Posts tagged ‘animal welfare’

Animal Care Backgrounder

  • The science that is available to determine which housing systems are most desirable for laying hens, gestating sows and veal calves in the United States has not led to firm conclusions. No single system has scientifically been identified to be clearly superior to all others in regard to animal welfare because the welfare issues are different in different systems.
  • There is no scientific consensus on which welfare criteria are most important. For instance, an animal behaviorist might focus on whether animals can express a wide range of normal behaviors, whereas a veterinarian might prioritize animal health, while a producer might emphasize animal production and reproduction as indicators of welfare. The truth is all of these factors interact to help define welfare, so no single indicator will explicitly define optimal animal welfare.

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  • Welfare tradeoffs exist for all conventional and alternative production systems. For example, in conventional sow gestation stalls, freedom of movement, and freedom to express most normal social behaviors are compromised, but individual animal monitoring and feeding are promoted, as are sow and caretaker safety, which can be jeopardized when aggression occurs in unrestrained animals. Likewise, in group housing, animals’ abilities to experience additional normal social interactions and express a greater behavioral repertoire must be weighed against the risks associated with sows having greater access to each other, which include increased risk of injury and competition for resources such as space and feed.
  • Alternatives to standard housing systems need to be further researched. The risks and benefits of alternative housing systems to animal and human welfare must be well understood and adequately tested across the U.S. with animals of the genetic lines we typically use for production purposes.
  • The welfare of animals in alternative systems needs to be at least as good as it is in standard systems before mandating the change in systems.
  • The costs of shifting to alternative production systems on a much larger scale are currently unclear and need to be validated by a broader data set than that obtained from analysis of niche markets. In addition, impacts of alternative production systems on consumers’ access to high quality, safe food must be understood.
  • Given there is no scientific consensus on which systems are ‘best’, those chosen for use reflect the knowledge, values and priorities of the people charged with making such decisions. Those individuals have a duty to ensure the values and concerns of all stakeholders, including members of the public, are duly considered. Consumer demand will play a role in how animals are cared for in food animal production operations.
  • Quality of animal care and level of well-being are not dictated by the size or type of food animal production system. Indications are that animals can do well or poorly in any system. Design of facilities is important, as is the safe and judicious use of any tools or devices used in production systems, but training of workers and proper management are also key influences on animal state of being. In addition, attitudes and beliefs of caretakers influence how they interact with animals. Thus, it is essential to develop and implement animal caretaker training programs, and foster high ethical standards in caretakers.
  • Existing commodity Quality Assurance Programs are of high quality in relation to food safety and food quality issues. As the Quality Assurance Programs continue to evolve, additional emphasis is being placed on education of caretakers about how their daily interactions with animals impact animal care and well-being.
  • In many cases, best management practices are in place in food producing animal operations. Responsible members of the animal science and industry communities must, however, continue to seek to improve animal care.

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Materials Developed by:

Dr. Candace C. Croney, Animal Welfare Scientist, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, The Ohio State University

Dr. Naomi A. Botheras, Animal Welfare Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

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Materials Reviewed by:

Dr. Steven J. Moeller, Swine Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

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October 26, 2009 at 9:47 am

Some Thoughts on Ohio Issue 2

The following is a summary of Issue 2 Ohio from Brian Roe, AED Economics, Ohio State University. One of the most common questions relates to compensation for board members. I have placed the compensation issue at the end of the post (thanks to Peggy Kirk Hall, OSU Director of Ag Law Program).

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October 26, 2009 Update: The Ohio Issue 2 Factsheet is now available at: https://agvanwert.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/ohio-issue-2-osu-fact-sheet-on-legal-questions/

As the fall election season approaches, many are becoming aware of Ohio’s Ballot Issue 2, which pertains to care standards for farm animals.  This article does not provide an analysis of whether Issue 2 is good or bad nor does it address any issues concerning the science of animal care.  Rather, I go through a series of questions about the management implications of Ohio Issue 2 if it should happen to pass and if it should happen to fail.

Given the novelty of the Issue 2 Ohio initiative, firm answers are difficult to provide.  However, I try to provide some possibilities of what passage or defeat of Issue 2 might mean for Ohio livestock and poultry farmers.  Exact language of this initiative is available here.  Questions A – G are answered by using language from the ballot initiative and joint resolution itself, i.e., I am basically re-organizing the words in the initiative to answer some common questions.  Questions H – M were formulated by me and based upon my own research and analysis.  I thank Peggy Hall of Ohio State’s Agricultural Law Program for discussing and clarifying some of the legal implications and ‘what ifs’ of the initiative with me as I developed this work, but the content contained below is solely my responsibility.

Some Basics About Ohio Issue 2

A.  What happens if Ohio Issue 2 passes?

  • A Livestock Care Standards Board is created in Ohio

B.  Who is on the Board?

  • 13 Members
    • No more than 7 from any single political party
    • Ohio residents
    • Representatives of Ohio family farms, farming organizations, food safety experts, veterinarians, consumers, the dean of an agricultural department at an Ohio college or university, a county humane society representative

C.  What is this Board authorized to do?

  • Establish standards for governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio

D.  What should these standards attempt to achieve?

  • Maintain food safety
  • Encourage locally grown and raised food
  • Protect Ohio farms and families

E.  What factors must be considered when establishing and implementing these standards?

  • Agricultural best management practices
  • Biosecurity
  • Disease prevention
  • Animal morbidity and mortality data
  • Food safety practices
  • Protection of local, affordable food supplies
  • Any other factors deemed appropriate by the Board

F.  Who administers and enforces these standards?

  • The Ohio department that regulates agriculture

G.  If someone wants to challenge the standards created by the board, is there any recourse?

  • The administration and enforcement of the standards by the Ohio department regulating agriculture is subject to the authority of the General Assembly.

Some ‘What-Ifs’ About Issue 2 and Beyond

H.  If Issue 2 Ohio passes, does it mean that nothing will change for Ohio livestock farms?

  • This is not clear.  Consider several speculative scenarios (and, please, do not consider my introduction of these scenarios as an endorsement of any of them).
  1. Absolutely no change for producers. The newly created Board is seated and essentially adopts existing livestock practices as their chosen standards.  The department implementing and enforcing these standards finds no need to verify whether individual operators are in line with these practices or utilizes a verification method with virtually no cost to individual producers.
  2. Only paperwork/administrative changes for producers. The newly created Board is seated and essentially adopts existing livestock practices as their chosen standards.  The department implementing and enforcing these standards requires that all producers document compliance via a record keeping and paperwork regime.  So, even though no operator would alter production practices, all operators may need to undertake additional administrative work that can be costly and time-consuming, particularly for smaller operations where the livestock entity is not the core enterprise.
  3. Changes in production practices. The Board is seated and eventually (perhaps with changes in membership due to administration turn over or public pressure upon legislative members) adopts care standards that would substantially alter production practices.  The department implementing and enforcing these standards would then need to implement a compliance regime that verifies that practices are actually changed to comply with new standards, which could alter the fixed or variable costs of producers in addition to administrative costs.

I.  If Ohio Issue 2 passes, does it mean that future ballot initiatives aimed at banning certain animal care practices are impossible?

  • Passage of Ohio Issue 2 would not guarantee that California-style ballot initiatives would not be introduced in 2010 or beyond, but would likely decrease the odds of such targeted animal care initiatives.  Subsequent initiatives seeking to ban certain practices would have to alter Issue 2 to accommodate the goals of subsequent initiatives, which could cause further delays.

J.  If Ohio Issue 2 fails, what could happen?

  • Ohio voters might vote on a California-style ballot initiative in 2010 or beyond that would seek to ban cages for hens, farrowing crates for gestating sows and crates for veal calves, perhaps by amending the Ohio constitution.  Note that most previous state-level animal care initiatives have not amended the constitution of the state, but rather just changed regulations.  Only the Florida ballot initiative, which banned farrowing crates, amended the state’s constitution.  Amendments to a state’s constitution are more rigid in implementation and harder to change than simple legislative initiatives.
  • Legislators and farm groups may instead try to broker a Michigan-style negotiated deal to avoid a ballot initiative where most of the above-mentioned practices are eventually banned, but the main bargaining chip is how long before such standards are mandatory.  For example, the standards will not be in full effect until 2020 for Michigan.

K.  If a California-style initiative passes in Ohio in 2010, what would happen?

  • Farmers currently using banned practices will have to make a decision among 3 options:

1.   Spend money to

  • Change production techniques
    • Any big change in production practices costs money
    • Most methods  that would be banned are currently the least expensive production methods, particularly at larger scales of production
    • A study of the effects of banning cages for laying hens in California was conducted by UC – Davis economists, and found that non-cage systems would increase costs of production by about 20%.
    • Alter sales and marketing strategies
      • No one in Ohio would be required to buy the products produced under the altered production standards, so they would need to work through niche companies that sell products for a premium and try to recoup their increased expenses via higher sales price.
        • However if many farmers try to sell to this niche market, those historically high sale prices will decline as the market may become flooded with additional product.

2.   Spend money to move their operation to a location that allows such practices

3.  Exit the line of business subject to the new standards

L.  If a California-style initiative passes in Ohio in 2010, will fewer total animals be subject to the banned practices?

  • It depends on how many farmers choose option 1 under question K in the previous section.  Consider two extremes:
  1. All current farmers using the banned practices stay in business at the same exact level of production and implement alternative production methods.  Then all of the animals currently exposed to the banned practices each year would be raised using alternative means, which would clearly reduce the worldwide number of animals exposed to the banned practice.
  2. All current farmers using the banned practices either move or exit.  Then the same number of animals worldwide would be raised using the banned practices, just their location would be shifted out of Ohio while the products are shipped back to Ohio for consumption.
  • The truth will lie somewhere in between and will likely depend on:
  1. How much demand (and price premiums) for animal products raised under alternative production systems increases by the required transition date.  This in turn will depend on:
  • Whether consumers willingness to pay increases
  • Whether lots of other producers in other states also transition and flood the market for these alternative production system goods.

2.   How much the costs and efficiencies for alternative production systems improve by the required transition date.  This is turn will likely depend on:

  • How many other farmers will have implemented these systems and, through experience, reduced the cost and increased the efficiencies of such systems
  • If good information and financing is made available to farmers interested in transitioning to alternative systems.

M. What has happened to egg production in California since the passage of the California ballot initiative?

  • California is the 5th leading producer of eggs nationally.
  • The 2008 ballot initiative will require changes in the way laying hens are raised.  Note two things about the initiative and the laying hen industry:
    • The rule changes will not go into effect until 2015.
    • The exact implications of the law for production practices have not been fully articulated
      • For example, it has not been determined whether the law outlaws all cages or just cages small enough to limit birds from turning around fully with wings spread without touching other birds.
    • However, comparing layer hen numbers from July 2008, which preceded the ballot initiative, to July 2009 numbers, which follow the initiative, we find that:
      • The number of laying hens in California dropped by about 1 million birds
      • This is the 2nd largest decline in laying hen numbers among all states
      • This represents 24% of the laying hen population decline observed nationally
      • California’s share of the nation’s laying hens declined from 6.1% to 5.8%
      • All reductions in laying hen numbers in California occurred among large flocks while small flock numbers gained slightly.
    • These numbers may indicate initial industry response from the impending regulatory changes
      • However, other regional factors cannot be ruled out as drivers of the change in hen numbers given the short time frame of the data analyzed

N. Why not propose an alternative to banning certain production practices?  For example, ban the sale of products in Ohio that do not use certain practices.

  • There has been some discussion of an effort to do this in California in light of the passage of the California law banning cages in the production of eggs produced in that state.
  • For Ohio, such a ban on the sale of such products would encourage Ohio farmers to not exit or move production because they now have the advantage of a built-in home market for selling products raised under such standards.
  • This would likely alter the production circumstances of more animals globally than a California-style ban that focuses only on production within the state’s borders.
  • Such an initiative would also force Ohio consumers to think more fully about the implications because they would now be forced to pay any additional production costs associated with banning such practices through higher prices at the store.
  • However, such an alternative may not be practical as it may face federal legal challenges as an infringement of interstate commerce.  Although, other states, such as California, have passed regulations such as a ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed geese regardless of where the foie gras was produced.

Financial Compensation for Board Members and Financial Operation of the Board

Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management has prepared a fiscal analysis of the proposal, located here:  http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/upload/ballotboard/2009/2-analysis.pdf

A few quick points from OBM’s analysis:

  • Assumes that the board members will serve voluntarily.
  • Predicts that the state will require two full-time staff persons to administer a program.  This amount does not include any regulatory staffers to ensure compliance, since the proposal does not state that it requires compliance.
  • Estimates annual operating expenses for the Board at $176,703 for the first year and $162,280 for subsequent years.
  • Assumes that funding will derive from the state’s General Revenue Fund, since the proposal does not designate a funding source.

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Before you comment, you may want to review my blog policies. Comments that do not follow the policies will be deleted. I simply ask that individuals keep comments within the bounds of respectful civil discourse. (updated by A. Kleinschmidt 10/20/09)

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October 5, 2009 at 8:15 am 97 comments

Ohio State University Hosts Animal Welfare Symposium

As animal agriculture comes under scrutiny and animal welfare issues are hotly debated, the time to become educated to proactively address animal welfare issues is now.

"Animal welfare is a prominent issue in Ohio and the U.S. and even the world. It’s a topic of interest to producers, consumers, veterinarians, health-care professionals, legislators and anyone who has a stake in sustainable animal agriculture," said Naomi Botheras, animal welfare program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Animal Sciences. "Because it is such an important topic that affects a lot of people, it’s important to become educated about the issue, participate in the conversation and get involved in the decision-making process."

Informed decisions about animal welfare that will positively address the needs of animals, producers and consumers are based on understanding a wide range of perspectives. To better understand and proactively address farm animal welfare issues, the Department of Animal Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine are holding an Animal Welfare Symposium, "Building Partnerships to Address Animal Agriculture," on Friday, Oct. 16 at the university’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43210. Well-known animal welfare experts and social scientists from around the world will discuss the scientific, ethical, legal and social contexts embedded in the animal welfare debate.

"The symposium is an opportunity for people to hear a wide range of animal welfare perspectives, hear what other people are doing and discuss what needs to be done. It’s also a chance to learn from other countries about how they have handled animal welfare issues, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or more importantly so we don’t make the same mistakes they’ve made," said Botheras who is co-organizing the event.

The event is designed for food animal producers, consumers, veterinarians, and anyone with an interest in food animal production and products or sustainable animal agriculture. The symposium is an opportunity for those interested to:

  • Participate in a balanced, thought-provoking discussion about animal welfare.
  • Obtain a better understanding of animal welfare issues facing animal agriculture.
  • Gain the information and the insights to make informed decisions.
  • Learn how legislation, self-regulation, or auditing may impact animal production and handling methods.
  • Hear what the science says about the welfare of animals in different housing systems.

Featured speakers and topics include:

Wes Jamison, associate professor of Communication at Palm Beach Atlantic University, will review the social issues underlying animal welfare concerns.

Janice Swanson, professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare and director of Animal Welfare at Michigan State University, will examine the differing opinions for self-regulation, legislation or auditing of livestock and poultry production practices.

Ruth Newberry, associate professor, Center for the Study of Animal Well-being at Washington State University, will explain what the science currently tells us about the welfare of laying hens in different housing systems and what research still needs to be done.

Harold Gonyou, research scientist, Prairie Swine Centre, Canada, will explain what the science currently tells us about the welfare of gestating sows in different housing systems and what research still needs to be done.

Paul Hemsworth, director of the Australian Animal Welfare Science Centre, will discuss lessons that can be learned from the Australian approach to addressing farm animal welfare.

More event details and registration information is available online at http://vet.osu.edu/AnimalWelfareSymposium.

For more information, contact Melissa Weber, director of communications and marketing for the College of Veterinary Medicine, at 614-292-3752 or weber.254@osu.edu

September 23, 2009 at 10:56 am 2 comments

Senate Joint Resolution on Livestock Care Standards for Ohio

Peggy Hall, Agricultural & Resource Law Program Director for OSU Extension recently sent a summary of Ohio Senate action. The Ohio Senate has introduced a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to address the care of livestock.

Here’s a quick summary of the proposed constitutional amendment:

  • Creates a thirteen member Livestock Care Standards Board consisting of the Director of the Department of Agriculture, ten members appointed by the Governor, a family farmer appointed by the Speaker of the House and a family farmer appointed by the President of the Senate.
  • Grants the Livestock Care Standards Board the authority to establish and implement standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry.
  • Directs the Board to “endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect Ohio farms and families” and to consider factors such as agricultural best management practices for care and well-being, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity and mortality data, food safety practices, and the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers.
  • Grants the Ohio Department of Agriculture authority for overseeing and enforcing the standards established by the Board.

If passed by a three-fifths majority of the House and Senate, the proposed constitutional amendment will be submitted to Ohio voters on the November 3 ballot.

Hearings on the resolution are scheduled to begin the week of June 22, 2009 in the Senate Agriculture Committee. You may access the joint resolution here: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/res.cfm?ID=128_SJR_6

UPDATE: 6/22/09, 10:00 p.m.

Emily Caldwell, of Farm and Dairy, wrote an excellent article summarizing this action.  From her article:

A joint resolution between the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives — which has the support of most major agricultural organizations in Ohio — would authorize language on the ballot this November and, if passed, would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, a 13-member board responsible for implementing proper guidelines. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has already announced his support of the amendment.

Read Emily’s full article here: http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/ohio-studies-livestock-care-ballot-initiative/12359.html

June 22, 2009 at 7:30 am


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This blog is no longer being maintained. Information on this blog may still be relevant, but for the latest agronomic information and farm management information please visit http://corn.osu.edu and http://ohioagmanager.osu.edu, respectively.

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