Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Trends to watch this summer

Animal care is becoming a powerful part of the agenda at many levels

Posted: July 15, 2014

What's coming on the road ahead?

The days are longer and the world is brighter. It's a great time for fresh thinking, getting things done and setting up a productive back half of the year.

That's certainly true in the world of farm animal care with lots of activity and opportunities moving ahead over the summer months. Here's a heads up on a few key trends to watch.

1. Convergence

Moving from silos into the big picture. Tying the local to the national and international. This has been the pattern in agriculture for a long time and it's taking place at a rapid clip in animal care. Examples are everywhere, including key developments taking shape over the next few months. Among these, McDonalds is continuing talks with the Canadian cattle industry to make the country the first to pilot a new "verified sustainable beef" effort. What starts here in beef could soon expand to other species and countries around the world. The recent University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Beef Cattle Conference was a leading event among many showing that animal care is a fundamental part of the agenda in everything from at-home production to global marketing opportunities.

Animal care is talked about less on its own and far more frequently as part of the broader "sustainability file" that is shaping the future of agriculture.

2. Expansion

As files converge, a number of key programs are in the process of or planning for expansion. From Verified Beef Production, which is looking to add new modules, to the ongoing development of the dairy industry's proAction initiative. Animal care is a key part of the discussion on both of these and numerous other program fronts.

Progress that has occurred with updated Codes of Practice is setting the stage for other next steps for Canada to consider. Internally, this includes a swath of new activity looking at assessment models in various species at different levels of industry. Abroad, it includes looking at new ways for Canada to communicate and leverage its rising standing as a progressive country on farm animal care issues.

3. Communication ramp-up

If you're a news junkie like we are, chances are your summer reading will include a lot more on animal care. We see it happening more all the time. New initiatives. Better organized and well-structured communication from industry. More coverage in both industry and mainstream media. Much improved information and analysis on the world of animal care. Corporations from Cargill to Wal-Mart far more inclined to talk about animal care and their responsibilities.

At NewStream, our goal is to put the latest on "thinking, ideas, developments" into the spotlight and into the consciousness of everyone from farmers to journalists. New voices and fresh perspectives are critical to progress. We look forward to continuing to help drive the conversation.

4. Crisis preparedness

As animal care increases in profile, animal activists increase their pressure tactics. A Mercy for Animals Canada animal rights group video of animal abuse on a large, high-profile dairy operation in Chilliwack, B.C. in June has continued to have repercussions throughout the B.C. and Canadian dairy industries. And two women who locked themselves to the guardrails at the 2014 Calgary Stampede protesting the event, managed to delay the start of the chuckwagon races and gain themselves some media profile.

As these recent incidents reinforce, there is still much to learn about how best to prepare for and manage these situations.

5. Shifting ownership and roles

As the spotlight around animal care intensifies, more players from across the spectrum are staking an ownership position on the issue and sustainability in general. A recent World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) backed webinar is one of a growing number of examples showing how not all movement from what some would see as adversarial roles is aggressively negative. In fact, some is quite positive and supports a model of multi-stakeholder progress.

This presents a shakeup in the traditional dynamic, which brings its own interesting challenges and opportunities for the players in agriculture and food.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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