Group to push for more research, help publicize results

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

Beef industry leaders and researchers have launched a new commission that will work to prevent or reverse some negative stereotypes about animal welfare.

The North American Food Animal Well-Being Commission for Beef will gather experts to advocate for increased research and publicize the results, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The 21-member panel will also share best management practices in cattle health and welfare and serve as an unbiased resource for addressing concerns about animal well-being, according to a news release.

Co-chairman Dan Thomson, a production medicine and epidemiology professor at Kansas State University, said the group will combine scientific trials and research with its members' professional experience to answer the public's questions about animal welfare.

"Animal welfare is not the same as animal cruelty and animal rights," Thomson said. "What animal welfare is is animal husbandry ... It's also the day-to-day operations in beef cattle production units.

"If a subject or management practice might come into light or be questioned, this group might ... review the current literature, do field investigations in the practice, interview people and come up with some sort of white paper," he said.

The panel's mission won't be to investigate individual controversies but will examine broader topics such as castration techniques, the age of castration, de-horning or tail docking, Thomson said.

"It seems as though we have animal rights groups that don't have experience in our industry thinking ... that we're doing wrong within our industry," he said. "The bottom line is this: We need a group that can serve as a sounding board for the industry and the consumer that is an unbiased source of information."

The commission will work to assure consumers that operators are properly caring for their animals while also advising producers of improved methods for taking care of animals, he said.

Past research done on behalf of the industry has focused more on measures to improve producers' profitability, but when animal welfare is improved, the performance and reproductive efficiencies of animals are improved, he said.

Public outreach efforts will focus on groups such as farming and ranching organizations, consumer groups, veterinary groups, food retail and restaurant groups and animal welfare groups, the news release said.

The group will launch a website to keep beef producers current on issues and the white papers being published, Thomson said.

"The big thing the rancher and producer will take home is that ... we don't want to let emotion solve these issues," he said. "This group will serve to bridge the gap in knowledge about agriculture with the American consumer. That's something that's just invaluable to the beef producer of the United States."

Staff writer Tim Hearden is based in Shasta Lake. E-mail: thearden@capitalpress.com.

Inaugural members

Here are the 21 inaugural members of the North American Food Animal Well-Being Commission for Beef:

* Barry Dunn, Texas A&M University

* Bob Smith, Oklahoma State University

* Carolyn Stull, University of California-Davis

* Dan Thomson, Kansas State University

* Dave Sjeklocha, Academy of Veterinary Consultants, Chair of Beef Cattle Health and Well-Being

* Dee Griffin, University of Nebraska

* Frank Mitloehner, University of California-Davis

* Gatz Riddell, AABP, Executive Director

* Guy Loneragan, West Texas A&M University

* Hans Coetzee, Kansas State University

* Jan Shearer, Iowa State University

* Janice Swanson, Michigan State University

* Marie Belew Wheatly, American Humane Association

* Ron Gill, Texas A&M University

* Temple Grandin, Colorado State University

* Tom Noffsinger, beef cattle handling expert, Benkelman, Neb.

* Joseph Stookey, University of Saskatchewan, Western Veterinary College

* Jeff Rushen, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

* Susan Church, Alberta Farm Animal Council

* Karen Schwartzkopfh-Gesnswein, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

* Jennifer Woods, livestock handling expert, Blackie, Alberta, Canada

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