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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

The Battle for Humane Treatment of Food Animals

If you are not already aware, there is a battle brewing that will potentially affect the standards by which our food production animals are raised. It will also negatively impact people and pets from the the perspective of food and public health.


The Huffington Post article Amendment To Farm Bill Could Be End To Humane Farming Standards states:


A proposed amendment to the $1 trillion federal farm bill is of concern to both states’  [California and Iowa] rights and humane farming advocates as Congress looks to finalize the bill passed in the House earlier this year.


The Protect Interstate Commerce Act, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), would amend the farm bill by limiting states’ power to supervise their own farming standards. Under the legislation, states would be banned from enacting farm product regulations stricter than what other states mandate.


The bill would overturn several state laws, namely California’s Proposition 2, a farming standards statute passed in 2008 requiring that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs have enough room in their quarters to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely. Two years later, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a requirement that all eggs sold in California be produced under Prop 2’s standards. Such a law, he said, was necessary to protect California’s egg farmers from out-of-state egg producers taking advantage of Californians’ compassion for livestock.


I am a proponent of my home state’s Proposition 2, as I covered the issue for the Examiner in 2008 in the article California: Vote Yes on Proposition 2. If you’re not familiar with Proposition 2, it’s also known as the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act and aims to prevent the inhumane treatment of agricultural animals by improving their housing standards.


In many U.S. facilities, food production animals are confined to spaces that prevent full range of motion of their limbs and appropriate anatomic positioning of their head and neck. Factory farming overcrowds animals in such confining spaces, which creates unnecessary stress on the immune system, increases the incidence of self-mutilation, and correlates with higher potential for cannibalistic behavior.


When an animal’s immune system is stressed, the ability to fight off infectious disease is lowered. This causes factory farms to rely on increased use of antibiotic and anti-parasitic medications to control infections.


According to a 2011 report from the Humane Society of the United States, Food Safety and Cage Egg Production:


All sixteen scientific studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella contamination between caged and cage-free operations found that those confining hens in cages had higher rates of Salmonella, the leading cause of food poisoning related death in the United States.


In 1994, a single egg-related outbreak sickened more than 200,000 Americans. More typically, the FDA estimates that Salmonella-tainted eggs sicken 142,000 Americans every year. A 2010 multi-state outbreak of Salmonella led to the largest egg recall in history — more than a half billion eggs.


Apparently, Rep. King feels as though our egg production standards are adequate and implementing more humane farming practices isn’t necessary. In a 2012 newsletter, King states:


This restriction [Proposition 2] places an incredible burden on farmers across the nation to spend up to as much as $40 per hen to completely restructure entire farming operations. Regardless of how they're produced, eggs are already regulated by the Federal Egg Inspection Act, which ensures all eggs entering interstate commerce are safe for the consumer.


By passing Proposition 2, California joined several other U.S. states and European Union countries that have already passed similar legislation. Proposition 2 is backed by many animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Center for Food Safety, and the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). A variety of other government representatives and industry professionals have Stated Opposition to Rep. Steve King’s Farm Bill Amendment.


As I’m concerned about the safety of our food supply and the conditions in which our food-production animals are raised, I’m against King’s proposed amendment to the Federal Farm Bill to overturn Proposition 2. Relaxing animal welfare standards will have serious consequences for both human and veterinary public health.


If you don't think there is a problem in our factory farming system as pertains to the means by which these animals are treated, you've got another thing coming should you choose to watch the horrors exemplified in the following article and video, Alleged Animal Abuse At Former Walmart Pork Supplier Caught On Camera (GRAPHIC VIDEO). Additionally, Why Everyone Should Be Angry About Factory Farming will open your eyes to some of the inhumane aspects of the industry.


As a mindfulness practice, I always strive to feed myself and my dog, as well as recommend for clients, foods that are made through humane and sustainable practices.



Dr. Patrick Mahaney


Image: CHAIWATPHOTOS / Shutterstock


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