Washington - Proposed legislation designed to improve the treatment of farm animals might be detrimental to animal welfare, public health and food safety, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) officials report.
WASHINGTON — Proposed legislation designed to improve the treatment of farm animals might be detrimental to animal welfare, public health and food safety, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) officials report.
Known as the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act, H.R. 5557 requires producers supplying meat, dairy products and eggs to the military, federal prisons, school lunches and other federal programs to comply with certain welfare standards. Those standards include not starving or force-feeding animals, providing adequate veterinary care and, if necessary, humane euthanasia, or confining animals to enclosures that prevent them from turning around and extending their limbs, such as sow gestation stalls and hen cages.
"The federal government can lead by example in the marketplace and encourage more humane practices by purchasing products derived from livestock raised more humanely," the bill states.
Yet AVMA officials are wary of language in the measure, pointing to the bill's "emotional interpretations of animal welfare as opposed to science-based facts." The association, which bills itself as the premier animal welfare experts, approves some production practices banned by the measure based on "science-based" evidence. The bill encourages banning the use of sow gestation stalls, which AVMA condones in most cases, citing safety benefits for the animals.
"When crafting legislation with the intent of improving animal welfare, great care must be taken to ensure that good intentions don't translate into poor results," says Dr. Lyle Vogel, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. "The proposed language will mandate changes in production practices that could actually have negative rather than positive effects on animal welfare, public health and worker safety."
All housing systems have advantages and disadvantages, he adds. Until a "perfect housing system is identified, it makes sense that responsible welfare initiatives would focus on improving, rather than eliminating, existing systems."