In August, a symposium on Animal Wellbeing was held at the Univ. of Arkansas. The first speaker was Elizabeth Rumley from the National Agricultural Law Center, Univ. of Arkansas, and she gave an informative lecture titled, “Property Rights vs. Animal Rights.”


 Dr. Temple Grandin

 In most states, animals are considered property and they do not have legally enforceable rights, therefore, if anyone sues on the behalf of the animal, the case will usually be thrown out. A few years ago, the city of Boulder, Colo., changed dog ownership to dog guardians because the word “guardian” has a different legal meaning. This change in wording opens the door for lawsuits to be filed on behalf of abused animals. A guardian can file a lawsuit on behalf of the being he/she is guardian of. Lawsuits cannot be filed on behalf of property. It is important for animal agriculture to be aware of these legal issues.

Pig welfare issues

David Newman from North Dakota State Univ. comes from a multigenerational family of pork producers. He told the audience there are three big welfare issues facing the pork industry. They are gestation stalls, pain relief during castration and euthanasia by blunt-force trauma. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) strongly recommends that blunt-force trauma should be phased out. He has been instrumental in developing both better euthanasia methods and a method to anesthetize baby piglets before castration.

On the sow-stall issue, Newman stated, “This ship has sailed.” Gestation stalls will be phased out. Out of the 25 top food companies, only seven have not committed to phase out gestation stalls.

Connecting with consumers

In another presentation by Janeal Yancy, Univ. of Arkansas, titled, “Moms on the Farm,” she explained how she takes moms from town on tours of a beef farm, dairy farm and broiler grow-out farm. It is important for the visitors to talk directly to the farmers who raise their food. When a broiler farm is visited, there is a more-positive reaction when the tour is given by the family who owns the farm, instead of being given by a field representative from a poultry company. It is all about making personal connections. These tours are an excellent example of opening the door and communicating with consumers.

Turkey breeding

One of the most interesting talks from a scientific standpoint was by Paige Glover, a geneticist for Aviagen Poultry. For years poultry has been bred to grow faster with better and better feed conversions. In 1950, growth was 80 percent of the selection criteria, today, it is only 25 percent. The economic factors of growth, feed conversion and meat yield is 50 percent of the selection criteria. The other half of the selection criteria are many other traits, which include leg deformities, gait score, lowered mortality, feather condition and other factors.

The industry needs to be careful when it comes to genetics. Some modern, high-producing animals have lowered disease resistance and genetic traits are linked in unexpected ways. In selecting animals, the industry should strive to determine what is optimal instead of maximum. Newman warns, “We have zero preparation for foreign animal disease.”

Dr. Temple Grandin operates Grandin Livestock Systems Inc., Fort Collins, Colo., and is a faculty member in the animal science department at Colorado State Univ.