Citing public concern for animal welfare, American Humane Association created a certification program in the year 2000 that was meant to assure consumers that animals at certified facilities were treated humanely. Unfortunately, AHA standards fall far below those of virtually every other humane certification program, and barely exceed even the minimal standards set by the factory farming industry itself. The AHA program, which covers more than 1 billion animals in the U.S., is nothing more than a rubber stamp for some of the cruelest factory farms, including Foster Farms and Butterball.
According to Consumer Reports, AHA’s program “does not require certain standards that consumers are likely to expect from a welfare label, and producers can be certified without fulfilling 100% of the requirements.” Furthermore, Consumer Reports says “many of the requirements in the American Humane standards mirror the conventional industry’s practices.” And although AHA brags about its Scientific Advisory Committee, many of its own experts believe that AHA standards are too weak.
AHA certified producers are permitted to cram tens of thousands of birds inside dark, windowless sheds, with no access to sunlight or outdoor space for their entire lives. AHA standards allow factory farms to mutilate animals without painkillers, including burning off the tips of birds’ sensitive beaks. Despite endorsing less cruel systems in 2010, AHA also continues to allow producers to slaughter chickens using outdated systems that dump, shackle, shock, and slit the throats of conscious animals. Birds subjected to such killing systems routinely endure physical violence from workers who throw, kick, and punch them.
American Humane Association has certified many of the cruelest factory farms in North America, including Butterball, Weaver Brothers, Burnbrae Farms, Rose Acre Farms, Cal-Maine, Eggland’s Best, and Hillandale Farms. Many of these AHA-certified companies have been caught on hidden camera abusing animals.
In 2013, at the start of the largest salmonella outbreak from chicken in history—one that hospitalized hundreds of people in 29 states and was linked to Foster Farms chicken—Foster Farms began paying AHA to certify its cruel practices as “humane.” Although the conditions at Foster Farms are virtually identical to every other chicken factory farm, every package of Foster Farms chicken now carries the AHA stamp of approval.
Chickens at Foster Farms have been bred to grow so quickly they often suffer from crippling leg deformities and die from heart attacks or organ failure before they are even six weeks old. Crammed into windowless sheds by the tens of thousands, they never get to see the sun, feel the grass beneath their feet, breathe fresh air, or do almost anything that comes naturally to them.
At the slaughterhouse, Foster Farms chickens are recklessly and violently slammed upside down into metal shackles by workers who seem to take pleasure in tormenting the frightened animals. Hidden-camera video footage shows workers punching and throwing birds, handling live animals as if they were basketballs, and ripping out the feathers of live birds for fun. AHA failed to protect these animals.
Once shackled, the birds are dragged through an electrified vat of water meant to paralyze them, but not necessarily render them unconscious. This means that many chickens are still completely conscious and able to feel pain when their throats are cut open. Those who miss the kill blade because they were hung improperly by careless workers are often scalded alive in the hot feather-removal tanks.
Although unconscionable cruelty and violence are standard practice at Foster Farms and other “American Humane Certified” factory farms, consumers who truly care about animal welfare can help end the needless suffering of chickens and other farmed animals by choosing vegan alternatives to meat, milk, and eggs. Please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.