Swine Industry Animal Welfare Issues and Research Programs in USA

Date:2013-08-07 19:42:19  From:  Author:


A. K. Johnson
Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011
The objective of this talk is to (1) address the swine welfare challenges facing the industry and (2) what active swine welfare research programs are on-going in North America. Over the past 15-years there has been an escalation of swine welfare events in North America. Animal rights and humane groups, who are very well funded and have excellent networking capabilities and have been shifting their tactics from short term campaigns, to long term shareholders in large retail companies so that their agenda items can be incorporated into purchasing decisions. Furthermore, these groups have been very successful in supporting legislative initiatives that have banned gestation sow housing over several states. Customers of pork products have begun demanding far more transparency and accountability in regards to the humane treatment of pigs throughout the production process. Multiple communications with the marketing sector has concluded that swine welfare assurance and third party auditing programs are required. The National Pork Board, funded through the Pork Check off continues to provide a variety of educational swine welfare material for their respective cliental. For example, Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus; V2) has been revised in 2013 to include food safety, health, environmental stewardship, worker safety and animal welfare. In addition, PQA Plus has an on-farm site assessment and in 2011 third party verification was implemented. In addition a swine welfare committee provides funding for swine welfare research. In 2013, the areas of interest included (1) gestation sow housing (2) neonatal management practices (3) transportation for the weaned and market pig and (4) euthanasia. For this fiscal year, ~$200,000 was committed towards three research projects addressing euthanasia, weaned pig transportation and gestation sow housing respectively. Compared to the more traditional sciences of nutrition, physiology and reproduction, farm animal behavior and welfare science is quite young. Active research groups within North America addressing swine welfare are small, even though the demand for scientific answers from interested stakeholders expands. Prominent locations that have been active in swine welfare endeavors over the past ten years are as follows; Iowa State, Michigan State, Purdue, USDA-ARS, Texas Tech, University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota. The majority of researchers work cohesively on teaching, research and extension programs. In conclusion, swine welfare is here to stay in North America. All individuals involved in the business of keeping pigs for food have an ethical responsibility in making sure that their animals are housed, raised, transported and processed with welfare forefront. The US swine industry will need to be on the forefront of welfare that pertains to their industry. In addition the industry will need to show increasing accountability back to their customers and consumers that swine welfare is of critical importance. Finally, the industry and other stakeholders must continue to provide funding so that science can be used as the basis for improving current welfare programs.
Keywords: Accountability, Education, Research, Swine, US, Welfare
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