Animal Agriculture Deserves Balanced Discussion
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's claim that its work is in the "public interest" is no substitute for a transparent process and academic integrity. After more than two years of meetings, however, it appears the opportunity to engage in open public discussion about issues in animal agriculture has been wasted.
Despite a pledge to an open and public process, the last half of the Commission's work was done behind closed doors. This undermines the credibility of its recommendations and begs the question: "Were these pre-determined conclusions in search of supporting data?"
The Commission and Center for Livable Future have made no secret of their opposition to contemporary animal agriculture. The Commission is ignoring the scientific research it funded in favor of the opinions of Commission members who believe they should be able to determine the future of animal agriculture in the United States. The initial draft of the Commission's final recommendations was completed before the supporting technical reports were even completed. To date, only one of the six known technical reports commissioned has been publicly released. The remaining technical reports will not be released until sometime this summer, according to the executive director's comments at the Commission's recent briefings.
It is clear the Commission's process was terribly flawed:
Representatives from an animal agriculture coalition met with Pew representatives early in the process and were told that the Environmental Division of the Pew Foundation had already determined that problems exist in modern animal agriculture and the Commission's purpose was to find solutions and have them implemented through public policy.
Despite a stated purpose to "conduct a comprehensive, fact-based and balanced examination" of the farm animal industry, only one of the original Commission members had substantial experience with contemporary agricultural systems and he resigned months ago due to concerns over the group's preconceived conclusions.
Several Commission members have an openly stated bias against modern animal agriculture reflected in books they have authored, articles and letters to newspaper editors they have written, or public presentations they have made (Nestle, Rollin, Andrews, Merchant, Bauccio, Kirschenmann, Hatch).
In an effort to get more balanced representation from animal agriculture, a list of seven high-profile people associated with animal agriculture was submitted for the Commission's consideration within its stated timeframe. After several inquiries, the Commission's director let it be known that none of the recommended individuals would be appointed, nor would anyone else who could represent the interests of animal agriculture.
Open, transparent discussion and debate on important issues could benefit the industry and the public. However, it appears a fatally flawed process has ruined this opportunity. The animal agriculture community remains interested in addressing issues of public concern, and it looks forward to working with those willing to engage in an open and unbiased discussion in an effort to find mutually beneficial solutions.
American Farm Bureau Federation
Animal Agriculture Alliance
Animal Health Institute
National Chicken Council
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Board
National Pork Producers Council
National Turkey Federation
U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
United Egg Producers
United Soybean Board