Plane reading

Haute Pasture is on the road again, this time to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we are doing as much eating as possible in order to report back to you guys. It’s a hard job.

On the plane, I caught up on some newsletters and articles that have been collecting dust on my desk. Here are some highlights:

ASPCA 2011 Annual Report, page 27

The ASPCA helped prevent the passage of “ag-gag” laws in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, and New York last year. Ag-gag laws seek to prevent the leaking of graphic videos taken by undercover workers at factory farms by criminalizing the investigation of farm animal abuse. Exposing ethical and environmental violations on industrial farms would become much more difficult, to the benefit of the violating farms. Much more information about ag-gag laws is available on the ASPCA site.

Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly, Summer 2012, Vol 61 No 3

Did you know the USDA “organic” label does not guarantee anything about animal treatment? AWI has been working to help improve the recommendations given to the USDA by the National Organic Standards Board regarding minimum space allowances for poultry, vegetation availability for poultry and pigs, tail docking bans for pigs and cattle, and pain medication requirements for cattle dehorning.

Do you get confused by food labels? Who doesn’t! AWI has a downloadable guide to help you navigate the grocery store. Find out which labels actually indicate humane treatment, and which are meaningless. (I took a stab at deciphering egg labels last year; AWI’s guide is, ah, a bit more user-friendly.)

The Globalization of Animal Welfare,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2012, pp 122-133

About 2/3 of the poultry, meat, and eggs, and over half of the pork produced in the world come from factory farms, but no international regulations exist for farm animal treatment. Meat, dairy, and egg exports have exploded since 1980, while footage depicting cruel animal treatment has become easier to distribute, leading to increased pressure on Western governments to crack down on animal abuse internationally. The European Union leads the US in enacting laws to protect farm animals, having banned barren battery cages for hens and gestation crates for sows. In the US, agricultural lobbies continue to successfully prevent the creation of federally mandated animal welfare protections, despite increasing public interest. Developing countries in Latin America and Asia, seeking efficiency and economies of scale, lag behind the US and EU in animal protections, but in China, a law offering basic protections to animals has been proposed, and public awareness is growing. Multinational organizations such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are leading the animal welfare effort at a global level, emphasizing not only ethics, but also the importance of food security and sustainability in developing countries. The FAO’s Gateway to Farm Animal Welfare provides easy access to animal welfare information to international users, explaining that “(b)y giving less economically developed country governments, professionals and producers online access to the latest information and the opportunity to contribute information relevant to their own situation, the portal will help to improve livestock welfare, health and productivity worldwide.” The private sector is beginning to recognize the importance of animal welfare to business sustainability and social responsibility, and groups such as Global Animal Partnership seek to unite the public and private sectors to form strategies that will benefit the stakeholders while progressing animal welfare improvement initiatives worldwide.

The GAP page for consumers is worth a read. The important point is:

We don’t need to work for a multi-lateral institution or be a world-famous chef or be part of the leadership of an international corporation to make a difference.

Each one of us, in our daily lives and in our own homes, can improve the lives of animals simply by choosing to support those farmers and ranchers who have a commitment to providing higher welfare to the animals they raise.

Know where your food comes from! Shop responsibly! Sound familiar?

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