Animal scientist: 'We have to do the right thing'

A University of Illinois animal scientist challenged agriculture's livestock sector to be proactive on issues of animal well-being

Published on: Jan 13, 2013

     A University of Illinois animal scientist challenged agriculture’s livestock sector to be proactive on issues of animal well-being and not let activists “drive the bus.”

     “It’s our moral obligation to do the right thing,” Janeen Salak-Johnson told members of the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable last week. “Be willing to accept and adopt change to improve animals’ well being,” she advised.

     Although Salak-Johnson doesn’t have a farm background, she said she has developed a passion for the issue of livestock production and animals’ well being.

     The scientist presented the roundtable with a crash course on her study of different sow housing systems and scientific evidence of stress and other factors related to the sows’ health and well being.

     Salak-Johnson showed images of injured sows and aggressive behavior that occurred in group pens. Group housing works, but does not improve the animals’ well being, she said.

     The livestock industry “must evaluate, refine, and replace things that don’t work,” she said. “One size doesn’t fit all.”

     Activists are shifting some of the focus from gestation stalls to such management practices as castration and tail docking, according to Salak-Johnson.

     Activists “are trying to claim if we get rid of gestation stalls, then castration and tail docking will go away,” she said.

     Still she said, the livestock sector should not continue doing business as usual.

     “Be willing to accept some systems need to be eliminated or modified,” Salak-Johnson said. “We have to do what is morally right.”