Conscious Consumerism

When faced with hard, large issues such as factory farming and the fur industry, it can sometimes be overwhelming and seem impossible to make a difference. However, we want to stress that your actions and decisions are important and can create shifts in thinking and consuming.

 Here are some simple decisions you can make to be a more conscious consumer:

  • Buy products from local, small farms
  • Understand the labels on products you find in your supermarket so you can be informed about the conditions on the farm your products come from
  • Include more vegetarian or vegan options in your diet
  • Buy Faux fur in place of real fur
  • Stay involved in your state’s legislature to understand laws concerning animals and food production

Know the legislature:

“Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals.”-Eating Animals (Johnathan Safran Foer)

Often times, regulations regarding animal treatment in the farming industry is handled at the state level. Many states have differing laws regarding animal welfare.

However, the current Farm Bill being discussed in the national congress contains regulations pertaining to the treatment of animals. The King Amendment ignores consumer’s demands for more humanely raised food and threatens to repeal dozens of animal protection laws, including laws relating to farm animal confinement, puppy mills, and horse slaughter. For example, this amendment would put significant pressure on the standing laws in California that egg-laying hens should be housed in larger cages by 2015. The King Amendment additionally protects out of state producers from having to meet welfare regulations of the state in which they are selling their products.

The house has passed this amendment and it is now being discussed in the senate. The Humane Society has an easy form for you to email your representative about opposing the bill.

Dietary Changes:

Some people find that the best way to be conscious consumers is to avoid animal products all together. Vegetarianism (the removal of all meat from a diet) and Veganism (the removal of all animal products including meat, eggs, and dairy) can be good options for those looking to combat inhumane treatment through their decision to not buy any products that may have been a result of cruelty. Well maintained Vegetarian and Vegan diets can be rich in nutrients and vitamins, and according to the US National Library of Medicine, vegetarian and vegan Americans tend to be healthier than meat eating Americans.

However, vegetarianism and veganism are not for everyone. There are other ways to avoid animal cruelty and improve your health when going grocery shopping. Many producers provide labels that can help you decide which product you feel most comfortable purchasing. Each label indicates varying degrees of animal welfare. Still, small, family-run farms can be your best bet for finding humanely acquired animal products.

We have included some of the labels you will encounter. These labels are listed in order of highest animal welfare standards to lowest.

Reading and Understanding Labels:

EGGS:

Animal Welfare Approved:

  • Highest animal welfare standards
  • Cage-free with continuous outdoor perching access
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • Allowed to molt naturally
  • Beak Cutting prohibited

Food Alliance Certified:

  • Cage-free in barn with access to outdoors or natural daylight
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • Requirements for stocking density
  • Requirements for amount of perching space and nesting boxes
  • Allowed to molt naturally
  • Beak cutting allowed
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

Certified Humane:

  • Un-caged but kept indoors at all times
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • Requirements for number of perches and nesting boxes in facilities
  • Requirements for stocking density
  • Forced molting through starvation prohibited
  • Beak cutting allowed
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

American Humane Certified:

  • Allows cage confinement and cage-free systems.
  • Forced molting through starvation prohibited
  • Beak cutting allowed
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

Certified Organic

  • Uncaged inside barns
  • Require outdoor access, but amount is undefined
  • Fed organic, all vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides
  • Beak cutting permitted
  • Forced molting through starvation permitted
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

Free-Range/Free-Roaming:

  • No defined regulations, even by USDA
  • Uncaged in a barn with some outdoor access
  • Can engage in natural behaviors
  • Beak cutting permitted
  • Forced molting through starvation permitted
  • No third-party auditing (no inspector enforces rules)

Cage-Free:

  • Hens are uncaged but kept inside barns
  • No access to outdoors
  • Able to engage in natural behaviors
  • Beak cutting permitted
  • No third-party auditing (no inspector enforces rules)

United Egg Producers Certified: The overwhelming majority of the U.S. egg industry complies with this voluntary program.

  • 67 inches of cage space per bird
  • Confined to battery cages
  • Cannot perform natural behaviors
  • Forced molting through starvation prohibited
  • Beak cutting allowed
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

Natural: This label has no relevance to animal welfare.

Omega-3 Enriched: This label has no relevance to animal welfare.

MEAT & DAIRY:

5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program: Animals are raised according to different levels of welfare standards, from Step 1 to Step 5+. Hormone and subtherapeutic antibiotic use is prohibited and production is third party audited. Each Step requires the following:

  • Step 1: Prohibits cages and crates
  • Step 2: Requires an enriched indoor environment
  • Step 3: Requires outdoor access
  • Step 4: Pasture-based production
  • Step 5: Animal centered approach with physical alterations prohibited
  • Step 5+: Life spent on same integrated farm with no transporting

Certified Humane:

  • Cage-free
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • Outdoor access required (except for poultry and pigs)
  • Prevention of overcrowding
  • Provided with bedding materials
  • No growth hormones or antibiotics
  • Pain relief used for physical alterations
  • Covers slaughter methods

Animal Welfare Approved:

  • Access to outdoors
  • Cage-free
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • No growth hormones or antibiotics
  • Some surgical mutilation permitted without painkiller
  • Third-party auditing
  • Audited by label program

Certified Organic:

  • Allowed outdoor access, but amount and quality is undefined
  • Provided with bedding materials
  • Hormones and antibiotics prohibited
  • Surgical procedure without pain relief permitted
  • Third-party auditing (inspector enforces rules)

Free-Range Chickens and Turkeys:

  • Allowed outdoor access, but amount and quality is undefined
  • No restrictions stocking density
  • Surgical procedure without pain relief permitted
  • Producers send documentation to USDA to be approved for label

Grass-Fed:

  • Fed a diet of grass and forage only
  • Access to outdoors
  • Able to perform natural behaviors
  • Surgical procedure without pain relief permitted
  • Producers send documentation to USDA to be approved for label

Hormone-Free, rBGH-Free, rBST-Free and No Hormones Added:

  • Not dosed with genetically engineered hormone (rBGH or rBST) that increase milk or beef production
  • No regulations on living conditions
  • No regulations on surgical procedures
  • No verification necessary for label

Grain-Fed:

  • Little relevance to animal welfare
  • Fed grain, which can cause liver problems and lameness.
  • Generally suffer lower welfare than grass-fed

Natural and Naturally Raised: These claims have no relevance to animal welfare.

Fur:

Faux fur is a great alternative to wearing real fur products. Many times, it should be fairly easy to tell the difference between the two, because real fur is required by law to be labeled. However, there are other ways to tell if what you are buying did not come from an animal:

-Check the base of the hair. If it is faux, there will be a mesh like material from which the “hair” protrudes.

-Check the tips of the hair for tapering. Faux fir is cut straight across at the end, whereas real fur will taper to a point

-Check the price tag. Real fur is much more expensive than fake fur!

 

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