On November 5, a “news article” appeared word-for-word across countless livestock-related websites – including Drovers, Dairy Herd, Cattle Network, AgWired, DairyLine, Beef Magazine, and so on. No journalist is cited as the author on any of the sites where it is published, an indication that the piece was not a ”news article” at all but a press release issued by an unidentified source. Entitled “Environmentally Friendly Food Myths Debunked,” the news article provided coverage of a presentation given by Dr. Jude Capper at the 71st Cornell Nutrition Conference in October 2009. Her presentation reported findings from a recent paper co-authored with R.A. Cady and D.E. Bauman, entitled, “Demystifying the Environmental Sustainability of Food Production."
A speaker at the Oxford Farming Conference (held at Oxford University from January 5-7) reported that farming in an animal welfare-friendly way can be the key to better profitability. Alistair Lawrence from the University of Edinburgh Veterinary School continued,”It is an achievable goal to deliver animal welfare within a competitive farming system.” Professor Lawrence used examples from the dairy industry to illustrate this point, noting that the emphasis used to be on breeding for maximum yield but that this single-minded approach had led to undesirable side effects on fertility and health – ultimately increasing costs for farmers. “Today, the most profitable bulls produce daughters which yield less milk, but are healthier and live longer.”
This growing awareness of the hidden costs of poor welfare and the tangible benefits of good welfare are beginning to reshape the way farm animals are viewed on both sides of the Atlantic. However, “good welfare” is a subjective term. For too long it has meant meeting the minimum needs of an animal in order to reap the maximum profit. This confusion over the meaning of good welfare can be helped in part by third-party certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved, which provide a common, auditable definition of positive welfare.
Please visit Farmer’s Weekly Interactive for a complete conference summary.