Toxicologist Alan Goldberg knows what an industrial pig nursery should look and smell like. So one with no pigs, no slop, and no aroma was certainly surprising. Goldberg toured such a sanitized—and possibly staged—facility in 2006 while he was part of the 15-member Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, tasked to examine how industry practices impact human health, animal welfare, the environment, and rural communities.
The facilities with actual animals in them told a different tale. He recalls one poultry shed in Arkansas that housed 45,000 chickens clustered on a dirt floor that had likely not been cleaned since before the last harvest. Inside, the potent mix of nitrous oxide and ammonia, a byproduct of the chicken feces and urine, made the commissioners’ eyes burn. “The word the Pew Commission used to describe the conditions we saw was ‘inhumane.’ Personally, I would say ‘cruel,’” says Goldberg, a professor of environmental health and engineering at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the founding director of the school’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE PROJECT IS TO CREATE A TEMPLATE OF ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR THE FOOD INDUSTRY AND BETTER INFORM CONSUMERS ABOUT THEIR CHOICES.
In its 2008 landmark report, the commission condemned the state of industrial production and made sweeping recommendations, including the ban of nontherapeutic antibiotics, improved management of food animal waste to lessen contamination of waterways, and the phasing out of intensive animal confinement.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.