A new set of guidelines could help swine veterinarians work with pork producers to develop anti-cruelty policies and employee educational materials.
Dr. Harry Snelson, director of communications for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said the guidelines were developed by the AASV Pig Welfare Committee as a way to help swine veterinarians work with clients in developing policies for good animal husbandry. The committee's recommendations are a list of minimal guidelines thought to be important for any pork-producing organization's anti-cruelty policy or employee educational materials, Dr. Snelson said.
"Certainly the animal cruelty parts of that are areas where we feel pretty strongly that there should be some education conducted at the producer level so that everybody understands that cruelty to animals is not an acceptable practice and there are repercussions," Dr. Snelson said.
The following are the key components the committee suggested be included as part of an anti-cruelty policy:
- Animal husbandry carries an intrinsic moral and ethical obligation to animal well-being.
- Willful abuse, cruelty, and neglect should be defined with guidelines, examples, or both.
- Action must be taken in response to abuse, cruelty, or neglect.
- Employees need to know who to report to if they witness abuse, cruelty, or neglect and how quickly such incidents need to be reported.
- Acts of abuse, cruelty, or neglect have repercussions.
- Failure to intervene or report abuse, cruelty, or neglect requires repercussions.
The guidelines were not created in response to any single event but as one result of activities that began in early 2008 to ensure proper animal treatment, Dr. Snelson said. The committee works to increase understanding of animal well-being and provide AASV members with resources to educate clients on proper animal husbandry, he said.
"I think that our clients—our producers—look to veterinarians for guidance and direction on how a number of activities are conducted on the farm," Dr. Snelson said. "Certainly, proper welfare—veterinarians understand that issue very well, and I think they would have good success in working with producers on developing policy statements and understanding what constitutes animal cruelty."
It is up to employers to determine what repercussions employees should face for violating animal abuse prevention policies, Dr. Snelson said. The guidelines indicate it is the duty of any employee, manager, or veterinarian to report abuse they observe.
"Certainly as a part of normal practice, we would assure consumers and the public that animal cruelty cases are extremely rare in swine production and are certainly not tolerated to any degree," Dr. Snelson said. "And I think that this effort just reinforces that."
Dr. Snelson said the committee members had been working to create such educational resources for members since before the September 2008 release of undercover footage from a Bayard, Iowa, hog farm, which was followed by criminal animal abuse charges against four farm employees and livestock neglect charges against two others. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals distributed the footage.
Undercover footage from a Creston, Iowa, hog farm was also shown earlier this year in the HBO documentary "Death on a Factory Farm."