Staggering Response to Draft Pig Code of Practice

24 08 2013

4700 public responses were submitted to the draft NFACC Codes of Practice for Pigs. Penny Lawlis came to speak to us in Behaviour Group a few weeks ago, and mentioned that even in July, a couple of thousand had already come in — mainly from industry folks not wanting any type of change. Since then I think and hope animal protection groups contributed too, to try and redress the balance. The draft codes are admirable. They recommend that sow stalls are phased out in favour of group housing; that animals are fed every day (radical huh?); and that boars are not deliberately injured before being loaded onto trucks (currently — and unbelievably — common practice is to break their jaws with a baseball bat or similar, to stop them fighting during transport; North America is still the barbaric wild west in some ways…).

And yes, I did send my comments in before the deadline! Below is Friday’s press release from NFACC.

(Ottawa) 23 August 2013 – Over 4700 submissions, representing 32,340 individual comments, were received on the draft Code of Practice for the care and handling of pigs when the public comment period closed on August 3rd. Submissions came from across Canada, the United States and around the world. Producers, processors, veterinarians, animal welfare advocates, the general public and many others contributed valuable input that will now be considered by the pig Code Development Committee.
“The response has been tremendous. The National Farm Animal Care Council appreciates the level of engagement across interest groups and constructive input that so many provided in their submissions,” says Jackie Wepruk, NFACC General Manager.
The pig Code Development Committee met for two days this week to consider the submissions made through the public comment period and work toward a final Code. The diversity of views, complexity of the issues and sheer volume of comments, made finishing the Code within a two day meeting challenging.
“The Code Development Committee is engaging in rigorous dialogue to ensure the range of views is being given fair consideration,” says Wepruk. “The committee is positive about the progress made. However, more time will be required for deliberations. NFACC is committed to ensuring the necessary resources are in place to make this happen.” A November meeting is planned.
Codes of Practice represent our national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. They are developed utilizing a multi-stakeholder, consensus based process that involves producers, processors, veterinarians, animal welfare researchers, animal welfare advocates, governments and other expertise in animal welfare. This collective decision-making model enables informed discussion on animal welfare issues that leads to realistic outcomes for real and continuous improvements in animal welfare.
The public comment period is an important component of the Code development process. It provides an opportunity for individuals and organizations to provide constructive input that will further ensure Canadian Codes of Practice for the care and handling of livestock and poultry are practical and implementable by producers and reflect societal expectations regarding farm animal care. ?
Funding for the Codes of Practice is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agricultural Flexibility Fund, under the Addressing Domestic and International Market Expectations Relative to Farm Animal Welfare initiative, as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.

Just how “social” is the social transmission of food preferences?

23 08 2013

Laura Harper (who’s joining the lab as a MSc coursework student in September) and I had a useful fact-finding day in July, learning how to measure the social transmission of food preferences. Once again we were helped by Elena Choleris, whose group specialises in this, and particularly her PhD student Richard Matta. Inspired by Maria’s work on courting and mating mink, Laura is interested in assessing the ability of stereotypic animals to interact normally with conspecifics, using mice as a model. She won an OGS to assess whether stereotypic animals are poor at demonstrating or picking up socially transmitted food preferences – the process whereby mice and rats eat novel food faster if they have previously smelled it on a conspecific’s breath. Rats seem to treat adults as more convincing demonstrators than juveniles, and in gerbils, the familiarity of a demonstrator is important too (even though strangers do sniff each other a lot). So far so good. But rats will also pick up food preferences from the breath of unconscious animals, and even from the breath of humans! So as a way of seeing if stereotypic animals are socially normal, it’s pretty clear this is going to be blunt instrument (i.e. prone to false negatives). Nevertheless for an intensive two days’ work (including 7am starts, yuck), we can get a tonne of data so it seems worth this risk … just as long as we supplement it with other approaches too (perhaps seeing whether enriched-reared, non-stereotypic females are particularly preferred by other females as nesting partners). 

One million Syrian children are refugees

23 08 2013

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What an appalling amount of misery; a damaged generation does not bode well for the future either… see the UNHCR for the full story.

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Pet Bob’s magnificent belly

20 08 2013

How science reporting works

17 08 2013

Love this (though at risk of being boringly earnest, if you’re dealing with a real science reporter [and they’re interested in your work rather than using you for commentary], it’s always fine; in fact more than fine — rewarding). Screen shot 2013-08-17 at 9.46.54 AM

Be more dog

12 08 2013

Not sure how this would make you switch your mobile phone network, but still: cute!

Charles River Short Course

6 08 2013

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Towards the end of June I spent a couple of days at the Charles River Short Course. I had attended a couple of years ago, and rather dismissed it as boring; but this year I “got it”. (Last time I also asked someone whether Charles River was still alive, which further reveals my general state of knowledge [if you don’t know, the Charles River is the river that runs through Boston…]). Yes CRL is a big commercial organization, utterly limited by what will/will not work for their bottom line. However, they do think about animal welfare, and try and act where they can (constrained as they are), and what they’ve achieved via the short course is quite something: four days of talks and workshops on all aspects of how to care for and use lab animals, providing continuing education for an info-hungry community of techs and vets. Joe was there – just great to see him (we giggled and passed notes in talks like we’ve been doing since the 90s) – and Brianna Gaskill, his former student, gave a couple of excellent talks, one so spookily complementary to the one I was giving next, it was as if we had planned it (I was, I admit, one proud gran…). Since my last talk involved nearly fainting, and the one before that involved having a red, swollen face, I was also VERY relieved this one went well!