The long-awaited final report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production was unveiled Tuesday in Washington. The Commission's announcement was jarring: "Pew Commission says industrial scale farm animal production poses 'unacceptable' risks to public health, environment."
The report, a consensus report made after two years of study and 11 commission meetings, included six key recommendations:
• A ban on the use of non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production to reduce the risk of resistance to medically important antibiotics and other microbials;
• An animal disease monitoring program for food animals including 48-hour traceback;
• Treatment of industrial size livestock operations as industrial operations; "including a new system to deal with farm waste to replace the inflexible and broken system that exists today;"
• Phase out of sow gestation crates and battery egg cages within a decade;
• Amend state and federal laws to provide "a level playing field for producers when entering contracts with integrators;" and
• Increased funding for animal agriculture reform.
The Commission's vice chairman, Dr. Michael Blackwell, said "I want to be very clear. This Commission is not recommending the elimination of …feeding operations. We are bringing attention to some intensive practices that we would change." Noting that the U.S. population is projected to grow to 400 million in the foreseeable future, Blackwell said, "Given the number of Americans that consume animal protein, I think it's safe to say that confined operations will be in our future." The report addresses changes to the system "respecting the welfare of animals, respecting the environment, certainly protecting public health and the rural communities that will house these facilities," Blackwell said. He is president of The Blackwell Group and former dean of the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Former Kansas Governor John Carlin said the Pew report is an "appeal that we have the capacity to do things right." He warned that the changes posited by the Commission will require long-term, publicly funded research. "There will be large operation," Carlin said. "This is not something to be solved with small operation. We want the research to demonstrate the changes that can be made to address some of the challenges we face to assure sustainability. Things will have to be done differently."
The final report is online at: www.pcifap.org