Our welfare responsibility
Animal welfare can be a fraught topic, often accompanied by complex debate and high emotion. Elanco’s global advisor on animal welfare Dr Christy Goldhawk says it shouldn’t be so complicated.

I guess you could say I’m no stranger to a robust discussion about ethics. My dad is a butcher and, I was a vegetarian for nine years, so there was certainly a lot of debate around the house when I was growing up!

Dad is very committed to education and honesty. I completed an undergraduate degree in my native Canada, a master’s in dairy cattle behaviour and a PhD in beef cattle health and welfare. Just as important, if not more so, I got to know the people that make up the livestock industry, work side-by-side with them in caring for animals and producing food for the world.

Before then, like many consumers today, I questioned a lot of the practices in the meat industry and heard a lot of misinformation that was terrifying. As I got to know the farming community better and understood the practices and passion on farms, I saw how misguided I had been about the realities of most meat production.

I’ve come to appreciate that protection of animal welfare is a responsibility for everyone involved in the livestock industry. It is a true passion of many that often gets lost in translation from farm to fork. My current role is to help our sales teams, technical teams, and our technical consultants understand animal welfare and empower ourselves and others in achieving good animal welfare outcomes.

Communicating what many people think is a super-complex topic basically comes down to focusing on delivering outcomes in four areas: good housing, good health, good feeding, and appropriate behaviour.

That’s what we need to aim for in caring for animals, and it’s an ambition I see shared by farmers, vets, and people in the animal health industry across the world. It’s part of the way we do business as a company. We want to work in a collaborative way to see things improve, or – where things are going well – enable them to continue. This is a responsibility for anyone with an interest in the welfare of animals.

Despite the complexities, many consumers understandably want to know more about where food comes from have confidence that the ‘system’ is rigorous, compassionate, and consistently delivers good outcomes for animals.

And it’s here that we come full-circle, to my dad’s butcher’s counter in the town where I grew up. We still have a lot of good conversations about welfare, requirements in the meat industry, and what consumers actually value. This is a two-way conversation between the industry and the consumer. Ultimately we want the same thing - confidence that the animals that support our livelihood had good quality of life themselves.

As evidenced by my own career and shift in stance towards food production, accurate information communicated with compassion and understanding goes a long way.

Note: some of the comments and quotes for this article were taken from Christy’s interview with VetScript magazine in September 2016.

 

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