PETA has launched another attack campaign against Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified Humane® program. We wish they would stop picking on farmers who are trying to do the right thing for farm animals, but we know this is part of their fundraising efforts every year.
In September 2017, PETA went to a farm in Pennsylvania that offered public tours and took selective videos of this farm. Per our records, this farm had an unannounced inspection one month prior, in August 2017. The inspection was conducted by one of our third-party farm animal welfare experts: veterinarians and scientists with expertise in their species of farm animals. According to the inspection report, the farm met all the requirements of the Certified Humane® program.
This farm sells their eggs to Nellie’s Free-Range Eggs, the first egg producer to become Certified Humane®, so their commitment to animal welfare is long-established.
The comments made by PETA-supporting veterinarians, Dr. Holly Cheever, Dr. Lester Castro Freedlander and Dr. Greg Burkett, were based on watching the video, which can be misleading, and not from actual engagement with the hens on the farm.
Here are PETA’s claims and our replies…
- The space in the barn of 1.2 sq. f/bird is not adequate space for the birds to perform natural behavior. — Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM
Reply: The Humane Farm Animal Care Scientific Committee comprised of 40 international animal scientists and veterinarians who wrote our standards, concluded that 1.2 sq. ft. of space per bird in a cage-free barn of this type is the minimum space needed for the hens to exhibit natural behaviors. In addition, the outdoor space for free-range laying hens is 2 sq. ft/bird. This farm meets both those standards.
- The exits for the birds are closed at night and not opened until 1:00 p.m. and closed throughout the winter. – PETA Video
Reply: HFAC Standards require: “Outdoor access, must be provided for a minimum of 6 hours per day during the daytime, except during inclement weather or for veterinary or emergency reasons.” On this farm, the doors are open to the birds between 1:30 p.m. and nightfall, which meets our requirements. The birds don’t go outside if it is below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, above 94 degrees Fahrenheit, or if it is raining or muddy. The birds must be kept indoors at night to prevent predators from attacking them. Farms often keep hens inside during cold or bad weather.
- The hatches to the outside are too small for the birds to have free access to the outdoor. – Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM
Reply: There are very specific requirements for the hatches in our Standards. “Hens must have sufficient exit areas appropriately distributed around the buildings i.e., at least one exit every 50 feet along one side of the house to ensure that all hens have ready-access to the outdoor areas. Each exit must allow the passage of more than one hen at a time. Exits must be at least 18” high and 21” wide.” This farm meets these standards.
- …the birds’ sensitive beaks are cut off to prevent the densely-packed chickens from attacking and killing each other. Despite the mutilation, many hens were observed to have missing feathers…” — Dr. Gregg Burkett
Reply: According to our Standards, birds are allowed to be beak-trimmed; there is no “cutting off” beaks. The beak trimming must be done before 10 days of age and in a very specific way to meet our Standards. Our Scientific Committee concluded that if the procedure is done under 10 days of age, there is no lasting effect to the birds and assures the birds will not peck each other to death. The reason we allow beak trimming is that, no matter how much space hens have, they WILL feather peck each other. Studies show birds that are not beak-trimmed have a high mortality rate. Our inspector verified the farm not only followed our Standards but has more than the required number of perches for the birds, which helps minimize pecking behaviors.
The air quality in the barns was also less than 10 ppm of ammonia, which is a major indicator of the farmer’s care since this means their litter, which the birds use for dustbathing is more than adequate and well-managed.
- “The children of the farmer touched and carried the hens with bare hands. Does this put the family or hens at risk of contracting or spreading diseases, including avian influenza? – PETA asks the three veterinarians:
“Contracting a disease is initially solely dependent on whether or not a flock has the disease. They cannot spread what they don’t have. Handling healthy bird poses very little risk of disease transmission. Currently, there are no strains of avian influenza in the US.” – Dr. Gregg Burkett
According to our inspection reports, this farm meets all HFAC’s Standards, and then some. If this farm had things to hide, they would not allow public tours on their property.
The Certified Humane program strives to be fully-transparent. Our Standards are on our website for all to see. http://certifiedhumane.org/how-we-work/our-standards/
Our Scientific Committee is made up of the best farm animal scientists and veterinarians in the world. http://certifiedhumane.org/how-we-work/scientific-committee/
PETA’s agenda is to convert people to veganism. See “Does PETA have the right to determine what’s humane considering their view on animals, January 13, 2016)
Our program does not care whether people are vegans, vegetarians or meat eaters. That decision is up to you. Our nonprofit’s mission is to ensure farm animals raised for food are raised in ways that ensure their needs are being met. These needs are not based on our perception of their needs, but their actual needs as determined by our Scientific Committee. It’s unfortunate that PETA is attempting to ruin the reputation of an honorable farmer and egg company whose intentions towards their hens are the most humane.