There’s a big problem that’s hurting animals at the same time as making people feel self-satisfied and falsely good about eating animal products. Here’s the truth about what you might imagine are happy chickens running around a farm. And, no, there are no “happy cows,” contrary to the beef and dairy industry’s major PR push.
According the the USDA (via Farm Sanctuary), “cage free” conditions for egg-laying hens and “certified organic” conditions for all farm animal species actually refer to the following:
- Farmers are not required to provide “cage free” laying hens with access to the outdoors. Often, hens are crowded by the thousands into large barns where each bird is allotted approximately one square foot of space.
- “Free range” birds raised for meat often lead lives very similar to their factory farmed counterparts. They may be crowded by the thousands into factory-like warehouses with no flock size limits, and the outdoor area may be little more than a barren dirt lot that is difficult for them to access.
- “Natural” and “naturally raised” labels have little or no impact on animal welfare, and can be applied to products from animals raised in unnatural factory farm conditions. The “natural” label on animal products applies only to how meat, dairy and eggs are processed, and it has nothing to do with how the animals are treated when alive. The “naturally raised” claim is a misnomer, merely requiring that the animals be raised without antibiotics, animal by-products or synthetic growth promoters.
- The “organic” label requires that all animals be given “access” to the outdoors, and that ruminants (i.e. grazing animals) have “access” to pasture. “Access” is not defined however, and as with free range requirements, the outdoor area may be unappealing and difficult for individual animals to reach. Organic mega-dairies have utilized loopholes in government standards to confine cows in factory farm conditions. Challenged by organic food advocates, the USDA has moved to clarify standards for pasture access.
Make sure you share this information with people that think it’s ok to eat eggs or animals that are raised “cage-free” or “organic”–it’s all pretty much white-washing the same cruel industry it always was. It’s better to stop eating eggs altogether, but if you’re not quite there yet, visit a small local farm and really see how the animals are treated, if they are living a good life.
Go vegan, for your health, for the environment, for your conscience, and of course, for the animals. Please check in for future posts about the truth behind the animal industry.