When it comes to animal rights, livestock animals frequently get relegated to the bottom part of the priority list. In fact, many of the issues raised by activists are related to the brutal treatment of livestock by farmers, breeders, and producers. In 2003, Ward Egg Ranch in California disposed of as many as 30,000 hens by feeding them into wood chipping machines. The reason? The hens could no longer produce eggs.
That same year, another company gave in to the pressures of an economy on the downturn. Cypress Foods, a grower, and producer of chickens made the decision to withhold food from its farm chickens for as long as two weeks. As a result, over 20,000 chickens died and an estimated 180,000 birds had to be euthanized.
Although the level of cruelty involved in both cases are extreme, we should all realize, as consumers ourselves, that maltreatment of and cruelty to livestock animals bred and utilized in our agricultural farms is not an exception at all. In fact, cruelty may just be the norm.
Take the case of broiler chickens. These animals are fed using growth hormones to encourage their bodies to grow larger thighs and breasts. This practice is considered necessary in the industry to produce bigger and plumper chickens. The size and amount of meat that these chickens provide translate to increased profits for businesses. Unfortunately, this practice is also cruel. Birds who grow too fast become too heavy for their own skeletal system to support. The burden of too much weight takes its toll on these animals, making their lives more unbearable.
Like chickens, farm turkeys are also pumped with growth hormones, allowing them to grow faster so they can be butchered in less than a year. Pigs are bred and kept in mostly overcrowded pens, causing them to fight for space and for some to die untimely deaths. When sows are pregnant, they are kept for the duration of their pregnancy in narrow crates that prevent them from being able to turn around or lie down comfortably.
Cows spend their entire lives inside barns, never able to experience life on the outside. During natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and heat waves, and other occurrences such as fires, many animals grown as livestock die because there are no facilities or measures in place in their behalf during emergencies.
To help improve the practices in the industry, the Humane Farm Animal Care has launched a program for labeling livestock products. Only meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs produced under humane, precise and objective standards will be labeled “Certified Humane Raised and Handled”.
The Certified Humane stamp of approval for livestock products can only be obtained by producers and processors who:
– provide proper nutrition to farm animals, including constant access to clean, fresh water;
– avoid using feeds that contain antibiotics and artificial hormones that increase growth abnormally;
– implement timely and appropriate actions for disease prevention;
– provide shelter with enough space for the animals; and
– comply with the requirements set by the American Meat Institute Standards, particularly for slaughtering livestock.
The program aims to help improve the lives and condition of livestock animals and has effectively aided in the implementation of changes in the industry. With this program in place, our food and agricultural industries are becoming more aware of the importance of providing humane treatment to farm animals, especially if they are bred and grown for human consumption.