NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 3, Edition 9
Insights from Dr. David Fraser
Posted: December 18, 2015
Professionalizing animal agriculture is key to the future, says the animal welfare expert
It's a time of change throughout animal agriculture. But perhaps the most important trend taking place – particularly for key sustainability issues such as animal care - is the increasing movement toward "a professional model" for animal agriculture.
Renowned animal welfare expert Dr. David Fraser offered a range of insights on this topic in a recent webinar hosted by Farm Management Canada and presented by the National Farm Animal Care Council.
A professor in the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia, Fraser's track record includes a 43 year research career and long-time service both domestically and internationally advising on progress in farm animal welfare.
Here are few key perspectives, among many, from Fraser on the topic of professionalization:
The human factor
"Very different welfare outcomes occur in the same type of physical environment. Why is this? Of course it's because animal welfare depends on so much more than just the physical environment. It depends strongly on the quality of animal care that the animals receive. This in turn depends so much on the knowledge, skill and attentiveness of the producers and staff."
Shift to professional mindset
"Whether it's food safety, environmental stewardship, or farm animal welfare, what we need is a system that rewards that high level of skill, knowledge, dedication and performance. I believe we need a continued shift in our thinking toward what I would call 'professional animal production' as the way forward on these issues."
Aiming for industry-driven progress
"The traditional industry model of enforcement people coming in and correcting problems is what we want to avoid. Industry-driven progress; producers taking charge of responsibility; and advancement – these approaches make us much more like a true profession."
Dr. David Fraser
Validation from business to business pathway
"I think there is no real likelihood of provinces passing acts, in the short-term, that are going to allow animal producer organizations to self-regulate, in a way that is legally recognized. This is where I think involving the retail sector and other parts of the food chain is so important.
"For example, there's a great temptation to retailers to use simple soundbites as a way of ensuring compliance with animal welfare standards. Something like 'free range' which isn't an animal welfare standard. If the retail sector shift from that to become part of the solution, so that they are the ones that say 'we are going to buy from people who apply the accepted standards' I think that's a mechanism that can really work. I see a pathway working together business to business rather than in a legal manner. I'm optimistic that is possible."
Aligning retailer and production standards
"If we think of a company like Loblaws, Canada's largest retailer, which is now coming out with some strong policy statements about animal welfare, I think it's safe to say they see themselves as part of the process rather than someone who is disrupting the process. If a company like that says to their customers that by such and such as date we expect to be selling only products that are part of industry supported assessments and standards, I think that is a huge step in favor of professionalization rather than something that detracts from it."