Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) joined host George Knapp in the first hour to kick off a program on various animal welfare issues. "It's not so much a question of animal rights, it's a question of human responsibility," Pacelle said, adding, "if these animals think and they feel, should we be causing them so much suffering in so many different sectors of the economy?" He expounded on ag-gag laws and how state lawmakers and animal agriculture corporations use them to hide conditions at production facilities. Pacelle highlighted the practice of keeping sows in gestation crates (which causes many to go mad) as something the public should know about. Every one of us has a stake in how these animals are raised, he observed.
In the second hour, Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, and Adam Parascandola, director of animal protection and crisis response for HSUS, discussed dog farms in Asia where canines are bred for food (video). Block described dog meat production as a gruesome commercial practice, noting in particular the horrific conditions on dog farms in South Korea. Dog meat is served in restaurants and stores in a number of Asian countries but the practice is declining, Block said. Parascandola commented on puppy mills, warning consumers to be wary of online marketing used by these mills to show humane operations. More often than not puppy mill dogs are kept in horrendous conditions, he added. Block also touched on the ivory trade and the rhino horn powder industry. In countries where rhino horn powder is prized the Humane Society is working to demystify the product and educate its consumers with the hope of reducing demand, she said.
Third hour guest, Josh Balk, director of food policy for HSUS, talked about how the commercial poultry/egg industry is being decimated by disease. Most egg-laying chickens are confined to battery cages where they live on a space the size of an iPad in extremely unsanitary conditions, Balk explained, likening the situation to a half dozen people trapped in an elevator for the rest of their lives. This confinement leads to illness. If one chicken contracts avian flu, the rest do and it spreads across the flock and even across state lines, he said. Balk estimated more than 30 million chickens may be infected and suggested the bad treatment of animals is ultimately leading to increased costs for consumers. He also pointed out how many producers are now abandoning cages and opting to raise egg-laying chickens in a more humane way.
In the final hour, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Moss spoke about his work uncovering animal suffering at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. The scientists there are not necessarily evil but certainly more concerned about developing techniques to increase meat production than the well-being of their research animals, Moss suggested. Surgical experiments were performed on pigs to determine how to increase piglet litters from the typical 6-7 to 14-15, he explained, noting how the increased litters cause some piglets to get crushed in utero. About a million piglets are crushed to death each year, he estimated. The center has also developed a herd of cows producing twins at a rate of 55% (in nature twins occur only 1-2% of the time), Moss said. The death rate among twin cows is five times as high as single births, he added.