Certified Humane® training programs help improve farm animal welfare in South America
When you talk to Adroaldo Zanella, DVM, a member of Humane Farm Animal Care’s (HFAC) Scientific Committee since 2005 and Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of São Paulo Veterinary School of Medicine in Pirassununga, São Paulo, Brazil, about farm animal welfare, he can hardly contain his excitement at the progress his country has made over the last few years.
“Brazil is at a massive crossroads for animal welfare,” says Zanella. “We have 200 million people consuming products and those people are starting to think about animal welfare as part of an ethical society and are asking for more humanely-raised food.”
Zanella credits this growing consumer awareness with the arrival of HFAC’s Certified Humane® program in Brazil in 2006. Launched in the U.S. in 2003, HFAC is the leading international nonprofit certification program improving the lives of millions of farm animals in food production. Today, HFAC oversees the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label in 5 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru, Chile, which assures consumers that farm animals are raised according to HFAC’s Animal Care Standards.
“Before Certified Humane®, we didn’t have a set of standards to measure things and assess farm animal care,” says Zanella. “The Certified Humane® program does that. It provides very specific standards of care, which we can use to measure and audit farms to assure consumers that animal welfare is a top priority for farms in the program. We’ve never had anything like that before in Brazil.”
University wants to lead the way
With more than 90,000 students at the school’s 7 campus locations, the University of São Paulo Veterinary School of Medicine and Animal Science (FMVZ) wants to lead the charge for change in farm animal welfare in South America, according to Zanella. The criteria for HFAC inspectors is that they must have a Master’s degree or PhD in animal science or be a veterinarian. To that end, the University recently hosted a Certified Humane® inspector training program on their Pirassununga campus. Sixteen students with advanced degrees (DVM’s, PhD’s and Master’s degrees) learned about HFAC’s Animal Care Standards and the Certified Humane® program. With more than 1,000 beef cattle, 150 sows, and thousands of chickens, among other farm animal species, on the University campus, Zanella says this is the perfect setting for students to learn about farm animal welfare.
“The program moves students from conceptual learning in the classroom to practical learning on local farms,” he says. “This experiential experience gives students the perfect environment to fully understand how to apply animal welfare into a practical setting. They assessed farms with pigs, laying hens, broilers, dairy cows and beef cattle. Certified Humane’s standards are the toolbox they can use to make more measured assessments of how animals are cared for and treated on that farm.”
Meeting the demands of Brazilian consumers
When it comes to humanely-raised food, Zanella believes Brazilians are much more demanding than the food industry thinks.
“Brazilian consumers don’t want eggs from laying hens that are caged,” says Zanella. “Yet 95 to 98 percent of the eggs consumed in Brazil come from caged hens. If consumers want to purchase food based on animal welfare, the only information you can find is on animal rights and veganism. Until the arrival of Certified Humane, we had limited opportunities to make humane food choices about farm animals.”
Zanella says the University’s short-term goal is to develop and validate science based animal welfare indicators and educate inspectors. Their long-term goal is to make all campus farms Certified Humane®. “Our campus farms give us a unique opportunity to help students understand their relationship to food animals,” he says.
Adele Douglass, Executive Director for HFAC, says, “the rapid growth and expansion of Certified Humane® in Brazil, Peru and Chile in recent years shows that South American consumers want the same thing as consumers in the U.S. and U.K. – humanely-raised food.”
Not only can these students become inspectors for the Certified Humane® program, these students are now “phenomenal ambassadors for the program,” says Zanella. “One student said the program had entirely changed her view of farm animal welfare. The fact that you can measure things and work through and assess farms by a set of humane standards gives consumers the assurance that animal welfare is a priority. This can only help people concerned about animal welfare make better food choices. That is huge step for us.”