Understanding people’s agenda is also a key portion of farm animal welfare. “We need to know if people are truly interested in the well-being of animals, if it is a marketing argument, or do they just want to eliminate animal agriculture?” asks Daley.
“It’s also important to understand certification programs -– who designed them and do they really improve animal welfare,” he says.
Every speaker agreed that there is more than one way to do things right and that alternative solutions and alternative agriculture have value. “But, don’t assume they are always better,” notes Daley.
Margaret Wittenberg with Whole Foods Market shared its five-step animal-welfare program it has implemented in all of its stores. This program allows consumers to choose which level or production methods they want to buy products from. But, Wittenberg also agreed that there is no one way to do everything and it’s all about options.
Mel Coleman, Jr. from Niman Ranch suggested that the percent of each paycheck that consumers spend on food has to go up. Coleman also said, “It’s not that organic is good or bad, or conventional is good or bad -– it’s about giving consumers choice.”
“It’s time for everyone to come together on animal welfare, instead of saying your right or wrong,” Coleman added.
Jennifer Fearing from the Humane Society of the United States said its goal is to set a minimum standard for farm animal welfare and that they are against extreme confinement. “It’s not something anyone wants.” Fearing also noted that they are all for communication and collaboration instead of litigation.
This was first conversation that the California Department of Food and Agriculture has had on farm animal welfare in 10 years.
“This information provides us with a baseline and will allow the California Department of Food and Agriculture to take a more informed position when farm-animal-welfare issues do come up,” says CDFA Secretary Ross. Consumer interest and awareness of animal-welfare issues continues to increase.