2013 Finding Common Ground

Welfare & Impacts: Improving Animal and Worker Health and Welfare
January 17, 2013


Societal concern about the welfare of livestock has recently driven government and private sector policy regarding animal agriculture practices, with the focus being on changes in systems of production, particularly housing methods. Largely absent from this discussion is consideration of the role of, and the impact on, the people who have primary responsibility for the care of these animals – the agriculture worker. Complex issues that link Animal Welfare and Worker Health require a broad perspective, an inquisitive mind, and a commitment to collaboration.

On January 17, 2013, seventy-nine participants from 5 states representing different disciplines, sectors and interests gathered at the St Paul Humanities Center to explore the policy issues surrounding Animal Welfare and Worker Health. The dialogue was hosted by the Center for Integrative Leadership, the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, the Global Initiative for Food Systems Leadership, and the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

Finding Common Ground 2013Panelists representing animal production, human occupational health, and animal welfare started the conversation by providing three perspectives on the issues. The rest of the day was spent in facilitated small group conversations exploring opportunities for improving both the well-being of food animals and the health and safety of the workers who care for them.

The small group format provided the participants the opportunity to strengthen their appreciation and respect for differing perspectives.

A few of the big ideas to emerge from the small group activities include:

  • Creating a space for further conversation through the creation of a council of worker safety and animal health practitioners
  • Creating a farmer-activist alliance for rebuilding trust on issues of best practices in food animal production and regulation
  • Linking worker safety programs to animal welfare quality assurance programs
  • Providing educational support and resources regarding animal and worker health and safety to small farms.
  • Creation of a network for sharing best practices.

A participant survey following the forum revealed that:

  • 92% of the participants found the program to be valuable and would recommend future Finding Common Ground Forums to others
  • The forum personally impacted participants in the following areas
    • The safe environment created to share viewpoints honestly and openly
    • The opportunity to listen to the viewpoints of others with an open mind
    • New connections and fostering new relationship
  • The speakers and discussion with the panelists were the most valuable aspects of the program


Will Hueston
Executive Director, Global Initiative for Food System Leadership

Laura Bloomberg
Executive Director, Center for Integrative Leadership

Bruce H. Alexander
Director, Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

Jeff B. Bender
Co-Director, Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center

John Deen
Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

Carol Cardona
Pomeroy Endowed Chair in Avian Health


The following pilot projects were funded through the UMASH Pilot Projects Program as follow‐up on these consensus ideas.

Incorporating Worker Safety Programs with Quality Assurance
Timothy Goldsmith, DVM, MPH
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota

Laying a New Foundation for Engaging Agricultural Media Gatekeepers in Covering Agricultural Safety and Health
Joyce Wright, AMLA, CAS
University of Illinois