Swedish farmers Gun and Martin Rangnarsson employ the deep-bedded system, allowing piglets to benefit from a natural environment. This improved housing method is catching on in the United States.
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) sponsored a trip to the 6th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics this June in Oslo, Norway for AWI-approved farmers Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch, Bert and Trish Paris of the grazing dairy farm Peace of Pasture, Tony and Sue Renger of Willow Creek Farm, and Paul Willis of the Niman Ranch Pork Company. At the event, the farmers showed slides of their animals and farms, and they described to the audience how important farm animal welfare is to the enjoyment and profitability of their farming operations. Marlene Halverson opened the workshop by outlining the AWI husbandry standards program, and Anne Malleau of Whole Foods Market Animal Compassion Foundation described her foundation's research funding opportunities to test and promote more animal compassionate farming systems.
AWI also brought Swedish pig farmers Gun and Martin Ragnarsson to the University of Minnesota, West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) this summer to monitor and advise research faculty and university farm workers on how to improve outcomes in their deep-bedded Swedish group sow housing and farrowing system. The focus of the university's Alternative Livestock Systems Program is development and demonstration of livestock systems that are more sustainable for the environment, more caring of the animals' behavioral needs, and more suitable to smaller farming operations. The Ragnarssons gave a seminar describing their own farming operation to university personnel and farmers from as far away as Wisconsin and Iowa.
Whole Foods Challenges Conventional Corporate Ideals
Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey has demonstrated the ever-growing company's collective dedication to animal welfare and independent farming with two landmark moves. Following an unsuccessful attempt to improve the conditions of its in-store live lobster and soft-shell crab housing and to shorten transport times to an acceptable length, the company has halted the sale of these animals on the basis that current housing and transport are not humane. Typically, lobsters and soft-shell crabs are forced to live crowded on top of each other in feces-contaminated tanks. Whole Foods has prohibited the sale of foie gras for years, and more recently, it ?stopped selling eggs from hens confined to battery cages. "We place as much emphasis on the importance of humane treatment and quality of life for all animals as we do on the expectations for quality and flavor," Mackey said in announcing the decision.
Additionally, Mackey has pledged $10 million to support locally grown food, responding to concerns from The Omnivor's Dilemma author Michael Pollan about the growth of industrial-scale organic and natural food production. Mackey has also vowed to increase efforts to buy products from local farms and to make long-term, low-interest loans to these producers-concentrating on farms that raise grass-fed beef and organic pasture-based eggs. Furthermore, some stores will use sections of their parking lots to feature farmer's markets on Sundays.
Saying "No" to Foie Gras
In August 2006, Chicago will join the growing list of locales that have banned the sale of foie gras, thanks to a campaign by Farm Sanctuary. Israel and a host of European countries, including the United Kingdom, also prohibit the product, which is created by cruelly force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers swell to 10 times their normal size. Inspired by the success in Chicago, Philadelphia and the state of New York are also considering foie gras bans. AWI supports city and state bans that are implemented promptly, with no concessions to this barbaric industry.