Consequences abound in coming changes to animal housing regulations.
Once upon a time producers, veterinarians and other experts shaped production practices for animal agriculture. Today, sadly, activist groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) force their way into executive board rooms of food companies, the halls of Congress and offices of state capitols to drive agendas that have consequences far beyond the farm.
For proof we need look no further than Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the latest chain to require their pork supplies to come from farmers who don’t use gestation stalls to house pregnant sows. It is worthwhile to note that Domino’s Pizza stands alone in rejecting the HSUS resolution to study eliminating gestation stalls. Domino’s chooses to trust that the experts and their proven, science-based practices to know best how to raise their animals.
Is Group Housing Better?
The HSUS demand for the elimination of gestation stalls has come despite the lack of scientific proof that group housing of sows improves animal welfare.
In fact, evaluations by scientists at Texas Tech University, researchers at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and in Australia show the welfare of sows in gestation stalls — which are still the majority of sows — is equal to that of those raised in group pens. Pork producers use gestation stalls to keep aggressive “bully” sows from fighting or stealing food from more docile animals, as this Missouri pork producer explains.
Change At What Cost?
While it seems the sows’ welfare isn’t affected, the elimination of stalls will have a big impact on pork producers. Dr. Paul Sundberg, the National Pork Board’s vice president of science and technology, has said that these changes could cost the average pork producer millions of dollars.
And that’s the real issue: when biased or misinformed groups force a scientifically questionable agenda it can add millions of dollars in costs and drive some producers out of business. The result could be a decrease in pork supplies and an increase in the price of pork products to consumers.
When the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization shows that demand for food and fiber will nearly double by 2050, ill-informed regulations make little sense. Shouldn’t we encourage hard-working farmers and ranchers of the world to use every technology and production practice possible to meet the food and fiber needs of the growing world?