Pew Report Biased, Say Animal Scientists

January 5, 2010 06:00 PM

The Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) has analyzed the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's report "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America” as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) response to the report. After a review by FASS' Scientific Advisory Committees, FASS agrees with AVMA that there are significant flaws in the Pew report.

As an organization dedicated to sound science as the foundation of any policy recommendations, FASS is concerned that the process utilized by the Pew Commission to ensure an unbiased work product was insufficient. As pointed out by the AVMA, the process for gaining scientific expertise in the technical reports was biased and did not incorporate the findings and suggestions of a significant number of participating scientists. This represents a fundamental problem in the way the report was constructed.

In addition to procedural deficiencies, there are substantive problems with many of the recommendations in the report. For example, the Pew report recommends restricting the use of antimicrobials in food animal production to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance to medically important antibiotics. Banning the use of antibiotics before science-based studies and risk based evaluations are done to determine if there is an actual risk to human health would be detrimental to animal and human health. Additional research is needed to determine what, if any, policy changes to antibiotic use are appropriate.

In the area of animal welfare, the Pew report seems to assume that all intensive farming operations are inherently inhumane. It is possible to have good animal welfare in both small and large scale production systems and there are positive and negative trade-offs when choosing among different production systems. FASS also believes that housing type cannot be considered in isolation from other important factors that influence animal welfare, including management, feeding systems, environmental features, and animal type.

FASS encourages policy makers and other interested parties to consider both the Pew report and AVMA response when looking at policies for animal agriculture. FASS appreciates that both Pew and AVMA recognize the value of more research. It is important to maintain a continued dialogue on these issues and increase support for additional research in the area. Science must be the foundation as animal agriculture looks to the future.

The Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) was formed in 1998 by the three founding Member Societies: the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS), and the Poultry Science Association (PSA). The mission of FASS is to strengthen the common interests and collective good of member societies through a unified science-based voice that supports animal agriculture, animal products, and food systems globally.

Source: Federation of Animal Science Societities

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