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Comment Re:They brought it on themselves (Score 1) 363

Very different. For one thing there is a lot of research being done by people who are far more concerned with the welfare of the animals than they economics for the humans. These people are driving the animal welfare research agenda. People like Joseph Garner or Temple Grandin. Temple is world famous for her work on improving welfare in cattle slaughter plants. I met Joe back when he was a professor at Purdue. He has spent a lot of time working through the moral implications of various management techniques, cage size, environmental temperatures (performance ideal vs animal preferences), etc. His whole group at purdue were some of the most compassionate researchers I've ever known with regards to their research animals.

Your jaded view is just not consistent with the actual work being done by actual people I know in the field, or the actual changes I've witnessed in the last 15 years. I won't argue that we didn't need a kick in the ass, but there is a point where we should start to get credit for the progress we've made and the things we were already doing right, and I think that time has already come.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

As I said, there are farms that do use anesthetic. Usually based on the animal welfare section of their production contract. I'm sure with a little research you can find out which brands require this sort of thing, if you are interested. Of course 6 years a vegetarian is quite a time, so you probably are not interested.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

I was talking about their relative ranks, not trying to imply that they didn't have them. Animal perceive pain, but it's power as a motivator is not as strong. Hunger for hogs on the other hand is a much stronger motivator than for humans. Cattle are incredibly curious, they've been known to lick the grease off of a crank shaft just to feel the sensation, but sheep flee from novelty. Each animal perceives the world differently, and places different emphasis on different stimuli. The relative importance of each differ

Comment Re:They brought it on themselves (Score 1) 363

The basic problem is that ag corporations are not financially incentivized to be humane to the animals

Just about any introductory class on animal husbandry will explain why this is not true. Animals that are abused (from their perspective, not our anthropomorphized perspective) increase the production of all sorts of stress hormones. These hormones cause animals to grow more slowly, get sick more often, produce less milk/wool/etc., delay rebreeding, and all sorts of other negative outcomes that are counter to what the farmer wants from an economic perspective. I won't pretend we maximize animal happiness, but we do try to minimize stress.

The problem is really that there clearly hasn't been sufficient effort put into making industrial scale farming also humane farming.

This may have been true in the past, but that is rapidly changing. Purdue University, where I got my graduate degrees, has a VERY strong animal behavior and welfare group focusing on commercial livestock. Many of the students who's programs overlapped with mine are working in industry on welfare programs designed to keep these very concerns top of mind. Won't say they always get their way, but a buddy of mine was just offer a huge salary to leave academia and design a layer welfare program for a large egg producer. He was told he'd pretty much get cart blanche to design and implement the program. He turned it down for family reasons, but I get the impression the job is his whenever he wants it. That is huge considering that Temple Grandin came to speak at Purdue while I was there, and she stood up and called the egg producers out on their unwillingness to even consider that their might be a better way. That was less than 10 years ago.

You claim that agribusinesses aren't being treated fairly (sometimes true) but you are painting with the same broad brush.

I don't believe that I am. I've found that there are a lot of animal WELFARE groups that are reasonable and earnest in their efforts, but there is a distinct difference between the animal welfare movement and the animal rights movement. The former is concerned with good stewardship, but practical enough to know that people will always want to eat meat. I consider myself a welfare advocate, and I have on several occasions objected when I've witnessed mishandling of animals. However, animal rights advocates seem to be far more concerned with their objective of complete elimination of animal use by humans to be bothered about being practical, honest, or fair. To be sure there are many who self identify as animal rights supporters who don't share that view, but in my experience that has been because they were unaware that there was another option. or that the two terms have different meanings.

You are right though, we have brought a large part of this down on ourselves by failing to engage with society as a whole.

Comment Re:Good! (Score 1) 363

They certainly don't like it, but it would be anthropomorphizing to assume that kicking them bothers them as much as it would bother you. I know it sounds callous, but large livestock are less concerned with physical pain than we are. There are lots of behavioral studies that show they place different priorities on different stimuli like pain, fear, hunger, etc. than people do.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

Depends on the farm. Some production contracts require some sort of analgesic be used, but I'd guess that most piglets are castrated without anything.

Now, that said they don't cut off the scrotum (at least for pigs). Pigs scrotums are tight up against their rump.They slice open the scrotum, squeeze out the testicles and then cut the vas deferens. The scrotum will close up on its own after a couple of days.

For ungulates like sheep, goats, and cattle I know they cut the scrotum as well, but that's because their scrotums hang down like humans. They can also use a tool called an imasculator, which is essentially a pair of hot sheers that cut and cauterize at the same time.

At this point I normally remind everyone that most circumcisions are done sans anesthetic, and the majority of Americans see no problem with this. Piglets are usually a couple of days old at castration, so it's an apt comparison.

Comment Re: Good! (Score 1) 363

Ha! Poor word choice on my part. We castrate the male livestock, not the male animal handlers. Although there was a sow barn attendant who was standing too close to the front of a farrowing crate while changing a light bulb (or something like that) who was bit in the testicals by a sow. Said they could hear his scream clear on the other side of the barn, over all the sows in the gestation wing. Funniest damn story I was ever told about working with sows. He's fine now (he claims).

Comment Re: Good! (Score 4, Insightful) 363

Gestation stalls can be beneficial because sows are large (300-600 lb), and can be quite violent when hungry, which is most of the time, but more so right after weaning off the piglets. It is not uncommon in group housed situations for them to injure each other badly enough to require medical interventions and very occasionally euthanasia. Also, these fights occurs most right after breeding, and the stress can lead to reduced viability of the delicate embryos. Fewer piglets per litter is both an indicator of reduced welfare AND a sign of reduced economic potential. The best is a hybrid situation where sows are kept in gestation stalls for a few weeks after weaning to ensure a calm dry off period, and a good start for the embryos, and then moving them into group housing. Castration of boars, cuts down on off flavor (called boat taint), reduces aggression toward each other and their handlers (worker safety matter too), unexpected pregnancies at the slaughter house when males and females are housed together (very common), and rape. Yes, boats when housed together will rape each other. More recently a company has developed a non-surgical way to castrate pigs later in the growth phase (beneficial because boars are more feed efficient than barrows), but it is dangerous to male employees (the shot works on human males as well), and the industry doesn't yet know how consumers will perceive the technology called improvest. These management decisions are not made lightly, and usually are made to optimize several different, and occasionally conflicting objectives.

Comment Good! (Score 4, Insightful) 363

As a member of the animal agriculture community for over 15 years, I've never understood the point of these laws. They are essentially an admission that there is a problem, and that we'd rather try to gag our opponents than address it.

I spend a lot of time on /. and other forums defending animal agriculture because, while I would be the first to admit we can do better, I think we do a much better job caring for our animals than most people believe. Animal rights groups do not concern themselves over much with things like facts, accuracy, or fair descriptions of why we do things the way that we do, but that does not mean that we should try to silence them. Instead we should be engaging with those willing to dig a little deeper than a 30sec sound byte, or a 5 paragraph news article by a writer with no direct connection to agriculture. We should explain, WHY we believe that gestation stalls are better than group housing for stalls, WHY castration of males is better for the animals and the humans who work with them, HOW we've developed programs like PQA Plus, TQA Plus, etc. These questions and misconceptions won't go away on their own, and gag laws do nothing to help our case.

Comment Re: Perspective helps when talking about large num (Score 1) 154

And in each of those years, the saving were still infinitesimally small. Adding up a decade of savings makes the number appear bigger, but not if you also add up the budget over that same decade. At the end of the day, the savings are still a large drop in an much more enormous bucket and proportionally, not very significant. That is less than the price of one of the new joint strike fighters I suspect.

Stating $45million out of context helps no one. I'm sure there are much large potential savings in the defense budget, so why waste our limited time and attention on something so small, proportionally speaking.

Comment Perspective helps when talking about large numbers (Score 1) 154

The GAO estimates that this cost taxpayers around $45 million extra in a single year.

Lets put this into perspective. $45 million/yr works out to:

- 0.00129% of the 2014 total US expenditures ($3.5 Trillion)
- 0.00409% of 2015 Discretionary Spending ($1.1 Trillion)
- 0.00752% of the 2015 US Military Spending ($589.5 Billion)

Why is this news? I'm all for efficiency, but savings that small are not worth it in a budget that freaking large

Comment Re: approves an anti (Score 1) 446

You seem to missing the point where we (as in the REGULATORS) utilize testing and toxicology to VERIFY that our presumption of safety is, in-fact, valid.

No one invved in biotechnology believes that there is no risk. Just as with a new pharmaceutical we perform specific tests designed to quantify the various risks associated with a new GM trait. Your government does the same thing, I am sure, because that is the job of governments. The EFSA has already tested numerous GMO plants and affirmed their safety, but the EC (which is populated by politicians, not scientists) has refused to authorize any of them to be planted for political reasons (non-tarring trade barriers, political pandering, etc). The U.S. System puts the EFSA equivalent agencies in charge of deciding directly instead of only making determinations and the. Leaving the final decisions to someone else.

at the end of the day the European de facto GMO ban is about money. As much as Europeans like to characterize Americans as greedy capitalists gone wild, they are no different. They are just more circumpspect about how they let that greed show through. You are using biotechnology approvals as a way to protect domestic industry, and pretending it is about safety for political expedience. The vast majority of Europeans are spending far more on food so that european farmers can stay in business despite being inefficient. All nations do it (you should see the laws surrounding domestic sugar production in the U.S.), but the false flag of safety creates FUD surrounding a technology with an excellent track record this far.

Comment Re:Idealism vs Reality in Veterinary Medicine (Score 1) 131

I don't believe she is associated with a vet school. Interesting question though. The practicalities of vet practice (witnessed via a job shadowing and several part time jobs) are part of the reason I decided against vet school, and went to graduate school instead.

Comment Re:Factory farming (Score 1) 131

While she is an expert on animal welfare and behavior, the environmental foot print of agriculture is outside of her expertise. I suspect she'll be better informed than the average joe, but not better informed than the average animal scientists, and possibly less well informed than the average animal nutritionist. Nutrition at least has a clear connection to the environment. Behavior, not so much.

With that said, I've seen her speak several times at animal science conferences, and she came to receive an award from my University while I was there. She's an engaging speaker, and is more than willing to skewer those she sees behaving badly or defensively. (She slammed the egg producers pretty hard last time I saw here speak because of their reluctance to even consider that their hens might benefit from revised housing systems). I look forward to her answers.

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