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Inaugural IMAWRC meeting targets ‘best science’ approach to animal welfare

by 5m Editor
24 February 2004, at 12:00am

US - A roster of some of the top scientists and researchers in livestock handling and animal science told attendees at the industry’s first-ever scientific conference on animal handling that "there are no easy answers to developing animal welfare strategies" that effectively balance ethics, economics and consumer demands.

Inaugural IMAWRC meeting targets ‘best science’ approach to animal welfare, handling strategies - US - A roster of some of the top scientists and researchers in livestock handling and animal science told attendees at the industry’s first-ever scientific conference on animal handling that "there are no easy answers to developing animal welfare strategies" that effectively balance ethics, economics and consumer demands.

Nonetheless, it is clear that scientific research must pave the way for advances in animal welfare, the conference’s moderator said, and progress on such research is best supported in the kind of collective effort represented at the conference.

"A sustained dialog on important animal handling issues will translate into a better understanding of the science surrounding livestock welfare," said Randall Huffman, AMI vice president of Scientific Affairs, who served as moderator for the inaugural International Meat Animal Welfare Research Conference held here last week. "By setting aside the emotions associated with what at times are highly charged issues and focusing on scientific research related to animal welfare, I firmly believe we can make the best decisions and achieve the most progress."

The IMAWRC meeting, which was co-sponsored in collaboration with AMI by the Federation of Animal Science Society, attracted more than 90 industry specialists and researchers, who heard presentations from nine, expert speakers discussing animal welfare during livestock production, transportation and processing.

A summary of the highlights:

Public perceptions continue to shift.
Keynoter Jeff Armstrong, Ph.D., Michigan State University, described how public perception of the meat industry has changed as society has evolved from its agricultural roots and as activist organizations impact public opinion, both in the United States and worldwide.

Armstrong provided a real-world example from the egg industry. Despite the relatively well-known science surrounding space allocation for laying hens, the public’s perception of how that issue should be managed is different than what the science indicates is necessary or appropriate. "But do not confuse being proactive with caving-in to activists," Armstrong cautioned, noting the relatively small number of researchers working on animal welfare and the need for greater focus and funding.

Armstrong’s takeaway message was straightforward: "Collectively, the meat industry and the research community must be part of the solution by working together and by implementing science-based guidelines focusing on welfare, economics, food safety and consumer concerns."

Source: American Meat Institute (AMI) - 23rd February 2004

5m Editor