Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MI's Livestock Care Board

Animal welfare at center of debate
Monday, August 03, 2009
By Holly Klaft
hklaft@citpat.com -- 768-4917
A pair of bills being considered in the state House regarding animal welfare are creating contention between animal-rights groups and farmers.

The bills would set industry-recommended care standards, require farms to be audited by a third party hired by the state and establish a 10-member animal-care advisory council that would review standards set by the legislation at least every five years.

Animal activists have voiced opposition to the bills, saying they do not go far enough to protect livestock. But area farmers contend the bills back accepted standards that have proven to be the best practices for animal care.

"The bar is set well above anything and everything that comes along,'' Jim Spink, a Jackson County farmer and vice president of the county Farm Bureau's board of directors, said.

Spink said the bills would set a solid foundation for livestock care in the state.

"We need to do things right and take care of those who do wrong, but on the same token, others need to understand we're not going to mistreat our animals,'' Spink said. "We don't have a very large profit as it is, and if we don't take care of our animals, we don't have a profit.''

But the Humane Society of the United States argues the bills only give the appearance of setting standards for animal welfare and would bring no changes to how animals are typically treated at large farms.

"Clearly the point of this is to try to pre-empt meaningfully improving the welfare of farm animals in the state,'' said Paul Shapiro, senior director for the Humane Society of the United States' factory farming campaign.

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