Two livestock groups have come together to launch a program aimed at stopping animal abuse and reassuring consumers that all is well on the farm. The program is called See it? Stop it!, and it is the first of its kind to empower all who work with animals to be on the lookout for animal abuse. Sherrie Neikamp, Pork Checkoff director of animal welfare, said the pork and dairy industry have joined forces to make sure any case of animal abuse or neglect is reported quickly and to the proper authorities, “Animal abuse is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The guidelines of the program state that animal care is the responsibility of everyone who works with animals , “Individuals who work around animals have an obligation to immediately report any signs of deliberate animal abuse or neglect.” “Animal well-being always has been the top priority of pork producers,” said NPPC President Randy Spronk, a producer from Edgerton, MN. “The See It? Stop It! initiative confirms that commitment and is a way to let animal caretakers know that it’s their moral responsibility to speak up to stop any animal abuse.”
To date, groups that have signed onto the program include the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, the Center for Food Integrity, and the National Dairy Farm Program. This is the first time that different species groups have joined forces on the animal care issue. “Pigs and cows are not the same so there are not many things we can collaborate on, but See it? Stop it! is one things we can all agree on,” said Neikamp.
The voluntary program encourages farm employees to report cases of animal abuse to the proper authorities and requires farmers who participate in the program to set up an alert system to provide for the timely reporting of any animal mistreatment. According to the See it? Stop it! web site, “The initiative encourages and empowers individuals working with or around animals to immediately report any signs of deliberate animal abuse, neglect, harm or mishandling to a supervisor or other individual responsible for enforcement of proper animal care, to ensure the concern is heard and addressed.” Farmers and farm managers are required by the program to: Provide accessible and reliable contacts that have immediate authority to address reports of animal care concerns; Take swift action to correct all instances of inappropriate animal care; Ensure employees who raise concerns in good faith are not penalized.
Josh Tranery with Indiana Pork says this kind of a system will not only do a better job of protecting animals, but also protect producers from exploitation from misleading images given to radical animal activist groups, “We need to stop animal abuse, but not allow misleading images and reports to damage the entire industry.” Legislation currently before the Indiana House would prevent unauthorized photography and video images of farming operations from being made public and require that such images or complaints of animal abuse be reported to proper authorities within 48 hours. SB373 along with See it? Stop it! would provide a fast and credible reporting system that would protect animals from abuse while protecting farming operations from exploitation by activist groups and the media.
The program stresses that consumers have the right to expect that animals raised for food are raised humanely. Although it is uncommon on farms, when animal abuse, neglect, harm or mishandling takes place, anyone who witnesses the act has an obligation to speak up. Farmers participating in the See it? Stop it! initiative provide their employees with education and promote the importance of proper and responsible animal care. In addition, they encourage and enable employees to immediately report any sign of animal abuse, neglect, harm, or mishandling. This program gives farmers a way to provide assurance to consumers that they are doing the right thing. In fact, as a condition of employment, many pork operations require workers to sign policy documents that confirm their roles and responsibilities for animal care, including the reporting of any animal abuse they witness. Such policies usually include disciplinary action, including termination, for failure to report abuse. The initiative is an adjunct to the pork industry’s We Care program, which promotes pork producers’ long-standing commitment to responsible pork production and to continuous improvement in animal care, handling and transportation. It also bolsters the Pork Quality Assurance® (PQA) Plus® program, which outlines best practices for proper animal care, and the Transport Quality Assurance program, which certifies people who transport hogs in proper care and handling methods.
Neikamp says producers can learn more about the guidelines of the program and download materials by visiting the special web site, “They can even download posters that can be place in barns to provide employees with proper contact information to report abuse.”
Producers and consumers can get more information about See it? Stop it! at SeeitStopit.org.