Animal Use: Policy and Practice

As part of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Center for Animals and Public Policy (CAPP) is committed to helping colleagues assess and improve the welfare of all animals under veterinary care, including those used for food, teaching, and research.  Our program is unique in providing opportunities for those who are passionate about many aspects of animal use to collaborate with veterinarians and animal caretakers who work directly with important stakeholders and the animals themselves. 

Part of that commitment is reflected in our teaching and research in the practice of animal welfare assessment. The welfare of cows on New England dairy farms, mice and rats housed in research facilities, even reptiles and fish in zoos and aquariums can be improved by careful attention to their appearance and behavior under different conditions of housing or in response to enrichment or other forms of human attention. Such research is intended to yield practical recommendations for husbandry changes that improve animals’ health and well-being.

Beyond recommending incremental improvements in practice, CAPP also looks at the policies that govern animal use, and how they might be changed to improve the lives of animals and people and our shared environment.  Most people are surprised to find out how few federal laws exist to protect the animals that our society depends on for food, fiber, and companionship. Is it more effective for ensuring good welfare standards to encourage changes in consumer and industry behavior than to try to pass new laws and regulations? How might policies that impact the conditions under which farm animals are raised alter the risk of disease transmission between animals and people and even impact our climate? At CAPP we consider these broad policy questions as well as supporting specific work on issues through collaboration with our colleagues at the Center for Conservation Medicine, the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health, and Cummings School’s food animal and laboratory animal veterinarians.