SPEAKER: The next topic I'd like to talk about is something called the five freedoms. This comes out of the United Kingdom from a commission some years ago called The Brambell Commission, which put together the five freedoms that are listed.
The first four are fairly obvious in dealing with the normal physical, physiological issues that we need to deal with with animals. The fifth one is the most interesting one, which is the issue of behavior.
And this gets a little more complicated, because as humans, we sort of expect certain behaviors from animals, some of which are actually related to things like fight or flight, whether they're going to escape or not, which are-- again, these are, as I keep pointing out, prey animals. And some of those behaviors as we breed the animals for domestication, which we've been doing for thousands and thousands of years, are ones that may have been lost. So they are not necessarily critical to the animal.
The other question is how we perceive it. So, for example, with chickens, we tend to use very low light. Even when we, quote, "have daylight." This keeps the animals calm, which is from our point of view generally desirable. But to a human observer, it feels like it's dark, and they're being kept in the dark all the time. Physiologically, they see it as daylight, and they are quite happy.
So the whole question of behavioral needs is very complex. It is one for which we do not have all the answers. We've only begun to look at behavior as a major component of animal welfare in more recent years.
And so, again, all I have to say at this point is that there are some behaviors that are clearly unacceptable. And we called those stereotypies, where an animal, for example, is gnawing on the rail the whole day. Clearly this is not an acceptable behavior. But then again in the absence of certain behaviors and how the animal copes with them are things that we need to address.
Sometimes we can do it through breeding. And other times, we simply have to eliminate certain animals that do not seem to be coping with these things. But in most cases, it looks from the production information, the fact that these animals are relatively productive-- they're growing well, they are laying eggs well, they're producing lots of milk-- that it probably is much less stressful than it appears. And, again, a little bit of stress, as we all know in our own human lives, is part of living, and it's part of what most of us are able to deal with.
The next thing I'd like to talk about is the issues of vegetarianism and veganism, where veganism is defined as people who eat no animal products. And vegetarianism is defined as people who, generally speaking, will eat some animal products, usually that is milk and eggs, and those are called lacto-ovo-vegetarians. There are some folks who consider themselves vegetarian who eat fish. And there are other people who are sort of vegetarian most of the time, and will even eat either meat or poultry.
And there are many reasons why people become vegetarian, and many of these are very personal reasons. They do not want to see an animal slaughtered. They don't like meat.
These are personal beliefs. Again, I have absolutely no problem with that. We have many students at Cornell these days who are vegetarian. I often go out to eat with them. I'm happy to have a meal that's vegetarian.
But these are personal beliefs. And they deserve to be respected. The challenge comes when sometimes people-- and this happens in many circumstances-- attempt to take their belief system and impose it on others, that we should all become vegetarian, because it has certain benefits.
One of the benefits they sometimes claim is health. And we've talked a little bit about the role of meat earlier in the diet. I don't think that most vegetarians have a problem health-wise.
But I do worry about some of the vegans, because, in fact, things like B12, in many cases, they have to take pills. And they also have to really work at it. So if you want to be a vegan, which is fine, you need to pay attention to issues related to health.
That's one type of vegetarian. That's what I've called, for want of a better term, and basically those of us in the sciences are always dealing with statistics, and we talk about Type 1 errors and Type 2 errors, and that's really where the terminology in the slides comes from. And I want to talk about the second group.
And what I-- that is the group of people who believe that vegetarianism will save the planet, that this is, in fact, the right way to go. What I hope I've shown is that animal agriculture, used properly and corrected for some of the issues that legitimately need to be raised, is something that is part of a total long-term sustainability so that, in fact, veganism is not a solution to a sustainable Earth, to a sustainable planet. Again, an individual still has the right to do this, but we don't know that it ought to be an encouraged policy.
On the other hand, I would like to say a positive note for our vegan friends, in the sense that unlike like the vegetarian who will drink milk and leave the old dairy cow for others to deal with, or eats eggs and then we have the problem of spent hens, and they don't-- and aren't willing to use them, in that sense, at least vegan is consistent and is only taking those things that they accept and doesn't leave problems for others.
I should point out there is one other group I just wanted to throw in for your information. They're called fruitarians. And, in a way, they're interesting in that they will only take crops from which you can harvest in a nondestructive manner.
So they'll have apples and other fruits. They'll have the various nuts. But they won't have potatoes, and carrots, and beets, which are root crops, or things like lettuce, where you've got to cut the plant off.
Again, an interesting philosophy of food to be respected as individuals, but not sure that that is the best way to use the planet Earth, again, to feed our burgeoning population of 9 and 1/2 billion people, where we'd like to give everybody, hopefully, in the future a decent and sensible diet.
There are real problems in animal agriculture that need to be addressed. Hopefully, I've made some suggestions as to how to address them and where we can go in the future. These are the way to deal with problems.
I don't believe that pointing out a particular problem, as we have here, is, in fact, justifying vegetarianism, or veganism, or other more dramatic changes. I think we need to work as animal agriculturalists to solve these problems. And in fact, one of the challenges for animal agriculture is how to present itself to the constituent groups to use our products who are concerned about our products, who are paying attention.
And I think it's been interesting to watch some of the transitions happening. One of the things that's happened is that the retail sector, starting with our friends at McDonald's, has begun to say, we need to do something about some of these issues. And, in fact, it was McDonald's who, in fact, put together the first animal welfare committee.
They put a group of people, led by a woman who is actually a honorary professor at Cornell, Dr. Temple Grandin, who is fairly widely known for her work in animal welfare. She's at Colorado State University and is an autistic woman who has written a number of books recently. Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation are her two most recent works. Animals in Translation actually made the New York Times best seller list. And we, in fact, have a CyberTower book review of that book. And she is coming to Cornell for a week each year for the next couple of years.
And she headed McDonald's animal welfare committee. And they put together a set of standards mainly focused initially on slaughter. And they, McDonald's themselves, will admit that it was, in fact, some of the pressure that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals placed on the system that was part of what got them started.
But they took a very strong stand. And Temple led this effort. And as she has said in many public forums of the process that McDonald's in two, three years cleaned up more problems in the slaughter part of the industry than 25 years of the government operating under the Humane Slaughter Act.
Other supermark-- excuse me, other fast food chains then started to join in. So we saw Burger King and Wendy's also setting up animal welfare committees. And this, then, began to come into a horsepower race, where Burger King tried to somewhat one-up McDonald's, did that by putting a petition into the US government to get tighter enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act.
And it was getting kind of out of hand. And so folks began to say, wait a minute. This is not something to be competitive. This is something that we all ought to work together, working in animal agriculture, as a community, to make things better.
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Animal welfare is a controversial topic in modern agriculture. Join Joe Regenstein as he examines the ethical issues involved with the production of food and fiber in modern agriculture.
This video is part 6 of 9 in the Animal Welfare series.