12:11 AM, Jan 11, 2013
The Iowa Farm Animal Care Coalition’s hotline number is 800-252-0577. Animal abuse also can be reported to the group’s website, www.iowafarmanimalcare.org.
Iowa agriculture groups have started a coalition to hear and investigate complaints of animal cruelty.
The public can call the hotline of the newly organized Iowa Farm Animal Care Coalition (800-252-0577) to voice anonymous complaints about animal care. Iowa State University animal welfare specialists will investigate the complaints.
IFAC Executive Director Denny Harding said the program is the first of its kind at the state level in the U.S. and is modeled after the 20-year-old Alberta Farm Animal Care program in Canada.
“Until now, there has not been a centralized place where Iowans could go for farm animal care information,” said Harding, who will remain as bio-economy manager at the Iowa Farm Bureau while also heading the IFAC.
The coalition includes the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the Iowa secretary of agriculture and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Animal welfare has become a contentious issue in recent years as various organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, have used undercover videos to show what they say are inhumane livestock practices.
“Our members have known that we need to be proactive on this issue,” Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill said.
Greg Lear of Spencer, incoming president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said: “The public has indicated that it won’t stand for animal mistreatment. We won’t either.”
One issue that has been a focus of the Humane Society, sow gestation crates, won’t be addressed by the coalition because the crates are still considered “standard animal practice” by the livestock industry.
Even so, the nation’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, has joined several major purchasers of pork among restaurant and supermarket chains in announcing the phase-out of gestation crates by 2017 or later.
The National Pork Producers and its Iowa affiliates continue to support the use of sow gestation crates, Iowa Pork Producers Association spokesman Ron Birkenholz said Thursday.
IFAC also provides access to animal care experts from Iowa State University’s colleges of veterinary medicine and agriculture and life sciences, and the Iowa state veterinarian office at the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
“Different species have different behaviors, thus requiring different care,” said Suzanne Millman, associate professor of animal welfare at Iowa State who has advised livestock groups.
IFAC has a four-person advisory committee including Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Animal Rescue League of Iowa Executive Director Tom Colvin, state veterinarian David Schmitt, and Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association President Jerry Dunbar.
“This is a positive step forward, to reach out to consumers and farmers alike, to provide information about farm animal care or just be there with support if a concern should arise,” Colvin said.
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association decided against joining the effort, preferring to use its own quality assurance program, spokeswoman Dal Grooms said.
“We certainly support any efforts to improve animal welfare,” Grooms said.