The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is excited to endorse Consciously’s new animal welfare and plant-based causes created in collaboration with the ASPCA®’s Shop With Your Heart program to instantly allow shoppers to choose products that are more humane—either plant-based or recognized by a meaningful animal welfare certification.
Since 1951, AWI has been reducing animal suffering caused by people. We engage policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere — in the laboratory, in commerce, at home, in the wild, and on the farm. Integral to AWI’s mission is abolishing factory farms, supporting high-welfare family farms, and eliminating inhumane methods of slaughter for animals raised for food.
Each year, more than 9 billion animals (not including fish) are slaughtered for food in the United States. Many more are raised to produce egg and dairy products. Sadly, most animal products sold in American grocery stores and restaurants come from producers that maximize profits by treating animals not as sentient creatures, but as production units.
The vast majority of animals within the meat, dairy, and egg industries are raised in factory farms — industrialized facilities where they can barely move, let alone behave normally. Meanwhile, less than 1 percent of farm animals are raised on pasture, with space, fresh air, sunshine, and the chance to interact in a natural way with others of their kind.
Most breeding sows spend pregnancy after pregnancy confined to a gestation crate — a metal enclosure scarcely wider and longer than the sow herself. These active, social animals are left to lie there for weeks on end, deprived of the ability to even turn around. To boost production, some dairy cows are injected with growth hormones, which increases their likelihood of developing lameness and infections of the udder. Birds endure painful beak trimming and stand on wire floors that cripple their legs or stand in crowded barns where the floor is covered in their waste and the air is thick with ammonia and dander.
Apart from this widespread animal suffering, several major human health concerns are associated with intensive farming, including increased transfer of infectious agents from animals to humans, misuse of antibiotics leading to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, food-borne illnesses, and the generation of novel, potentially deadly viruses such as H1N1 (swine flu).
Unfortunately, compassionate consumers who want to find higher-welfare options are confronted with a dizzying number of “self-made” food label claims touted by companies purely for marketing purposes, with no independent verification process and, in fact, no basis in reality. Conditions for these animals, most often, are nothing like the bucolic images conjured up by corporate farming operations to advertise their products.
Over the years, AWI has documented how the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed such producers to deceive consumers by making animal welfare and environmental claims on meat and poultry packaging without sufficient — or in some cases, any — supporting evidence. Because of the USDA’s lack of oversight, producers continue to make these misleading claims and charge a premium for these products without making any improvements in the treatment of their animals. As a result, conscientious consumers are often thwarted in their attempts to use label claims to make ethical food-buying decisions.
AWI has researched and called out a number of common misleading claims, such as “socially raised,” “humanely raised,” and “sustainably farmed.” To help consumers avoid contributing to animal suffering, AWI publishes “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Labels and Animal Welfare,” which is regularly updated. Among the top choices, which can now be accessed through the Consciously shopping assistant, are “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW,” “Certified Humane,” and the Global Animal Partnership (Step 2 and higher). These certified label claims are defined by a formal set of publicly available animal care standards, and compliance is verified through an independent third-party audit.
AWI also publishes the “5 Ways You Can Help Farm Animals” guide, which recommends consuming fewer animal products and avoiding intensively farmed meat, dairy, and eggs, among other tips.
Consumer surveys show again and again that Americans are increasingly aware of, and concerned about, how animals raised for food are treated. AWI is proud to collaborate with Consciously to help promote food choices that alleviate animal suffering rather than perpetuate cruelty.
Ready to support animal welfare? Shop certified for animal welfare with Consciously using data from the ASPCA®’s Shop With Your Heart program. Get it here.
About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.