21st century brings more awareness of farm animal welfare

Last year, our Executive Director, Adele Douglass, was interviewed for At the Fork, a farm animal welfare documentary released this month that follows the film’s two directors, an Austin couple – one a vegetarian and one an omnivore – as they visit farms across the nation to explore how farm animals are raised for food.

As an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of farm animals in food production, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) was pleased to be a part of this movie and hope it elevates the conversation about how farm animals are raised.

When one considers animal suffering, there is no doubt that farm animals in food production top the list of the animals who suffer the most at the hands of humans. With billions of animals raised for food annually, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for them. Factory farming forces cows to stand in milking tie stalls 24/7, pigs to live in gestation crates, and chickens to share small battery cages with up to a half a dozen birds. These animals don’t have places to walk, root around, flap wings or live natural lives.

At factory farms, animals are not treated like animals, but like objects that can be used and abused. Whatever one’s belief about eating meat and poultry, the bottom line is this; just because an animal is raised for food doesn’t mean it shouldn’t also be raised humanely.

The beginning of a movement

Sadly, there were no organizations in the United States that fully addressed the welfare of farm animals raised for food until the early part of this century. While groups worked to protect pets, wildlife, animals in testing, and even animals in film, no organizations raised awareness about the welfare of farm animals in food production.

Thanvitalfarmschickenskfully, since HFAC launched in 2003, we have witnessed a rapid change in the public’s perception over the treatment of farm animals. We established a scientific committee of more than three dozen animal welfare scientists and veterinarians from around the world whose entire body of work is research on the welfare of farm animals. These experts created HFAC’s Animal Care Standards for several species of farm animals, including beef cattle, dairy cows, laying hens, broiler chickens, pigs, dairy goats, and bison. The standards provide for the mental, physical and emotional needs of farm animals and insure that these animals are treated humanely throughout every step of their lives.

To be in the Certified Humane® program, farmers must pass an inspection by third-party independent inspectors before they can use the Certified Humane® logo on their products. Inspections are conducted regularly to ensure standards continue to be met on these farms going forward. In 2016, we conducted 515 inspection days – through third party inspectors who are experts in their field of farm animal welfare – for more than 2,000 farms in the program to ensure the humane treatment of more than 152 million farm animals.

Consumer demand has made the difference

Over the last decade, consumer demand has finally brought attention to farm animal issues and the desire for the humane treatment of farm animals in the food industry. In 2003, 143,000 farm animals were raised Certified Humane® in the U.S.; in 2016, more than 152 million farm animals were raised Certified Humane in five countries. We’re proud to say that over these last 14 years, more than 667 million farm animals have been raised in the Certified Humane® program.

This amazing progress couldn’t have been made without a growing community of people demanding humanely-raised food. Farmers are listening, too. They are choosing to become Certified Humane® to demonstrate to consumers their unwavering commitment to the welfare of farm animals.

At every step of their lives, HFAC believes farm animals deserve to be treated with compassion. And, “we are just getting started in a movement that is going to forever elevate the care and treatment of farm animals in food production,” says Douglass.

We are committed to certifying farmers who meet our Animal Care Standards by letting them use the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label and educating and encouraging consumers to be change-makers by shopping for Certified Humane in grocery stores and restaurants.

We believe the demand for humanely-raised food will only continue to grow. At the Fork helps shed light on this issue and further helps consumers think about the welfare of farm animals and how their food is raised.

To support Certified Humane® farmers, please visit our “Where to Buy” page or download our free Certified Humane® app.