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K-State veterinary professor chairs international beef cattle welfare committee


A Kansas State University professor recently chaired an international animal health committee to develop beef cattle production and welfare standards worldwide.

Dan Thomson, K-State's Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology in the department of clinical sciences, traveled to Paris, France, in late July to chair the OIE Beef Cattle Production and Animal Welfare committee. Beef cattle production and international beef trading is important to the economic base of many developed and developing countries. Thomson said the purpose of this committee was to bring people from diverse cattle production backgrounds to create one set of standards for beef cattle production and welfare to serve the needs of all countries.

The committee included animal welfare experts from Uraguay, Kenya, Australia, China and Ireland as well as OIE experts.

"OIE is the World organization for animal health," Thomson said. "It represents 174 countries around the world on issues such as animal health and disease control. The OIE has decided to include animal welfare as one of its interests." He said the OIE's mission and international scope for animal health is equivalent to the World Health Organization's mission for human health.

"This is the first time the OIE has put together standards for animal care and welfare," said Clayton Huseman, executive director of the feedyard division of the Kansas Livestock Association. "They are internationally recognized in international trade and countries look to them for animal health information. What the committee comes up with has a huge impact on the countries they represent. It is really good to know we have a Kansan leading that charge. I have confidence in Dan's scientific knowledge and more importantly his knowledge of how modern production agriculture works in the U.S."

As the OIE moves forward setting animal welfare code as part of their business, it will definitely be involved in international trade and the World Trade Organization, Thomson said.

"Dr. Thomson's work to advance the welfare of cattle has been on-going for his entire career," said Ralph Richardson, dean of K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Being named chair of the OIE Beef Cattle Production and Animal Welfare committee is recognition of his efforts and the positive impact that he and other members of Kansas State University's Beef Cattle Institute are having on the livestock industry. We are very thankful for the leadership that K-State brings to Kansas, the nation and the world when it comes to beef production."

Richardson said it is vital that K-State, in the heart of cattle country, be relevant to the livestock industry. "Educational events, like the International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare Symposium held at K-State in May 2008 and organized by Dr. Thomson, are vitally important because they work with the livestock industry to educate about best practices which benefit both the animals in a humane way and the bottom line financially for the producer."

Thomson said, "To my knowledge, there are no other published international standards for beef cattle welfare. The group of eight of us who sat around the table in Paris came from diverse backgrounds, not only from the standpoint of the development of our country but in the way we raise beef cattle. With the unselfishness and openness of the group, it seemed effortless to produce this document with the welfare of the cattle in mind. This experience is a real honor and one of the most professionally satisfying things I've done.

"Animal welfare is an important part of animal health," Thomson said. "My involvement is recognition of Kansas' and U.S. beef production as international leaders in animal welfare. I was fortunate to represent all the hard work that has been done in the U.S. over the last few decades."

Thomson said the draft includes guidelines and outcome assessment measurements for confined animals and cattle raised in extensive production systems.

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