Statement of Veterinary Support for Phasing Out Extreme Farm Animal Confinement in Rhode Island and for Requiring that Farm Animal Products Sold In the State Meet the Same Animal Welfare Standards

April 2017

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The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, a national professional veterinary organization with a focus on animal health and welfare, supports phasing out extreme methods of farm animal confinement, including the use of small crates to confine breeding pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens.  The Rhode Island legislature has already determined that pigs and calves should be given at least enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their limbs; lawmakers should extend this requirement to hens. Furthermore, we support requiring that pork, veal and eggs sold in the state comply with these same modest animal welfare standards.

It is commonsense that animals be allowed to engage in basic movements and postural adjustments. This intuitive perspective is validated by an abundance of scientific evidence demonstrating that intensive confinement systems are detrimental to the physical and psychological welfare of farm animals and that they create public health concerns.

To cite just one notable example, the prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production—a panel of experts including a former veterinary school dean and a Secretary of the USDA—concluded “...that the most intensive confinement systems, such as restrictive veal crates, hog gestation pens . . . and battery cages for poultry, all prevent the animal from a normal range of movement and constitute inhumane treatment.” The Commission recommended a phase-out of the most intensive and inhumane production practices, including veal crates, battery cages and gestation crates.   

Modern replacements for these extreme confinement methods already exist, are in widespread commercial use, and are economically viable. Cage-free systems allow hens to move freely through their environment and to engage in most of the behaviors thwarted by battery-cage confinement. Studies have found that group housing yielded the same reproductive performance as gestation crates, with no significant labor differences and could even reduce producers’ production costs. Group housing of calves raised for veal, supported by industry initiatives, involves economically viable ways of rearing the calves in small groups with space to facilitate basic behaviors, including normal postures and social interaction. These systems provide greater comfort and better opportunities to express natural behaviors.

Corporations have pledged to phase out these inhumane confinement practices. Recognizing the animal welfare and food safety problems with extreme confinement, major producers, such as Smithfield Foods, Rose Acre and Cargill are currently phasing them out with success. Acting on pressure from consumers, more than 200 major food companies—including McDonald’s, Stop & Shop and Walmart—have policies to transition away from purchasing eggs, pork, and/or veal that are produced using extreme confinement. 

We respectfully encourage the Rhode Island legislature to strengthen the state’s existing rules protecting farm animals from extreme confinement.

Signed by the following Rhode Island veterinarians:

  • Gary Block, DVM, MS, DACVIM, CoventryPresident, HSVMA Board of Directors
  • David Bergmann, DVM, North Kingstown
  • Patricia Burke, DVM, Riverside
  • Erika Cervasio, DVM, Mansfield
  • David Clark, DVM, Warwick
  • Lisa Connor, DVM, Wakefield
  • Chris Crane, DVM, Warren
  • Steve Davidson, DVM, Exeter
  • Nicole Deegan, VMD, Greenville
  • Samuel Dicker, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Kaitlin Gelsomino, DVM, Warwick
  • Michelle Guarin, DVM, East Providence
  • Elizabeth Hassinger, DVM, Exeter
  • Amanda Holmes, DVM, Newport
  • Linda Incorvaia, DVM, Wakefield
  • Courtney Johnson, DVM, Providence
  • Justine Johnson, DVM, Coventry
  • Geoffrey Kardon, DVM, Narrangansett
  • Ann Klocke, VMD, East Greenwich
  • Barbara Korry, DVM, Warwick
  • Carrie Lester, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Samuel Lester, DVM, Coventry
  • Fred Levy, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Laurie Lofton, DVM, Chepachet
  • Christina Lorenson, DVM, Coventry
  • Julie Mahaney, DVM, Cranston
  • Emily Manriquez, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Lauren Marini, DVM, DACVIM, East Greenwich
  • Laurie Monhait, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Jeremy Murdock, DVM, Wakefield
  • Gary O'Neal, DVM, Foster 
  • Shelly Pancoast, DVM, Barrington
  • Betsy Richmond, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Vincent Seccareccia III, DVM, Rehoboth
  • Taryn Sibley, DVM, DACVP, East Greenwich
  • Adrianna Spinella, DVM, Warwick
  • David Sweet, VMD, East Greenwich
  • Kathy Tamburello, DVM, East Greenwich
  • Caroline Toffoli, DVM, Westerly
  • Jane Toomey, DVM, Woodstock
  • Lisa Walker, DVM, Middletown
  • Eric Wood, DVM, Middletown
  • Paul Worhunsky, DVM, East Greenwich 


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