While I do believe that it is important to recognize the strategies and efforts of animal rights groups in order to protect our businesses, I believe that it is more important to maintain a proactive and diligent focus on improved animal well-being. Reading Dr. Morrison’s book allowed me to decipher the difference between animal rights and animal well-being, and to begin to formulate how cattlemen must focus in order to move forward successfully on the issue.
There is not much that will scare a cattle farmer more than the thought of increased regulation. I hope that cattlemen will individually place the needed importance on animal well-being without requiring regulation; however, I felt that Dr. Morrison’s statement regarding regulation was thought-provoking. He states, “For the most part, the resistance to change in the early 1980’s, mine included, was not because scientists were not concerned about the welfare of laboratory animals. Rather, we were resistant to the possibility of a burgeoning bureaucracy. To a certain extent that did occur, but overall, the changed environment in which we do our experiments today is for the better.”
Fortunately for the field of biomedical research, “sound science” was used to create the increased regulations which I believe was instrumental in the success that Dr. Morrison notes. Given the current political swing away from science and more centered on “emotion”, I have personal worries that current increased regulation of our industry will lack the scientific basis to enable it to be proactive and effective.
Therefore, I challenge the 800,000 cattle farmers in the United States to become involved with industry driven animal well-being education/certification programs such as the Beef Quality Assurance program so that we can accomplish better well-being for our animals without increasing government regulation. I believe that this is particularly important for the feeding segment of the industry—both from an animal efficiency/health standpoint and from a consumer trust standpoint.
I view the newly created North American Food Animal Well-being Commission (NAFAWC) committee a proactive step to:
1. Refocus attention on scientifically supported BMP’s for animal well-being and
2. Aid grassroots cattlemen’s organizations to insure that good BMP’s are implemented on the farm.
The final stage is programs such as the new BQA Feedyard Assessment which will objectively measure and certify the cattle farmer’s competence in providing animal care, and provide a means to communicate that assurance back to the consumer.