HFAC Celebrates Ten Years of Improving the Lives of Farm Animals

In the late 1990’s and early part of this new century, as I worked in Congress and lobbied Congress on animal issues, it was clear that farm animal welfare was a huge issue and not being addressed by anyone.  There were some organizations that promoted not eating animals at all, and some that were supporting legislation to change practices of farm animal housing.  There were also commodity groups who were not interested in changing anything.  Having worked in the Congress, and researched the history of animal welfare legislation, it was clear to me that if I wanted to see change in the way farm animals were raised in the US it would have to be through a market solution and not a legislative solution.  It took almost 100 years to get the national “Humane Slaughter Act” passed. I wanted to see change in my lifetime.

My background was public policy and legislation.  I wanted to do something for farm animals and didn’t have any idea of what to do.  The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England, which was the first humane society in the world, had a program that I had heard about for farm animals and I wanted to see what that was about.  I went to England and met with the Freedom Foods people and the Farm Animals division of the RSPCA to learn about their program.  The RSPCA had written standards for farm animals and had created a separate organization, Freedom Foods to find farmers who would meet those standards, then label the product “Freedom Foods” and sell the product at retailers in the UK.  At that time Tesco, a major supermarket in the UK was the primary retailer that sold Freedom Foods products.   When I looked at that program I realized that if I wanted to change an industry, I couldn’t do it by competing, it had to be a program where everyone in that industry could participate.  I came home and decided to start a certification and labeling program to do just that.

The process began with the first animal scientists, Dr. Carolyn Stull, Dr. Janice Swanson, Dr. Joy Mench and the late Dr. Julie Morrow Tesch and the help of the RSPCA farm animals division, Dr. Martin Potter, Dr. Julia Wrathall and John Avizienious, and the staff at Freedom Foods.  It was a long learning process.

On February 20, 2003, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) was incorporated in the District of Columbia by our attorney, Beth Kingsley, with Dr. Joanne Irving’s name as the first director, and HFAC was officially founded!  Today is our tenth anniversary.  We started with a staff of two, my daughter, Holly Bridges and I.  We involved all the family in helping: my son Brian Douglass, my other daughter, Meredith Berger and a large group of friends and colleagues without whom this program would not exist.  We sought advice from Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Barry Carpenter, James Riva, and Tammy Ballard of USDA who guided us to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, and Lynn Coody, who helped us ensure that our program met international standards.  Andrew Kimbrell and Michael Selmi, who made sure everything was legal.  Patti Higgenbotham and Theresa Hutchison, who made sure our accounting was accurate.  The late Linda Konstan who helped with our personnel policies, Maureen K. Robinson who offered guidance on how to move the organization forward.  Gini Barrett, Margaret Moran, Mary Geraghty, Jack and Ann Sparks, Jane Quilter, who helped with outreach and PR.   Sandy Lerner and Lynn Marachario, early believers and supporters, and the incredible Caryn Ginsburg, whose marketing research, planning, and implementation of marketing outreach enabled us to recruit producers and engage consumers in order to get the spectacular results we have gotten over the years.   Victoria Foulides, Paula Barrett and Gita McCutcheon, who have helped us with fundraising, outreach and public relations.

A special thanks to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the other early supporters of the Certified Humane® program.

The original four companies that were certified and launched with us were Echo Farm Puddings, Touchstone Farms, Ayrshire Farm, and duBreton Natural Pork, and are still with us today.  During that year, Prather Ranch Beef, Meyer Natural Angus Beef and Pete and Gerry’s eggs came on to the program.  They are all still certified and part of the program.  At the end of 2003, there were 143,000 animals raised under our standards.

At the end of 2012, there were 76.8 million farm animals raised under our standards and 94 companies certified.

My goal was to have 1% of the farm animals raised for food, raised under our standards in 10 years.  We have fallen short by 23.2 million farm animals. I would like to reach this goal by 2014.   We need your help to reach this goal; please keep promoting the program, and keep asking your supermarkets for products that are Certified Humane® so we can meet this goal and keep moving forward.

Thanks for all your support,