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Blog: Large-scale food animal production under microscope


Welfare groups seek to move 'corporate farming' into political arena.

Editor's note: The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on dvm360.com—of which this is the first installment—will help veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement. Hopefully, this blog will motivate you to study the issues further and discuss them with policy leaders, clients and other stakeholders, and your colleagues.

It looks like 2014 is shaping up to be a hot year in the legislative kitchen. Animal welfare and rights organizations are involved in both companion and food animal issues. But it is food animals drawing splashy attention this month. On Sept. 24, the ASPCA released a new blog, "The Truth About Chicken," which is an aggressive challenge to large-scale production of chicken for human consumption. For some time the ASPCA's position on "corporate farming" has aligned with that of the HSUS and, to a degree, PETA.

In short, these groups maintain that large-scale food animal production is inimical to animal welfare and should be radically reshaped or abandoned. A glance at each organization's website confirms this. At the same time, the American Humane Association has announced that nearly 1 billion food animals now fall within its American Humane Certified program. (Click here to read more about the certification.) This covers nearly 10 percent of America's food animals.

Veterinarians, animal health interests and the general public should stay tuned as these organizations inevitably move into state and federal political arenas to advance their cause. While each issue in Congress or state legislatures has unique twists and turns, be assured that the underlying debate may be whether certain organizations will ever accept large-scale production of meat for human consumption. That question will generate political heat for a long time.

Whether you are a large animal veterinarian with a direct stake in this discussion or a small animal veterinarian with clients who are curious about these political topics, it will pay to stay informed.

Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.

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