By the end of the week, the United States will have a new president. As Donald Trump is getting ready to take over the White House, pig welfare expert Dr Monique Pairis-Garcia shares her thoughts as to what that might mean for the swine business.
If the 2016 election revealed one hard truth, it is that the United States and the viewpoints of its citizens are more sharply divided than ever. Given that the candidates offered diametrically opposing platforms, the populist tide that swept Donald Trump into the White House also carries with him those who supported and voted for him to shape and bend the policies of our country. In doing so leaving behind those who voted for Hillary Clinton, stranded and unsure of the future of the policies she and her supporters championed.
Urban versus rural areas
One of the sharpest dividing lines, when comparing how the country voted, was between voters living in urban and suburban areas of the country, as compared to those living in rural areas. It should not be surprising that the election of Donald Trump, whose disregard for academia, facts, scientific reasoning and analysis is well known and documented, will have an effect on the future of animal welfare.
Gone will be the courtesy afforded academics, whose tireless research advances the field, only to be replaced by the network of livestock companies who only know the field from the perspective of the on-the-ground struggles and bottom line of their businesses.
Donald Trump at an electoral meeting in Oskaloosa, IA in July 2016. Photo: Lightpainter | Dreamstime.com
Regulation by food retailers
However, it is important to note that, as opposed to the European approach, animal welfare standards on-farm is regulated by US food retailers. This regulation is in response to public demands for socially sustainable agriculture.
For example, in the US swine industry, the biggest game changers in the area of welfare to date (elimination of gestation stalls, pain management, euthanasia etc.) have had little to no legislative backing.
Prohibiting going on-farm with bad intent
Prior to this election, Trump has spoken negatively about animal rights advocates and has affiliated himself with supporters of agricultural gag laws. These laws result in either prohibiting a person from entering on a farm to take photo or video footage with intent to cause harm to that enterprise or criminalises a person for providing false information on an employment application with the intent to record images.
Whether these beliefs and affiliations remain, we still do not know whether president Trump will seek to fulfil his promises to the farmers and producers in America through legislation or through other avenues.
At the end of the day, in the United States, at least from an animal welfare perspective, the customer is still king. As president elect, Trump, has already indicated, his priorities are to focus on big issues affecting the country, such as tax reform and health care. Therefore, I can assume, that president elect Trump has much bigger fish to fry, and I can only hope that these fish are humanely stunned prior to entering the fryer.