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0608 PD: Beat out HSUS on animal welfare

Published on 14 April 2008

A reader recently e-mailed me to say he enjoyed our animal welfare review series. He also read with interest the standards comparison chart in the last issue.

(See pages 38-41 of this issue for the second installment in the series.) He requested we share more about the groups whose animal welfare guidelines we are reviewing, especially Certified Humane. More about them in a minute.

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The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative
A producer-led coalition launched The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative last October by issuing a set of draft animal welfare guidelines. When finalized, the coalition will recommend co-ops and processors creating their own animal welfare programs incorporate the initiative’s guidelines. Thus, each co-op will be able to retain the sovereignty of their animal welfare program.The initiative’s common standards will help provide retailers and consumers with assurances that their product is generated from producers who know and meet their ethical obligations to dairy animals’ well-being.

“Animal Welfare Approved”
This animal welfare program carries with it a label that will be attached to food produced under its standards. The program is sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit NGO, that proclaims intentions which include, “reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans” and “abolishing factory farms.” The label has already sought after and received support from celebrities, such as Willie Nelson. The label’s cornerstone requirement is that farms are family-owned and operated. Daily labor on the farm may only be provided by family members or invested farm owners.

Validus
Validus is a third-party verification company that provides producers and private companies with quality-assurance, environmental and animal welfare audits. The company’s review serves as a stamp of approval that producers are meeting a minimum standard. Validus is closely aligned with the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative. Many of the principles included in Validus’ review have been incorporated into the initiative’s guidelines.

Certified Humane
This animal welfare program carries with it a label, proclaiming to consumers that animals producing their products receive a “nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones” and that animals under their label have the ability to “engage in natural behaviors.” This organization is closely tied to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to the organization’s website, HSUS is one of its partners. As the concerned reader pointed out, Certified Humane’s Executive Director, Adele Douglass was, until recently, also the leader of the Center For Food Safety, which is another organization that historically has been unfriendly to modern agriculture.

So, why compare the dairy industry’s guidelines to unfriendly, even anti-, animal agriculture groups’ consumer labels?

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In the past, these groups have been able to catch the ears of consumers first. As our industry has recently experienced, these groups market their ideas through fear. If consumers are initially led to believe that dairy animals are not well treated, we will have an uphill fight to convince them otherwise. Get involved in order to reinforce the ethic that consumers already want to believe – that dairy animals are well treated. PD

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