Pig Massage and Helping Ducks Preen: Who Says We're Heartless Carnivores?

NEW YORK - For decades, animal welfare research was largely dismissed by farmers and food producers. But in the past few years, under pressure from animal rights advocates and consumers concerned about the rapid growth of mega-farms, some of the world's biggest food companies, including McDonald's, Wendy's and Tyson Foods, have begun to hire animal welfare specialists.
calendar icon 28 September 2003
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These consultants are helping the companies adopt new standards for the humane treatment and slaughter of livestock in food factories that often house tens of thousands of hogs, chickens and cattle.

Leading universities now offer animal welfare as a speciality, and the field has grown so large that several conferences are held each year to share the latest research on the habits, personalities and proclivities of animal life.

At last summer's 37th International Congress of the International Society of Applied Ethology in Abano Terme, Italy, scholarly papers were presented on such topics as "The Effect of Diet Change on the Behavior of Chicks" and "The Importance of Straw for the Health and Welfare of Pigs and Cattle."

While much of the research may well improve life on the farm, in other cases — at least to the untrained eye — the benefits might be less obvious. Excerpts follow:...

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Source: By David Barboza, New York Times - 28th September 2003

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