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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A 16-year partnership with leading animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin has helped revolutionize animal handling in the meat packing industry, according to testimony delivered to a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry hearing on animal welfare by the American Meat Institute based here.
AMI s.v.p. Janet Riley told the subcommittee that the U.S. meat packing industry is unique because it must comply with the Humane Slaughter Act, which is enforced by federal inspectors who are in our packing plants continuously.
"No other sector of animal agriculture has this level of regulatory oversight," Riley said. "But it is important to note that our industry seeks not just to meet federal humane slaughter requirements - we seek to exceed them."
Riley said the meat industry took four key steps that have changed the way it handles animals and improved animal welfare in measurable ways, including: 1) the formation of a partnership with leading animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin in 1991; 2) the launch of the first industry specific animal welfare audit in 1997; 3) the development of training initiatives beginning in 1999 to encourage continuous improvement; and 4) the 2002 declaration of animal welfare as a non-competitive issue in the meat industry.
Dr. Grandin, now the subject of books and television programs, at the time of the alliance with the industry was relatively new to animal welfare. As a result of her lifelong battle to emerge from autism, she developed a special appreciation for the way animals think visually, and for the things that can be overwhelming to animals from a sensory perspective.
"By trying to look at our plants as an animal would, we now understand how to use lighting, air flow and even certain color paints to help livestock remain calm and to reduce livestock stress," said Riley. "This is not only is more humane, it also enhances meat quality. Treating animals in an optimal way is not just the right approach from an ethical perspective, it is the right approach economically."