AWI Asks Retailers To Consider Animal Welfare In Choosing Meat Suppliers

WASHINGTON — The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is encouraging grocery store and restaurant chains to monitor the animal welfare record of their meat suppliers and refuse to deal with any company that repeatedly violates humane standards. In a letter to retailers, AWI president Cathy Liss urged retailers to not do business with companies on AWI's list of repeat offenders of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the federal law regulating the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.

"Consumers are increasingly aware that they hold the power to impact animals' lives through their food choices, and they want retailers to only offer products from humanely treated animals," said Liss. "Until now, unless a retailer conducted its own audits, it had little or no information about a producer's animal welfare record to help the retailer make purchasing decisions. AWI is now making that information available to retailers and consumers alike."

To assist in assessing the welfare record of a meat supplier, AWI has created a list of all slaughter establishments that have been suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violations of the humane slaughter law. Plant suspension is one of the most serious enforcement actions the USDA can take and typically occurs in response to an egregious incident. In some cases, the suspension list provides a link to actual enforcement documents, obtained from the USDA through the Freedom of Information Act.

Examples of repeat offenders of the humane slaughter law include a large Minnesota plant with 18 noncompliance records and three suspensions within an eight-month period and a very small North Carolina plant with six suspensions in 18 months. Violations include using an electric prod to shock a pig multiple times on the face, beating and kicking a disabled pig, chaining and hoisting a still-conscious steer, and shooting a bull with a firearm a total of five times before rendering the animal unconscious.

"Retailers should strive to provide high-quality, sustainable and socially responsible products for their customers, and that means only offering meat from animals that have been humanely raised and slaughtered," added Dena Jones, farm animal program manager for AWI. "Unfortunately, the treatment of animals on the farm is not currently regulated in the U.S.—but slaughter is regulated and a meat company's humane slaughter record should inform retailer procurement decisions."

Source: Animal Welfare Institute