This year marked the five year anniversary of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production’s release of its report: Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Based on research and review of industrial farms, gathered over a two year period by Pew Commission members, the report released “recommendations to remedy the public health, environment, animal welfare and rural community problems caused by industrial food animal production.” The report identified six key recommendations:
- “Phase out and then Ban the Non-therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials”, with the intention to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics.
- “Improve Disease Monitoring and Tracking”, using a voluntary tracking known as the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). By providing each animal a US Animal Identification Number (USAIN), NAIS’s goal was to become a 48-hour trackback to identify exposures, the necessary time frame for containing the spread of infection
- “Improve Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP) Regulations”, specifically to develop a new system for dealing with farm waste.
- “Phase Out Intensive Confinement”, specifically the phasing out all intensive and inhumane confinement that prevent natural movement and normal behaviors within ten years.
- “Increase Competition in the Livestock Market” through the strict enforcement of antitrust laws.
- “Improve Research in Animal Agriculture”, particularly independent research, through expansion and reform of and increased funding for research
As Marion Nestle, an expert in food policy and a member of the Pew Commission at the time the report was generated, pointed out in a recent blog post, the biggest surprise related to the report’s recommendations is that “plenty of adequate laws exist to protect the environment and communities; they just aren’t being enforced.”
Many hoped the report would result in vast changes in agricultural policies in the United States. To follow up and determine the impact of the recommendations after five years, Center for a Livable Future reviewed the changes in policy since the report’s release. On October 22, 2013, Center for a Livable Future released its analysis of the impact of the Pew Commission’s report and recommendations. The findings after five years are both shocking and horrifying. Not only has our current administration “not engaged on the recommendations outlined in the report in a meaningful way; in fact, regulatory agencies in the administration have acted regressively in their decision-making and policy-setting procedures.” In addition, there has been an increase in attempts to prevent reform while more strictly enforcing current regulations and implementing legislation to further protect current distasteful industry practices.
According to Robert S. Lawrence, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, “there has been an appalling lack of progress. The failure to act by the USDA and FDA, the lack of action or concern by the Congress, and continued intransigence of the animal agriculture industry have made all of our problems worse.”