Pope’s visit brings to mind animal agriculture’s commitment to responsible animal care, helping to alleviate hunger
September 29, 2015 – Last week, many greeted Pope Francis on his historical visit to the United States, stretching from Washington, D.C., to New York City before he returned to Rome on Sunday. The Pope’s visit has inspired many conversations about beliefs, including messages that resonated strongly with America’s farm and ranch families.
“Animal agriculture is built upon strong religious foundations,” said Dr. Wes Jamison, associate professor of communication at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Jamison, also an ordained minister, has extensively researched animal agriculture’s biblical roots. “The Bible tells us we have dominion over animals, and the Pope’s visit reminds us that we have both a right to use them and a responsibility to care for them.
Jamison notes that even modern systems of housing and raising animals have historical origins going back to biblical-era farming. “Thinking about the sheep pen and the care provided by the shepherds helps remind us all that animals need our protection as much as we need their products. The Pope often carries a Shepherd’s Crook as a symbol of his care, and his visit should remind us that farmers care in the same way for the animals they raise,” he said.
Animal agriculture takes that responsibility to serve as stewards of livestock and poultry very seriously. The animal agriculture community, which consists of farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, scientists, animal welfare experts and many other dedicated professionals who work to ensure everything from proper nutrition to safe transportation, agrees that caring is a top priority and is committed to providing animal care and continuous improvement across all segments of the industry.
All segments of the livestock and poultry industries also have species-specific educational programs, guidelines and best-management practices in place formed by animal welfare experts, scientists and veterinarians and industry experts that focus on the proper care and handling of animals. The programs and guidelines are continuously evolving as research is completed.
“Farming in essence is a vocational call that looks beyond itself, a response to Jesus’ command to love your neighbor,” adds Kevin Murphy, owner of Food-Chain Communications, LLC. Murphy has written and spoken extensively on the subject of agriculture’s connections to religion, and held the first ever Ethics of Food Production Roundtable in 2010. “In today’s agriculture and food system we see men and women, as we have throughout history, not simply saying “be warm and well fed,” but doing something daily to feed and clothe others. Feeding the hungry was part of Pope Francis’ plea while here in the United States. It marked a continuation from his encyclical Laudato Si, released just four months ago where he spoke about being grateful for the gift of food and the labor that brings it to us.”
Pope Francis’ challenge to work toward tackling the issue of hunger is a mission to which livestock and poultry farm families are deeply committed. Jamison notes, “after loving God, our first biblical responsibility is to aid our human neighbors, and modern animal agriculture allows us to do that efficiently, while maintaining animal care as a top priority.”
“In addition to prioritizing animal care, our farm families are also very dedicated to producing safe and affordable food to meet the needs of a growing and hungry population,” said Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Part of meeting that challenge is incorporating new technologies and modern practices to ensure efficiency and responsible use of resources.”
For more information about the animal agriculture community’s efforts to ensure and continuously improve animal welfare while producing food for a growing and hungry world, visit www.animalagalliance.org.
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