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Animal Welfare Approved Surpasses Other Seals; First Humane Program to Champion Family Farms, Repudiate Double Standards in Other Labeling Programs

Contact: Sara Hossaini of Animal Welfare Institute, 415-901-0111 ext. 338 or shossaini@fenton.com

Just in time for the holidays, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a nonprofit organization with a 55-year track record of reducing the pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans, is launching Animal Welfare Approved, a seal for meat, poultry, dairy and eggs that features the highest standards for the humane treatment of farm animals. More than 500 farms comply with AWI's standards, which provide consumers, grocers, chefs and other food buyers one comprehensive seal that differentiates the family farms that treat their animals humanely from agribusinesses that subject animals to cruel and unnatural conditions.

"At the heart of our standards is concern and advocacy for the animals," said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. "While many other specialty labels may begin with the economic interests of industrialized agribusiness in mind, Animal Welfare Approved prioritizes each individual animal's comfort and well-being."

The standards take into account all aspects of an animal's life, from opportunities to socialize and behave naturally to assurances of comfort and freedom from intensive confinement. Such criteria have led to key differences from existing standards and seals. Animal Welfare Approved is the first seal to guarantee that humanely-labeled products do not come from agribusinesses that raise the majority of their animals under cruel and unnatural conditions while also rearing some according to so- called humane standards.

"Until now, consumers have had no way to tell if their dollars were supporting a farm that truly treats all of their animals well," said Liss. "In a practice we call 'double standard certification,' some outfits label products 'humane' for their adherence to certain standards while permitting the bulk of animals to be raised using cruel industrial practices. In so doing, the agribusiness seeks to maximize its profits and control the market by displacing family farmers who raise all their animals according to a high standard of welfare."

Another differentiator is that only independent family farms can earn the Animal Welfare Approved seal. AWI's program is designed to revitalize a culture of family-owned and managed farms, believing that family farmers have a true connection to and stake in the health of their animals that is lost when factory farms are run by hired hands and distant, corporate owners.

"Family farmers are the heart of this great country. And at their heart is a deep love and respect for the land and the animals they raise," said singer Willie Nelson, a longtime supporter of humane treatment of animals. "The Animal Welfare Approved seal is a badge of honor for family farmers, since their attention to the health and well-being of their animals results in humane practices that is a model for all."

Other supporters range from Robert Kennedy, Jr., to actor Rosemary Harris to top chefs such as Dan Barber (co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in New York City) to independent farmers across the country.

"The Animal Welfare Approved seal is one of the best things to happen to family farms in a long while," said Frank Reese, owner of the Animal Welfare Approved Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas. "It is the first to distinguish birds like ours - standard bred poultry, that is, true heritage birds - from birds who are bred for rapid growth and suffer from skeletal deformities."

Animal Welfare Approved also prohibits cutting a portion of the beaks off of live chickens and the tails off of live pigs, a common practice that previous labeling programs have allowed. The Animal Welfare Approved standards not only forbid these mutilations but also address the root causes of the practices by requiring an enriched environment where the animals can socialize naturally and have no fear or stress-induced inclination to harm each other.

"I've found that most people care about buying meat from animals that were given a good life, but they don't know what to buy and what to avoid," said Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch, a network of traditional family farms well-known for its high standards of livestock husbandry. Farms that supply pork to Niman Ranch were the first to earn the Animal Welfare Approved seal. "Now, the Animal Welfare Approved seal will help consumers select products from traditional farms that allow all their animals to move and socialize freely, breathe fresh air and grow naturally."

Scientists, veterinarians and farmers were consulted during the drafting of the Animal Welfare Approved standards, and AWI and its agents inspect farms for compliance before awarding the seal. To provide accountability, ensuring that consumers can trust the quality of the product, AWI and its agents continue inspections after a farm has been endorsed.

The Animal Welfare Approved standards offer clear, precise information for farmers who wish to implement AWI's humane system for raising and handling livestock. For a complete list of the requirements for acceptance into the program, please visit http://www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org .
 

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