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Good Faith, Dialogue Key to Maintaining Trust of Consumers

6 February 2015, at 1:10pm

CANADA - A professor of agriculture with Newcastle University in the UK suggests by engaging in dialogue and showing good faith the Canadian swine industry should be able to maintain the trust of its customers, writes Bruce Cochrane.

While not everyone agrees on what animals require for good welfare, scientists have summarised good animal welfare into four categories, good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behavior.

Dr Sandra Edwards, a professor of agriculture with Newcastle University, told those on hand yesterday for the 2015 Manitoba Swine Seminar, most people who work with swine have, as their basic motivation, an ethical sense of responsibility for their animals but equally important, we know there are very strong links between good production and profitability.

Dr Sandra Edwards - Newcastle University:

We know how important good health of animals is for their productivity.

However, welfare is more than just good health.

We know that when animals are put in situations of challenge, either from a less than ideal environment, or from a difficult social situation with aggression, then they will respond to that situation by changes in their physiology, and the increased level of stress hormones that go with those changes impacts almost every aspect of production.

It will reduce their feed intake, reduce their growth rate, give you poorer feed efficiency, give you poorer reproduction, and it can compromise their ability to mount immune responses. So, if there are diseases going around and challenges there, pigs with poor welfare are more likely to succumb to them.

Dr Edwards suggests both farmers and consumers fundamentally want good animal welfare.

She says they may have slightly different ideas of what that means and suggests if scientists can demonstrate, from the pig's point of view, what good animal welfare is, it will be possible for people on both sides of the debate to reach a consensus.

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