Animal Welfare Advocates Weigh-in on USDA Humane Labeling

If you care about the welfare of animals and have been following this issue, or if you know anyone who eats non-organic, commercial meat (well, of course you do) be sure to check out this summary of AW/AR advocates’ recommendations to the USDA about their guidelines for “humane labeling” by BigAg, et al…

Animal activists flood the comment zone before deadline


About 4,600 comments were turned in by yesterday’s deadline. Animal activist groups, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Compassion Over Killing, were among those lodging  complaints about the new guidelines.

The animal activist groups contend the new guidelines with effectively render “any and all animal raising claims meaningless.” They say the guidelines allow “producers that use standard, industrial production methods to make ‘humane’ or ‘animal friendly’ claims, while hindering producers that have actually instituted standards that come closer to satisfying consumer expectations and likely misleading the large percentage of conscientious consumers who are willing to pay extra for products they believe are raised more humanely.”

“The USDA’s approach blatantly violates its statutory duty to protect consumers,” says ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the agency to take stops that genuinely ensure animal products’ and by products’ labels clarify and inform purchases, not mislead the public.”

Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation director of animal law, goes even further.

“Without any authority to go onto farms for itself to see how animals are being treated,” he wrote, “the USDA has all but guaranteed that it will continue to approve ‘humane’ labels where portions of birds’ beaks and pig tails are cut off and animals live their entire lives indoors without enrichment before being roughly rounded up and loaded on to a truck for terrifying transportation to a violent death.”

Many responses asked for specific changes in the guidelines, including:

  • Require third-party certification for animal welfare and environmental stewardship claims. In several surveys, large majorities of consumers have said that a “humanely raised” claim should not be allowed on products unless verified by an independent third party. Consumers also believe that the claim should not be used unless producers exceed minimum industry standards.
  • Define animal living claims, such as “free range” and “pasture raised.” Producers should only be allowed to use these claims if they meet established standards, including minimum space allowances and access to vegetation for animals.
  • Prohibit the use of feedlots for the “grass-fed” claim. Producers are only required to provide grass-fed animals with access to pasture for the growing season. When not on pasture, producers can keep animals in barren, cramped feedlots.
  • Require more documentation to substantiate claims. When third-party certification is not required, producers using animal raising claims should submit a detailed animal care protocol and photographic documentation.