AGRIVETS is a hands-on educational initiative designed to acquaint veterinary and animal science students with primary husbandry and veterinary care of farm animals in the context of sustainable agricultural operations both within, and outside of, the U.S. Over the past 60 years corporate farms have sought to achieve the greatest production efficiency possible to capture the lowest possible costs through economies of scale. While this business model has offered retail price advantages, it has unfortunately externalized other costs that must be borne by the public and by the animals under production. These costs must be weighed against reputed benefits to assess the actual long term economic viability of industrial agriculture.
In the U.S., externalized costs are found for example in 1) federal taxpayer grain subsidies for animal feeds, 2) fossil fuel subsidies, 3) an increase in acute and chronic food-related human illnesses, 4) acceleration of acute and chronic health care financial burdens and 5) governmental policies that leverage taxpayer monies to pursue foreign markets for U.S. animal food products (while 1 in 7 U.S. households remain food-insecure); all have caused many in macroeconomics to question the long-term wisdom and societal benefit delivered from industrial farms. The rise of antimicrobial resistance from the misuse and overuse of antibiotics on corporate farms, as well as significant violations of established principles of skilled husbandry and animal welfare have also been increasingly documented in recent years, as collateral damage linked to the illusory pursuit of cheap food plays out among industrial actors competing among themselves on the global stage for the consumer dollar.
AGRIVETS re-examines the tenets of sustainable production systems in animal agriculture in light of current scientific evidence, as well as farm practices and governmental policies within and outside of the U.S. at a time when developing countries are experiencing pressures to adopt industrial systems in response to the globalization of agriculture by multinational investors. Students are challenged in this course to think independently to reconsider the goals and means of feeding the world’s expanding population and the paradigms under which these goals can be achieved and sustained over the long term.
AGRIVETS presents students with a platform for thoughtful investigation of the realities of animal agriculture through immersion in the front-line delivery of veterinary care in farm environments contextualized by local cultures and regional economic realities, while considering the challenges of feeding a burgeoning global human population that is now projected to reach over 9 billion by 2050. Workshop format blends classroom orientations and discussions in sustainable animal agriculture with highly participatory hands-on farm animal husbandry and veterinary care in actual agricultural operations.
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