Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New York Times Op-Ed on Pig Confinement Systems

Today's New York Times contained an op-ed piece critical of confinement systems called "Pig Out" by Nicolette Hahn Niman. As you might have guessed from her last name, she's married to Bill Niman of Niman Ranch fame, a fact she doesn't try to hide in her editorial. While there isn't really any new information in her piece--she makes all the usual arguments against confinement systems and gestation crates, including the resulting use of antibiotics, environmental issues related to animal waste, and animal welfare concerns--her essay may mark the emergence of this issue on the national political stage. As Niman writes:

Such sentiment ["that Americans believe all animals, including those raised for food, deserve humane treatment"] was behind the widely supported Humane Slaughter Act of 1958, which sought to improve treatment of cattle and hogs at slaughterhouses. But it's clear that Americans expect more--they want animals to be humanely treated throughout their lives, not just at slaughter. To ensure this, Congress should ban gestation crates altogether and mandate that animal-cruelty laws be applied to farm animals.

I have yet to blog about my weekend at the National Pork Industry Forum in Anaheim, but in brief, speakers and industry officials were clearly worried about further legislation at the state and federal level concerning confinement systems in the wake of recent legislative defeats in Florida and Arizona. I'll post more later about that meeting and about the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program unveiled at Anaheim, partly in an attempt to be proactive and forestall legislative action.

By the way, today's illustration by Jonathon Rosen accompanied the NYT op-ed.

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