Farms and Animal Welfare

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According to a Gallup poll completed in August of 2018, approximately five percent of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan. The remaining 95% are omnivores, meaning they have a diet consisting of both plants and meat. Since the majority of Americans continue to have meat as a staple protein in their diet, it would make sense for them to have ample access to information regarding the farm-to-table process for the products they are buying. Consumers are bombarded with happy animal images on commercials and product packages, however factory farm footage spanning decades has led consumers to believe that happy farms are not necessarily the norm.

The controversy at hand is between animal welfare organizations as they fight for humane farming practices and factory farms, who are pushing for agricultural legislation to prevent activists from entering their facilities and accusing them of animal abuse. Should the federal government step-in, change current agricultural laws and force factory farms to conform to more humane practices? By definition, humane is “characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed.” (Humane, n.d.)

Lacking these characteristics is what determines behavior to be considered inhumane. For decades, different organizations, who have an obvious bias regarding factory farms, have been fighting the inhumane treatment of farmed animals. Some, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have even secretly filmed the inner-workings of factory farms in order to expose what they claim to be inhumane practices that are hidden behind closed doors. Other organizations, such as Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved are third party organizations which work directly with farmers in order to meet consumer demand for farmed animals to be treated humanely (USDA, n.d.).

Both Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved have strict standards which farmers must meet in order for them to earn the right to label their products with each seal of approval. Certified Humane boasts transparency of standards based on the expertise from the “staff, board of directors and scientific committee…brings experience in the natural foods industry, animal science, veterinary care and animal welfare…” (Transparency & Accountability, n.d.) Animal Welfare Approved focuses on the animal’s wellbeing from birth to death, setting standards which allow the animals to live and behave as natural as possible (Carrier, n.d.), and is also a very prevalent concern of consumers (Sato, Hotzel & von Keyserlingk, n.d., p. 9).

The goal of organizations such as Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved is to improve the overall treatment and wellbeing of farmed animals. On many current farms, animals are “maimed, confined in crammed spaces, raised in artificial settings, fed unnatural diets, and fattened with growth hormones.” (Fiber-Ostrow & Lovel, 2016, p. 234) Beef cattle are often fed less expensive corn instead of grass. This change in the cow’s natural diet allows the development of bacteria and increasing the risk of E. coli contamination (Watnick, 2016, 66). These cows are also processed “one every 12 seconds”, and are frequently conscious when taken for slaughter (p. 235). Sows spend their lives in gestation crates, dairy cows live in cramped stalls with no room to turn around, and egg-laying hens are confined to 8 x 11-inch battery cages which can house anywhere between 4 and 10 hens.

The humane treatment of our farm animals is a growing concern among consumers in the US. In a 2016 survey, 1,000 consumers were asked questions to gauge their viewpoints on animal welfare certifications and their willingness to pay slightly higher costs for animals raised in a more humane manner (Spain, Freund, Mohan-Gibbons, Meadow & Beacham, 2018, p. 1). Of the consumers polled, 78% said it is important that assessments are completed by a third party organization or the federal government (p.1). The majority of these consumers also agreed that they would be willing to pay more for products with a ‘trustworthy certification” (p.1). Currently there are only three programs operating which ensure certain humane standards are met with regard to our farm animals.

Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership, and Animal Welfare Approved all three require ‘at minimum, enriched, spacious, cage-free environments verified by independent auditors on farms” (p.2). There are many different organizations fighting to change legislation which would force all factory farms to meet specific, humane, farming practices. In 2008, California approved Proposition 2, or the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act”, to be in effect by January 2015 (Watnick, 2016, p. 46). In 2010, California amended the act and required all egg producers, both in and out of the state, to also comply by January 2015, if they wished to continue selling eggs in California.

This act bans the use of battery cages in favor of larger spaces which allow hens the ability to move around completely unrestricted. The act also applies to all “covered animals” such as “any pig during pregnancy, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen kept on a farm” and is to prevent the inhumane confinement of these animals. Proposition 2 was enacted due to the discovery of animal abuse at the Westland Meat Company in Chino, California, the second largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program (p. 70). This act did not go over well with out-of-state egg producers.

Many states, such as Missouri, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa, all claimed that enforcing these standards on out-of-state egg producers would increase the cost of eggs which would inevitably lead to egg farmers being forced to close their businesses (p. 46). Similarly, whistleblowers associated with animal rights organizations sparked outrage and retaliation among many farmers. Farmers began to fight back with legislation proposals of their own. This legislation is largely known as “Ag-Gag” laws and was a direct reaction to undercover operations (Brief Summary of Ag-Gag Laws, 2015).

Cite this paper

Farms and Animal Welfare. (2021, Aug 17). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/farms-and-animal-welfare/

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