In the 38th episode of the Social Dog podcast, Alicia Prygoski, joins Cindie and Marilyn. Prygoski is a fellow animal lover, former environmental lobbyist from Michigan, and she holds a law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Prygoski parlayed her lobbying experience and love of animals into a career advocating the better treatment of animals. She has worked for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a small policy-based organization, for four years.
What Does the Animal Welfare Institute Do?
Founded in 1961, AWI’s mission is to end the human-inflicted suffering of animals. AWI seeks to protect all animals, including:
- companion animals
- marine mammals
- lab animals
- farm animals
- and more
Although Prygoski’s compassion extends to all animals, her work with AWI focuses on farm animals.
Prygoski Brings Awareness to Central Issues Affecting the Welfare of Farm Animals
As AWI’s Farm Animal Policy Associate, the goal of Prygoski’s work centers on bettering the welfare of farm animals. Her areas of focus are:
- farm animal welfare legislation
- barn fire prevention
- food policy
- generally improving the living conditions of farm animals
Each area of focus has helped Prygoski to identify and bring awareness to central issues affecting farm animals today. She discussed several of those issues with us on the podcast.
Factory farms are notorious for housing farm animals in deplorable conditions. Because the primary goal of factory farms is to turn a maximum profit, they treat their animals like products rather than sentient beings.
Factory farms keep the animals in crates and cages, so small that even the most basic movements, such as stretching and turning around, are out of the question. Storing the crates and cages in crowded warehouses deprive the animals of sunlight, enrichment, and stimulation. Factory farm animals never know the joys of grazing in pastures, playing, or socializing with other animals.
Factory farms often achieve their financial goals by breeding animals to grow bigger and faster. Chickens raised for meat are bred to achieve market weight in just 47 days, often growig so large that their legs cannot support their body weight. According to Prygoski, 85% of the animals raised for food in the U.S. are raised in factory farms.
Transport and Export
The routine overcrowding of transport trucks puts the animals at risk of trampling and/or injuring each other. Transporting conditions frequently deprive the animals of food, water, and rest, while also exposing them to extreme heat and cold. Federal law should technically regulate the transport of animals; the Twenty-Eight Hour Law provides the framework to mitigate most of transport-related issues, but the law is not really enforced.
AWI has also worked to ensure the safe export of animals to and from other countries. International transport is one of the largest animal welfare concerns when examining the export practices of some countries. For example, in contrast with the approximately 100,000 farm animals the U.S. exports overseas per year, Australia sends millions of farm animals overseas every year. Large ships transport the animals, keeping them on board for several weeks at a time.
AWI has helped to implement some helpful policies. In 2011, AWI petitioned the USDA, requesting that they confirm farm animals’ fitness to travel be confirmed before departure. The USDA agreed to adopt fitness to travel requirements, and they implemented the policy in 2016.
A single barn fire can kill hundreds of thousands of animals, but they draw very little attention when they occur. Animals confined to cages have little chance of escaping when a fire breaks out, all but ensuring certain death. AWI implemented a new tool on their website this year, which provides up-to-date information on each barn fire in 2019 so far. You can use the barn fire tracker to find relevant data, such as a fire’s location, date, animal death toll, and links to media reports linked to each tragedy.
In October 2018, AWI released the first-of-its-kind report documenting the more than 2.7 million farm animals that died because of barn fires from 2013 to 2017. Because of their potential for large death tolls for farm animals and widespread damage, Prygoski stressed that prevention is key. Some preventative measures farmers can take are:
- Equipping barns with sprinkler systems
- Installing smoke and fire detectors
- Provide training for staff
- Equip barns with fire extinguishers
AWI’s report makes many recommendations, but there are no laws or regulations in place to protect farm animals. The lack of laws and regulations in the U.S. is especially frustrating considering the millions of animals that have perished in barn fires over the last few years. Knowledge is power, however, so Prygoski and AWI are working to arm advocates with as much information as they can to inspire changes at local, state, and federal levels.
What Can You Do to Help?
Introducing legislation and taking preventative measures help to mitigate the impact of many of these issues. You can help bring awareness to the issues farm animals face by:
- Volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary — will help you to realize the farm animals are individuals and see how much better the animals have it when they have more space to roam around.
- Writing your elected officials — helps to let them know that farm animal welfare is important to their constituents.
- Writing letters to the editor of your newspaper — is a powerful way for someone to voice their opinion in their local community while bringing awareness to farm animal welfare.
- Checking labels on products, educating yourself about the different terms that appear on the labels, and looking up what the standards are — helps you gain awareness as a consumer and avoid conventionally raised products.
- Shopping at farmers’ markets — is a great place to learn about how the farm animals were raised and avoid purchasing conventionally raised products.
- Listening to the Social Dog podcast — helps listeners realize the challenges and barriers animals in this arena face today
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