By Robin Ganzert, PhD
A recent TriplePundit piece by Jan Lee outlines some of the challenges society faces in protecting children and animals from cruelty, abuse, neglect and exploitation. This is, in fact, our mission at the American Human Association. However, the writer miscommunicates American Humane Association’s work in helping improve the lives of so many in need. We are not the “police”; rather, we work together with animal lovers, veterinarians, parents, children, farmers and members of the public across the country who share our vision that all animals should be well-treated.
The fact that there are 10 billion animals on farms and ranches in the U.S. means there is a lot of ground to cover. American Humane Association works with small, medium-sized and large farms to improve the well-being of animals in agriculture using the latest science and global research. This is a departure from other groups that take advocacy approaches and use grassroots methods but do not work directly with farms to collaborate on humane improvements. While public advocacy and horrific videos drive media exposure and increased revenue for these groups, American Humane Association works differently.
Instead of trying to force or shame farmers and ranchers into adopting standards that feel good instead of being good, the American Humane Certified program encourages them to do the right thing and join a rigorous, voluntary and completely independent third-party animal welfare audit program, run by the oldest national humane organization in the country – and one that has been behind virtually every major humane protection for children, pets and farm animals since 1877. Our methods have been successful – the program now covers well over 1 billion animals, or 1 in 8 animals on U.S. farms and ranches.
The American Humane Certified program is comprised of 200 humane-treatment standards that are science-based and rigorous. They cover everything from adequate space to air quality, lighting, proper heat and shade, food and water, the ability to express natural behaviors, and other conditions that lead to a better life from birth to table. These standards are set by veterinarians that are experts in their species’ field, and they rely on established humane science noted by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Farms’ compliance with these standards is verified, not by a first- or second-party “eyeball” assessment as with some certification programs, but by a stringent audit conducted by outside, independent, licensed auditors who must also adhere to audit quality standards. By having and ensuring science-based welfare standards, we can measurably improve conditions for farm animals.
Clearly no certification program can stop the actions of the rogue employee who intentionally breaks the rules. Some vegan groups opposed to farming of any kind use such instances to raise awareness, with simultaneous fundraising campaigns. Abuse is never acceptable and in reaction to any information relating to abuse, we investigate and then follow up with the farm involved, and invoke necessary steps that can range from working with the producer to correct problems, to revocation of certification, to expulsion from the program.
Similarly, when it comes to another of our well-known efforts that protects animals – our No Animals Were Harmed program – we are focused on the reality that as long as animals are on the sets of thousands of productions every year, we will be there for them and provide our proactive oversight to ensure their well-being in those unique environments. Our Certified Animal Safety Representatives, many of which are veterinarians, oversee the safety of some 100,000 animal actors each year and combine animal welfare, veterinary and behavioral expertise with knowledge of the filmmaking process to ensure animal actors receive the highest level of care on set. The program is headed by a renowned veterinarian and many of our safety representatives are veterinarians, hold degrees in animal science and animal behavior, and have in-depth knowledge of particular species, set design and set material composition. They work directly with the producers and directors and act as the voice for every animal on set.
We all know that accidents can happen no matter how careful you are, and far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record on set, keeping millions of America’s favorite animal stars safe and well-treated over the past 75 years – everyone from Rin Tin Tin to Flipper and the hero war dog in the recent movie, “Max.”
For 138 years, American Humane Association’s efforts to secure the welfare of animals and well-being of children have been successful because society knows that they must be successful. Yet even with all the progress society has made, there’s still so much work to be done.
Rather than attacking certification programs that raise the standard of living for more than one billion animals every year, those who share the goal of creating a more humane world should work together to bring more animals under these protections.
Image credit: Stock image
Robin Ganzert is president and CEO of American Humane Association