Earlier this year, a headline in The New York Times
set off a firestorm in both the livestock industry and the research community. “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit
,” the headline read. The laboratory at the heart of the story was a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in southeast Nebraska where research is conducted on farm animals. The goal of the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center
is to improve the efficiency of production while also maintaining the quality of meat products.
But the article raised questions about whether the welfare of animals at the facility was being compromised — for example, by breeding research that has led to “weakened or deformed” calves and crowded conditions that are causing piglets to be crushed.
In response, animal-welfare organizations called for shutting down the facility and even ending all animal agriculture research across the country. And federal legislation was introduced to include farm animals under the Animal Welfare Act, the law that governs research use of laboratory animals.