Food animals in Oklahoma are meeting current national and legal standards of care in slaughter and transport. However, there are no federal laws governing the raising of these animals, and the use of industrial practices such as crates for sows and the debeaking of chickens is criticized from individuals and groups throughout the nation.
Over the last half-century, farm animals were brought indoors to industrialized commercial facilities and subjected to extremely difficult living circumstances, primarily in intensive confinement. But current demands by the consumer, and, in turn, national corporations are changing the way meat animals are cared for at CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and at slaughter facilities.
When it comes specifically to the outlawing of sow crates, most other states that have already banned them have a small population of swine. The states still in the process of changing to these facilities—Ohio, Michigan, and Colorado—produce between 700,000 and two million, which is closer to the production numbers in Oklahoma. It will be important to watch how the shift in those states affects the agricultural economy and the animals living in these conditions.
Ultimately, the change in the way agriculture is practiced will be decided in two ways: in the marketplace by the consumer’s dollar and at the state and federal legislative levels. Which comes first is a source of ongoing controversy between corporate agribusiness, environmentalists, animal-welfare advocates, and individual family farmer.
Educate the public on the negative effects of extreme animal-confinement systems on animals and society.
Improving the housing systems for animals in concentrated animal-feeding operations is the most immediate issue for livestock. Intensive confinement of any species leads to welfare concerns such as the ability to engage in natural behaviors, freedom of movement, and the need for controversial practices such as debeaking, tail docking, sow crates, and dehorning.
Encourage and reward industry participation in the Five Freedoms of humane husbandry for all farm animals in Oklahoma.
These basic tenets are being embraced by large-scale retailers and fast-food chains such as WalMart and McDonald’s, despite resistance from corporate agribusiness.
Support and educate farmers and ranchers about humane and sustainable practices.
Participation in local food-distribution programs such as the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and certification with humane farming organizations will improve awareness of meat production and how to ensure its healthy and humane sustainability.
Research and develop affordable and quick pain-alleviation methods and anti-inflammatory medications for use in livestock.
Currently, no drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for managing pain in livestock.
Educate the public on negative impacts of tail docking.
The practice is unnecessary, causes acute and chronic pain, and inhibits natural behaviors.
Promote the improvement of handling and transportation standards.
Such improvement requires an understanding of the animal’s natural tendencies, abilities, and behaviors; methods of heat relief; access to water; flooring; and handling of downed animals.
Raise awareness about the working conditions for employees in slaughter facilities, feedlots, and production barns.
Worker frustration leads to emotional distancing and detachment from the animals and increases the potential for abuse.
Support the use of shade and of dust management at feedlots to increase the welfare of feedlot cattle.
These investments are believed to significantly improve animal experiences.
Educate the public about the Humane Slaughter Act.
There is no requirement that birds be unconscioius before they are killed, though FSIS does state that no live animal should enter the scalder.
* The recommendations are found in The Oklahoma Animal Study (copyright 2016).