Colorado State University Animal Ethics Expert Named to Commission to Research Industrial Farm Animal Production

Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Bernard Rollin has been named to the Independent National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. Rollin, an international leader in bioethics and animal ethics, will assist the commission in conducting comprehensive, fact-based and balanced assessments of industrial farming.

The commission, funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will assess the impact of industrial farming on public health, the environment, farm communities, animal welfare and animal health. The group, which will work with other national experts, is comprised of veterinary, animal sciences, economics, agriculture, public health, business, government and animal welfare experts.

"The charge of this commission is an extremely important one," Rollin said. "A common interest in the implications of industrial agriculture for society, the environment and animal welfare brings together ranchers, agriculturalists, academics, veterinarians, public health experts and others within this group – and for the first time in history, we will collectively take a hard, factual look at the costs and benefits of industrialized agriculture."

Rollin, who taught the world’s first university courses in veterinary and animal ethics at Colorado State, is a professor of philosophy, veterinary medicine and animal sciences. He is a principal author of the 1985 Animal Welfare Act and an international voice in animal-use ethics.

"Service on this important commission by Dr. Rollin, coupled with the awards he continues to accrue in the fields of animal welfare and ethics, are examples of his international contributions and reputation and reflect very positively on Colorado State University," said Hank Gardner, interim vice president for research.

Through hearings conducted across the country over the next two years, the commission will provide specialized reports that will inform the public, policymakers and industry stakeholders about the benefits and costs of industrial farm animal production.

The number of family farms in the U.S. dropped by almost 50 percent in the last 40 years while the number of animals produced in the country continues to grow.

In the United States, animal agriculture produces billions of animals per year. The national trend toward industrial animal production provides consumers with affordable food. Many consumers assume that the meat and dairy products they buy come from traditional, extensive family farms. However, the commission asserts that most livestock and poultry products available in the United States are produced in large, concentrated animal feeding operations.

This trend may negatively impact rural communities, the environment, animal welfare and human health, Rollin said. Concerns such as animal health, air and water contamination, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and significant shifts in social structure and the economy of farming regions are within the focus of the commission’s research.

The 20-member commission, which is chaired by former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, include South Dakota Sen. Tom Dempster; Brother David Andrews, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; Dan Glickman, former U. S. secretary of agriculture; actress Daryl Hannah; Thomas Hayes, president of Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.; and Dan Jackson, a rancher and former president of the Western Montana Stockgrowers Association and a former committee member of the Farm Service Agency.

Rollin also was recently honored with the prestigious Shomer Award, given by the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual meeting in Hawaii. Rollin received a unanimous nomination by the society for the award earlier this month. The award is given annually in recognition of individuals who make significant contributions to veterinary medical ethics, including leadership, scholarship, good character and a history of inspiring students. Recipients of the Shomer award are acknowledged as leaders in the veterinary medical ethics field who have promoted and embodied veracity, compassion, courage and integrity.

He also has recently been named to the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, or ILAR, Council of the National Academy of Sciences, a group that serves as the authoritative information source for the animal care and use community. The group provides guidelines for humane use of animals in research based on scientific and ethical principles, keeps the scientific community informed of federal laws related to the use of animals in science, and provides education to students of all ages and the public about the impact of scientific research.