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News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
Pig Health & Disease
0911PIGarnot
on October 2, 2009

Battle over gestation crates likely to increase

Industry needs to switch from using just science to values/ethics when defending itself with consumers.

Attempts by groups to ban gestation crates for sows in the U.S. are only going to increase, according to Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity at the 2009 Allen D. Leman Swine Conference in Minnesota.

Arnot said he believes opponents to gestation grates will attempt to obtain victories for their cause “in a couple more states, then after the mid-term election, introduce it at the federal level. They’re picking us off, species by species,” he said.

One key reason why animal agriculture has been losing the battle with the public, he said, is that it defends itself with science, when the issue from a consumer perspective is about values.

“If we say we’re the technical experts, we’ll lose the battle every day,” he said. Arnot continued that for the industry to win, it must employ a values/ethics approach, and on those grounds, “we’ve allowed our opponents to define the issue.” He added that if the gestation crate issue gets on the ballot, “it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible to win.”

Arnot also said that research shows that the public trusts “farmers,” but they’re not sure about “producers.” Because of that, the term farmers should be used with the public, he said.

Of particular concern, Arnot said, is new research that shows erosion in trust and confidence of food production, particularly as it relates to meat. When consumers are asked: “if animals are treated decently and humanely, then I have no problem consuming meat, milk, and eggs, we’ve seen a downtrend over three years for that statement.”

Obviously, he said, “That’s important.” But there are some things producers can do, Arnot said. For example, producers can tell consumers that they understand how animals are treated is important to them, “Care of animals is important to me, too.” Producers should also be eager to engage with consumers about animal care, he added.

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