30 October 2006

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore” (front page, Oct. 24):

Response to the introduction of “humanely raised” meat products is a good sign that consumers are finally starting to see through the veil erected by the factory farming industry to shield consumers from its behind-the-scenes cruelty.

The sad fact is that virtually no laws exist in the United States to govern the treatment of animals raised for food. The result has been a laundry list of institutionalized abuses—from 400-pound hogs crammed into two-foot-wide crates, to chickens packed five at a time into wire cages the size of a filing drawer.

Ten billion animals in the United States suffer these abuses each year. This fact, coupled with the uncertainty behind “humane” labeling, makes it clear that the best way to stop the suffering of animals remains to simply stop eating them.

Ariana Huemer
Oakland, Calif., Oct. 25, 2006

To the Editor:

For many who eat meat yet understand that there are ethical problems involved in where their food comes from, labeling is a serious business.

If farmed animals must give up their lives to feed people, those curtailed lives should at least be pleasant, not abusive, and their deaths painless.

Since the government does not ensure these animals’ quality of life, it should at least make sure that concerned meat eaters are not misled by the labels.

Miriam M. Reik
New York, Oct. 24, 2006

To the Editor:

Whole Foods has taken a huge step in the right direction by insisting on humanely raised animals. Unfortunately, these animals will very likely reach an inhumane end at the largely unregulated slaughterhouses, where the few federal standards on the books are rarely enforced.

The best course of action to ensure the humane treatment of our nonhuman animal friends? Go vegetarian.

Jane Shakman
Ossining, N.Y., Oct. 25, 2006

To the Editor:

For the past five years, the Animal Welfare Institute has had the privilege of working with Mike Jones, the North Carolina pig farmer you profile. He is one of our “animal welfare approved” farmers whose care and concern for his hogs provide an example for how animals, farmers and consumers can benefit from a return to humane farming practices.

A disturbing trend in the marketing of humane foods is one that our standards address head on: double-standard certification, where a label program rewards one animal product for adherence to so-called humane standards while permitting the bulk of animals in other product lines to be raised using cruel practices.

This allows agribusiness to maximize profits and control the market by displacing family farmers, like Mr. Jones, who raise all their animals according to high standards.

Consumers deserve to know which operations truly treat all of their animals well.

Cathy Liss
Animal Welfare Institute
Washington, Oct. 24, 2006

To the Editor:

“Certified humane,” “cage free” and “free farmed” are not mere marketing terms, designed to boost sales. In fact, they represent an effort by certain farmers to abandon the cruel practices of modern meat production.

Many consumers are seeking out certified humane meats because of the factory farm practices like crate confinement of veal calves; the foot lacerations and infections routinely suffered by chickens kept from birth to death in wire cages; the painful injuries suffered by cows and pigs forced to stand on concrete; and the large amounts of prophylactic antibiotics applied to tamp down the resulting constant infections.

You note the cutting off of tails (which are the only means by which cows can swat biting flies and scratch itches), but the suffering of animals goes on wholesale in the industrialized meat industry.

Consumers with a conscience will continue to seek out meats produced by methods we approve of, and Whole Foods should be commended for widening the availability of such ethical foods.

Jay Weinstein
New York, Oct. 24, 2006
The writer, a chef, is the author of a book about the humane production of food.

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