The Humane Society family of organizations is deeply concerned about the ways in which billions of farm animals are treated in industrial agricultural systems. Our decades of work to protect farm animals have led to some of the most sweeping reforms in the history of the movement, including major advances in legislation and corporate policy. We believe the best means of addressing factory-farm cruelty is for people to reduce the animal-based products they consume. But while there is a promising large-scale shift toward more plant-based eating around the world, animal agriculture still raises and kills more than 88 billion land animals every year. The vast majority of meat, eggs and dairy products sold by grocery chains and restaurants still come from animals raised in cruel intensive-confinement systems (factory farms).
That fact compels us, even as we encourage more plant-centric diets, to also work to reduce the present-day suffering of these animals who are raised, housed, transported and slaughtered for food. This is why we have engaged with Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.), a certification program that provides meaningful standards and third-party inspections. As long as animals are raised for food, we believe certification can play an important role in reducing the systematic cruelty found on factory farms.
Earlier this month, PETA released the findings of a recent undercover investigation, including video of turkeys being abused at G.A.P.-certified farms in Pennsylvania. Like you, we were horrified. The farm was immediately suspended from the G.A.P. program. Investigators with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have shared undercover footage with the farm, and the farm has fired 13 employees, although for G.A.P., this will not be enough—management must also be held accountable. The state has launched its own, possibly criminal, animal cruelty investigation.
We are grateful that PETA shed light on the abuse happening on this farm. But for animal protection groups to step off the G.A.P. board would not be in the animals’ best interest. With animal protection groups off the board, that vacuum would likely be filled by industry groups and we would lose our capacity to represent the needs of the animals. The Humane Society family of organizations, along with our colleagues at the ASPCA and Compassion in World Farming, are monitoring the situation closely and advising G.A.P. on corrective actions. G.A.P. is also working to revise its standard for the catching and loading of all chickens and turkeys. Millions of animals will be covered under this new standard.
While the abuse documented at Plainville Farms is reprehensible, violent acts toward animals are not uncommon in farming systems, and as bad as the abuse was in this case, you can imagine what it is on farms without any type of animal welfare monitoring. Ending the cruelties of factory farming is an enormous task, and by working together in a united movement, from many different angles, we are in a much stronger position to protect farm animals.