The American Humane Association’s (AHA) farm animal welfare certification program – American Humane Certified – announced in June that it will permit the use of so-called enriched battery cages for laying hens as an option for humane housing. Humane? My first reaction on hearing this was, “Hey guys, you do realize this is still a cage, don’t you?” But let’s be evenhanded about this and look at the reasoning put forward by the American Humane Association. The American Humane Association’s rationale for this decision is that these cages are “enriched” to allow hens to exhibit natural behaviors. In making this decision AHA states that it has carried out an extensive scientific review of the behavior and welfare of laying hens housed in such systems – mainly looking at research from Europe where conventional cages are soon to be totally banned. Okay, so I might consider accepting that an “enriched” battery cage possibly offers better welfare opportunities than a standard battery cage. But AHA fails to recognize some key behavioral needs that hens are driven to perform. I am talking about providing the birds with space to run, stretch, flap their wings, and fly; litter and somewhere to dust bathe; and vegetated areas to peck at and forage in. AHA also significantly underestimates the ability of enriched cages to provide adequate nesting and perching. So what does the research really tell us about “enriched” battery cages? And are they really a humane option? I was pretty confident that a lot of research existed to say some of these behaviors are not wants but programmed driven behavioral needs.
Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Haiti on its way to the United States, caused significant damage and casualties across Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. But it hit North Carolina hard, with the flooding resulting in at least 17 deaths in the state and stranding over 1,500 people. Some of the hardest hit were family farmers, particularly in rural areas. According to the National Weather Service, the damage isn’t over yet: Major flooding could continue into next week.
A Greener World, which operates the Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW labels, has already received many urgent requests for help from farmers who have lost livestock, barns and shelter, tons of feed and essential equipment. Many are still without power. We expect the number to grow as people are able to return to affected areas and truly assess the damage.
To help meet the needs of the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and AGW farming families affected by heavy rain, flooding and wind damage as they strive to care for their families and livestock, we are accepting and coordinating monetary donations that will be used to purchase and distribute essential items, such as hay and forage, animal feed, housing and fencing, and allow the hiring of pumps and generators.
Farm animals need emergency shelter and feed in exactly the same way as people and pets, so please help and make a gift today to ensure we are ready to respond whenever and wherever we are needed most. Remember, too, that we are a pasture-based program, and vast areas of land will have been significantly damaged by flooding and could remain inaccessible for some time to come. Our farmers are also likely to need new mobile housing for their pigs and poultry, since existing housing out in the fields may have been damaged or destroyed in the high winds and floods.
All funds raised will go directly to provide services, support and relief for Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and AGW farmers affected by the storms and flooding. No portion of the Disaster Relief Funds raised will be used for AGW’s administrative or operational expenses. Donate today.
*Satellite image of Hurricane Matthew by NASA