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WWFE REPORT: Attention to Detail in Animal Welfare

30 October 2009

US - Maintaining good animal welfare regimes on the farm and in the slaughterhouse requires constant vigilance, writes TheCattleSite senior editor, Chris Harris at the Worldwide Food Expo in Chicago.

The message of vigilance and attention to detail was one of the key messages from animal welfare expert Temple Grandin a keynote speaker in the conference Super Session on Thursday.

Prof Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, was speaking candidly about her autism and the way it had affected and influenced her approach to welfare issues.

She said that one of the key issues was the way that the autistic person thinks compared to other people.

She said that as an autistic person considers things in pictures and in specific detail rather than thinking socially, she was able to see problems and effects in meat plants that others could not.

She said that often the solution to animal welfare issues in meat processing plants was not down to large expenditure, but to ironing out details.

Prof Grandin added that her ability to see things in pictures was similar to the way animals see things, and hence there was an empathy with animal issues.

She said that small issues, such as chains hanging down, bad lighting and workers catching the animal's eye can all be distractions that affect the welfare of the animal as it is going down a chute to the stunning area in a meat plant.

By paying attention to simple details such as these, the welfare of the animal can be improved.

Prof Grandin said that the worst time for animal welfare in the US was during the 1970s and 1980s but when she wrote her guidelines for McDonald's in 1999, the industry approach to welfare issues changed.

She said that the numerical scoring system for meat plants based on a system similar to HACCP, produced for the American Meat Institute, had helped then industry improve its approach to welfare issues and improve the way it handled animals.

"But it takes constant vigilance and we need well trained auditors," she said.

Prof Grandin said the industry in the US had made vast improvements, but it needs to communicate the improvements and the handling methods to the public at large.

And she added that the communication needs to be done by the individual companies and not left to other associations and organisations.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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