale of every animal for research to help us find those answers. HSUS not only does not use its money to actually care for animals, they do not use any of their money for research to actually determine the animals’ needs. Even when they promised they would. I suggest when companies establish themselves as experts on animal care by making demands, NPPC should contact them and ask them to match our check off dollars for research to help us find answers. …It would be nice for once to have someone else put their money where their mouth is.”

And Michelle from Indiana writes: “As the number of farms decrease and the amount of needed food increases, I would recommend utilizing our younger generations to educate not only their local communities but all around the country. Many animal rights advocates are targeting the universities and even high school age individuals to push their propaganda. …The number of rural citizens as well as the number of farmers is decreasing and we have a smaller voice but that voice needs to be heard not only by large organizations but by the people that the community tends to believe. Utilize our younger generation and allow them to share their knowledge. They are an amazing asset that hasn't begun to be tapped.

I’m curious to know exactly why some of these groups are against individually housed sows. As Terry from Pennsylvania points out, research indicates sows are as productive regardless of whether they’re in group housing or individual pens. Isn’t productivity a gauge of sow comfort? If it isn’t, what is the gauge? And if sows are as comfortable in a pen as they are in a group-housing environment, why wouldn’t we want to use the systems that are most cost-effective, thereby lowering the cost of production and ultimately, the cost of pork for the consumer?

Simply thinking a sow is “happier” in one system than another is invalid, since happiness is a human characteristic. If sows are content and productive, aren’t these some of the best measurements available?

Like some of our respondents, we have housed gestating sows in open pens. We have also raised sows and litters in a pasture system. Neither is without its pitfalls. Can I tell you our sows were more content in open pens than in stalls? No. Can I tell you raising pigs in a pasture system is better for the pigs? Definitely no. One of our worst days in pork production was the morning we checked on our sows and litters in the field, only to find that coyotes had taken every last baby pig in the lot.

Bottom line, we need to continually evaluate housing options based on sound science. Furthermore, it’s evident we need to do all we can to close the “gap of knowledge.” It exists not only within food companies but certainly among consumers in general. PorkNetwork will continue to serve as a conduit for meaningful dialogue, and we welcome your input.