Article by: NICOLE WYATT
Updated: November 23, 2011 – 8:20 PM
On Oct. 31, the world population hit 7 billion. Our food animal industry has had to
modify production methods to safely and efficiently meet the growing demand.
Yet our population is becoming increasingly urbanized, with little or no exposure to
farming. As a veterinary student, I entered school with people who had gone their entire lives without stepping foot on a farm prior to our large-animal rotations.
People who have not been exposed to large production farming have a difficult time
understanding its current state. We have become an urbanized society susceptible to
emotional reactions and extreme animal-rights propaganda.
In light of recent events regarding and Mercy For Animals (MFA), let’s take the
poultry industry as an example. The American Veterinary Medical Association
has released a chart comparing housing methods in poultry.
The choice comes down to cramped housing that minimizes disease and injury but
sacrifices natural behavior, or preserving natural behavior but increasing the
incidence of disease, injury and subsequent suffering among the flock.
Disease and injury also mean a decline in food supply in the face of increasing
demand. It is clear why agricultural practices have become what they are.
As a vegetarian who plans on being a small-animal practitioner, I can say that there are aspects of modern agricultural practices I don’t like. But I have also learned that they aren’t quite as bad as they seem. I see room for improvement, along with the importance of providing food for our population.
conventional cages, and MFA is trying to pass it off as extreme abuse.
Vaccination decreases the incidence of illness in the flock; trimming beaks
decreases injuries and death, and conventional cages allow staff to efficiently
manage a large flock and catch any disease outbreaks in more timely manner.
They portrayed arguably humane practices as inhumane to people unfamiliar with the industry.
The actions of a few individuals actually abusing the animals were troubling and
unacceptable but are an example of bad people, not necessarily a bad industry.
I may not like the fact that hens are kept in cramped living conditions, but I find myself hard-pressed to come up with a viable, safe and economical alternative.
Target’s egg shelves were empty across Minnesota last weekend. Consumers now see
that we can’t have the best of both worlds. For now, Target and McDonald’s will find a new supplier using the same production methods, with no real change occurring.
For some in the industry, the pressure to change is becoming reality. Proposition 2 in California will require all eggs sold in the state to come from farms with either
enriched cages or free-range methods by 2015.
The European Union ban on conventional cages starts in 2012 and is expected to
cause a 12 to 20 percent increase in production costs.
Do we want more expensive food? My guess would be no, but many changes will come with a price that must be passed on to the consumer.
As consumers, it is your job to develop a better understanding of agriculture
practices so that issues regarding animal welfare and our food supply are approached in a practical way.
You must also understand the consequences of any demands you make on
veterinary student in Claremont, Calif.