July 15, 2009
Statement on Farm Animals and Eating with Conscience
The HSUS is deeply concerned about the ways in which farm animals are treated in modern agricultural systems. The total sum of suffering of these animals greatly exceeds that of any other category of domestic animals. The vast majority of meat, eggs, and dairy products sold in American grocery chains and restaurants comes from animals raised in intensive-confinement systems (so-called factory farms) that do not provide for many of the animals' most basic behavioral needs and that impose significant stress on the animals in pursuit of efficiency. The result is that living creatures are being treated as biological "machines."
The HSUS is also concerned about commercial fishing and fish production practices. The proliferation of massive fish farms raises basic questions about their welfare. And commercial fishing practices continue to deplete many fish populations in dramatic ways and result in the by-catch of extraordinary numbers of non-target animals, including marine mammals, birds, and other fish.
Accordingly, The HSUS pursues the reduction of animal suffering in the raising, housing, care, transportation, and slaughter of animals raised or caught for food. Furthermore, we seek to ensure that animal production systems are humane, sustainable, and environmentally sensitive. The HSUS supports those farmers and ranchers who give proper care to their animals, act in accordance with the basic ethic of compassion to sentient creatures under their control, and practice and promote humane and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Furthermore, the use of plant crops to support the rearing of food animals and the use of fish meal in the intensive "farming" of carnivorous fish, and the subsequent inefficient conversion of plant protein to animal protein, are wasteful uses of limited resources. Research has also indicated that eating excessive quantities of meat, eggs, and dairy can be detrimental to human health.
Considering the foregoing abuses of animals, degradation of the environment, and detriment to human health, The HSUS promotes eating with conscience and embracing the Three Rs—reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by eating products only from animals who have been raised, transported, and slaughtered in a system of humane, sustainable agriculture that does not abuse the animals; and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods.
While religious practices and beliefs should be respected, this must not lead to disregard for the welfare of animals in our care. In situations where there is a perceived conflict between religious practices and modern public health standards, it has sometimes been the practice to shackle and hoist conscious animals for ritual slaughter. This procedure causes immense animal suffering, but it forms no part of the requirements of any religious faith. Rather, it is a high-speed packinghouse technique invented by packers to comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's sanitary requirements and to expedite production.
The HSUS opposes preparation of animals for slaughter by means of this procedure. It is our position that animals can be prepared for slaughter consistent with ritual requirements by humane alternatives such as the use of humane restraining pens. Ritual sacrifice of animals performed outside of regulated slaughterhouses is invariably cruel and should be prosecuted as such.