Animal rights group Mercy for Animals (MFA) is challenging the reputation of an established farm animal welfare certification program in a newly released undercover video that shows employees abusing chickens at “American Humane Certified” Foster Farms facilities near Fresno, California.
The American Humane Association’s (AHA)“American Humane Certified” program provides third-party, independent verification that certifies producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of AHA, which were created by an independent scientific advisory committee and are based on the internationally accepted Five Freedoms, covering everything from air quality to adequate space, lighting, temperature, food, and humane treatment. Foster Farms has been “American Humane Certified” since March 2013.
According to Mercy for Animals, the undercover footage was shot in three broiler facilities near Fresno from March 9-April 11 and in Foster Farms’ Fresno slaughterhouse April 8-June 5. MFA said the abuse was reported to a supervisor on May 20 and then called into the company’s hotline May 21, with no response. Authorities were recently contacted and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office confirmed an investigation into the allegations is currently underway.
“American Humane Association ‘standards,’ which cover more than one billion animals, 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,” Mercy for Animals said in a statement.
American Humane Association said in a statement that it was made aware of the video “that seems to show abuse” on June 16.
“As an organization that exists to protect animals, abuse in any form is intolerable and unacceptable,” AHA said. “The video was very surprising, as Foster Farms has worked hard to create a culture of humane treatment. In fact, they have never failed an audit in the three years we have been working with them.”
AHA said the situation is extremely rare for its organization, adding that the allegations are being thoroughly investigated.
“We will work with the producer to make sure corrective actions are taken so this doesn’t happen again. Foster Farms is already planning on retraining workers on the live hang line and those working with chicks,” ASA said.
While MFA would like people to stop animal products altogether, and it is certainly their right to have that opinion, they are attacking the wrong target in going after certification programs, ASA continued.
“Instead of attacking humane groups that are working to improve life for farm animals, MFA should be working on behalf of the 8 billion animals that aren’t being raised under any independent standards,” AHA stated.
Foster Farms released a statement June 16, saying it has already begun an investigation to determine the source and location, including a fully cooperative effort with all appropriate authorities.
“The behavior of the individuals in this video is inappropriate and counter to our stringent animal welfare standards, procedures and policies,” the company said. “We believe raising chickens humanely is simply the right thing to do, and we take our commitment to humane values very seriously.”
Foster Farms said its employees receive annual training in animal welfare policies and the proper handling of birds in their care. “Any employee willfully violating Foster Farms’ animal welfare policies and procedures is subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal,” it added.