The Animal Care Review Panel, a panel of animal well-being experts, created to analyze undercover video investigations at livestock farms has completed a review of a 4:14-minute video clip posted on the Internet on July 16.
The group Mercy For Animals (MFA) shot the footage and also presented a web-campaign directing consumers to contact Wal-Mart and Costco executives, asking them to require their pork suppliers to stop using gestation-sow stalls. (For more perspective, check out Gestation crate pressure builds; Costco buckles.)
As the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) points out, hidden camera investigations at livestock farms have heightened public attention on animal-care issues. “In an effort to foster a more balanced conversation and to provide credible feedback to promote continuous improvement in farm animal care,” CFI created the Animal Care Review Panel.
The panel that examined the recent MFA video included Janeen Salak-Johnson, University of Illinois; Candace Croney, Purdue University; and John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota.
Panel members generally agree that while some conditions and practices seen in the video could be improved, most of what is shown does not indicate animals were abused or neglected. One panel member summarized the situation: "Overall, these animals were well taken care of. There were no signs of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect. The sows were clean, free of lesions, calm and in good condition."
MFA did not respond to CFI's request for unedited video so that the panel could review the farm practices in better context.
Here is a more detailed review of the panel's observations:
* Gestation Stalls: The panel members note the video inaccurately blames sow gestation stalls for many of the problems animals are experiencing. "The claim that gestation stalls are cruel, inhumane and abusive is not supported by any of the video footage," said Salak-Johnson.
"They talk about injuries associated with gestation stalls yet they did not show any injuries that could be associated with gestation stalls," said Deen.
"The issue of housing sows in stalls obviously raises contention and deserves discussion, but much of the video is edited in such a manner as to leave several questions unanswered about the conditions the animals are experiencing," said Croney.
The panel noted that the size of the stalls appeared to be within guidelines-- that a sow must be able to lay in full-lateral recumbence. A couple of exceptions were noted.
"There is one sow shown with her head laying on a stainless-steel trough," said Salak-Johnson. "But a different angle showed there was adequate room in the stall. Maybe this sow just chose to lay her head on the trough."