Tyson Foods announced it will urge its suppliers to implement a series of production practices that it deems representative of responsible food production. Those recommendations include the use of video monitoring in sow farms, discontinuation of manual blunt force trauma as a primary method of euthanasia, use of pain mitigation for tail docking and castration, and the recommendation for sow housing built or renovated in 2014 and beyond to provide adequate quality and quantity of space for gestating sows.
The National Pork Board continues to recognize and promote the opportunity for producers, working with their veterinarians, to make the best decisions for their farms, their families, their employees and their animals. Producers need workable, credible and affordable solutions for improving animal care.
From a broad industry perspective, there are a number of important issues raised by the announcement, according to the National Pork Board. These include:
- Currently there are no approved drugs for the use of pain mitigation in pig farming. We strongly encourage pig farmers to work with their herd veterinarian to explore options to comply with Tyson’s recommendation and to ensure all federal drug-use regulations are met appropriately under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act.
- The National Pork Board maintains the position, supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, that there are numerous ways to provide proper housing and care for sows. Each housing system, including individual and group housing, free-access stalls and pastures, has welfare advantages and disadvantages that must be considered by a farmer. Regardless of the type of system used, what really matters is the individual care given to each pig — a mainstay of the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program.
- Video monitoring can be a useful tool in auditing animal welfare on U.S. pig farms. However, video monitoring, like in-person auditing, is only one component of providing and ensuring good animal care and can add significant cost to the farmer. Auditing and monitoring should be balanced with a comprehensive approach to animal welfare that includes caretaker training to positively affect human-animal interaction.