As many of you are aware, the rules associated with Proposition 2 took effect in California on January 1, 2015. Passed as a state ballot initiative approximately 6 years ago, it requires that veal calves, laying hens, and pregnant pigs be housed in a manner that allows them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs (including wings), and turn around freely. Furthermore, in 2010, California lawmakers passed a bill requiring that all shell eggs sold in California originate from farms that meet Proposition 2 requirements.
This is one example of consumer demand driving available supply. Consumers voted and now the supply side of the equation must comply. My concern about this approach, specifically sweeping state legislation with federal implications, is that consumer choice is limited to that of the majority – not necessarily the public majority, but the majority who voted that day. I am fully supportive of consumer choice and people having the opportunity to purchase what they want (and can afford). My concern is that those who voted against Proposition 2, who want – and in many cases need – less expensive eggs, no longer have that option.
Supply driven by consumer demand also occurs when people vote with their dollars. The supply side of the equation provides options, and consumers dictate how much of the commodity is needed to meet demands for different products (eg, conventionally housed, cage-free, antibiotic free). Prices are determined by relative supply and demand.
As I look at the supply-and-demand equation for our association and its members, I can think of several examples where the swine industry and our profession have shifted to meet a changing or growing demand, as well as several future opportunities. For example, when consumers demanded a leaner protein product, the swine industry responded. Veterinary involvement was necessary throughout the process and in the health and welfare challenges that ensued when faster growing, leaner animals started to become more prevalent. Similarly, veterinary involvement was paramount when the swine industry largely moved indoors to meet growing demands for protein. Much thought went into barn designs, pen arrangements, feed and water delivery systems, heating and cooling systems, etc. Veterinary involvement will be important as we again alter gestation housing at the request of our customers.
In addition to sow housing configurations and group feeding systems, piglet euthanasia methods and pain mitigation strategies for piglet processing procedures are being investigated. Veterinary guidance is necessary throughout the research process and especially through the implementation phase of new methods or technologies that arise from these studies.
Food and Drug Administration Guidance 209, Guidance 213, and proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulations have also changed the demands on the swine industry. Increased instruction regarding appropriate antibiotic use continues to require veterinary involvement as product labels change and fewer over-the-counter products are available. There will also be an increased demand for veterinary-client interaction as the new Swine Industry Audit Platform is incorporated. Veterinarians will be called upon to help farmers achieve and maintain the health and welfare parameters outlined in the standards. There will also be an increased need for auditors, a role veterinarians are well qualified to fulfill, as customers demand more farms are audited.
I anticipate an increasing demand for animal welfare experts in the future. Veterinarians are the most experienced and educated individuals when it comes to the complexities involved in protecting and promoting animal welfare – and we took an oath to do so. We need to be sure our supply of trained, experienced, credentialed animal-welfare experts is able to meet the growing demand while still meeting demands to safeguard animal and public health.
We will need to continue to embrace the changing demands on the swine industry and address them more nimbly. There will likely be more legislative and regulatory influence on our professional activities, drafted primarily by people not involved in food-animal production. Veterinarians and farmers will need to work together to optimize the health and welfare of the animals under our care in spite of these often well-intentioned rules. The AASV is well-positioned to facilitate our members in meeting these growing demands on our clients, our profession, and the industry we serve.
This being my last President’s message, I would like to thank the AASV staff, AASV officers and BOD, the JSHAP staff, my family, my partners and coworkers, and my colleagues for your support, mentorship, and sacrifice. I am fortunate to be part of an association full of members willing to offer their time and talents to further the mission of the AASV. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our organization in this capacity.
--Michelle Sprague, DVM AASV President