Delegates to the board of directors of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have adopted policy urging NPPC to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop "an animal handling action penalty plan" to guide inspectors at pork packing plants in determining if plant workers committed violations of animal handling practices.
Delegates said currently these decisions are left more to inspectors' discretion rather than uniform standards with uniform penalties. Delegates said the penalties should not include plant shutdowns.
Delegates said plant shutdowns can cause lengthy backups in unloading hogs and other swine and can cause stress on the pigs and even some deaths.
This tends to compromise all the work producers are engaged in in terms of animal health and well-being and pork quality assurance, according to the policy resolution.
Delegates also approved a companion resolution calling on NPPC to work with packers to implement best management practices to facilitate least stressful and most safe unloading processes at plants.
Following lengthy debate, delegates adopted a position saying NPPC "continues to support" producers' choice to use gestation stalls as being a housing system that "is essential" in ensuring animal care, employee safety and a reliable supply of quality and reasonably priced pork for consumers.
Much of the debate centered on NPPC's existing policy in which the council has not supported one kind of housing method over another, which permits producers to choose the housing system that best fits their management and other needs and aligns the council with the positions of the American Veterinary Medicine Assn. and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
The new position does not change NPPC's position that producers have a right to choose alterative housing systems, including group pens for pregnant sows. However, delegates opposed to it said it "confuses what (the council) stands for."
The delegates, who adopt policy for NPPC, passed their resolutions at the National Pork Forum in Orlando, Fla., March 9. The forum houses the annual business meetings of the NPPC and delegates to the Pork Act, the later of whom advise the National Pork Board on policy.