Thank you Matt. Great questions.
Yes, the majority of gestating (pregnant) sows are kept in individual stalls so they don’t mingle with other sows. The two cruelest things to mother pigs are weather and other sows. By stalling them individually in a temperature and humidity controlled building, you provide protection from both dangers. We know for a fact that this minimizes stress based upon the performance of the animals.
I am 47 years old and have been in the livestock business since my own birth. When I started really engaging in the business of pig farming, we expected to raise about 16 pigs/sow/year. Today some of the best herds have doubled that and produce about 33 pigs/sow/ year. That is accomplished only by protecting the sow and keeping her life stress-free. Our job as farmers is to minimize stress. A stressed animal will not produce period.
Antibiotic resistance is indeed a problem in human beings. Ironically, it does not appear to be a problem in food animals. Dr. Richard Raymond, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, has clearly demonstrated that 82% of the antibiotics used in food animal production are not used in human medicine. So it is that remaining 18% that we need to talk about. Those drugs are used only for treatment purposes and not one bit of evidence exists to document that there is any link between the use of these drugs in food animals and a carryover in human beings.
Just a point to consider. Today pet owners treat their dogs more like kids than animals. You might find the amount of drugs from the carbonpenem family being used in dogs to be both interesting and concerning. I can provide more information on that if you desire.
Nicholas Kristof typically presents a very selective portrayal of the truth. There is one point that I would like to leave you with that I believe to be the most important. This type of rhetoric typically blames the large, most highly-confined operations for being evil and cruel. That simply is not true. Where is the “other side of the story” in his article?
Today animal agriculture, as it has always been, is dependent upon proper management. Size of the operation does not matter. It simply comes back to how well good animal husbandry practices are being implemented. For example, my wife and I own and manage a 40 sow (tiny size) operation mostly outdoors. The day to day management decisions we make are very different than those of a large confined operation. There is not one “best way” to manage animals in different situations and we simply cannot overlook the human element in making the best decision for those animals based upon the circumstances that we deal with day after day, whether it be diseases, weather or animal interactions.
I appreciate your concern and am willing to provide much more detailed information if you have additional questions. Keep in mind that we know the purpose for which our animals are produced and we feed that meat to our own children as well. We would NEVER compromise that in any way!
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