The USDA has withdrawn basic standards for humane treatment of animals raised on “organic” farms, standards which were set in place by the Obama Administration just days before Trump took office. These standards, called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, set guidelines that required outdoor space for farmed animals and excluded covered patio-like enclosures from the square footage requirements.
It is worthy to note that “organic” labels, in general, can be misleading and give consumers the false impression that animals raised on “organic” farms live an idyllic enriching life on wide expanses of open green pasture. While this is not always the case, these important standards put in place by the USDA ensured at least the most BASIC levels of care for animals.
Sadly, the organic label is often used to create a false sense of “humane” treatment and with this repeal it is becoming only more and more ambiguous for consumers who believe they are doing something better for animals by purchasing organic products (although if an animal is killed or exploited in any way, it does seem hypocritical to give it a humane label).
As the Organic Trade Commission (OTC) shared, “Consumers trust that the Organic seal stands for a meaningful difference in production practices … Farmers, ranchers, and businesses choose to be in the organic marketplace, and Congress intended that industry and consumers work together to develop organic standards. This action undermines that goal.”
As it stands, livestock on “organic” farms can live most, if not all, of their lives in cramped unsanitary pens, leading to lameness and other ailments and disease. Additionally, the “organic” label only ensures the farmed animals are fed organic feed and has no standards for humane handling of these animals. “Organic” dairy cows still cry out in anguish as their calves are taken away from them after birth, and the constant milking of dairy cows, organic or not, often leads to mastitis, a serious udder infection that is the second leading cause of death for dairy cows; and which results in pus in dairy products. The rates of infections combined with the overcrowded facilities cause “organic” livestock to be administered antibiotics (as allowed as needed by law), which contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistance in humans and contradicts one of the main reasons many people choose animal products labeled “organic.”
The OTC rightly points out that today’s consumers want more transparency when it comes to how their food is produced and it is clear that this is not what they are getting when it comes to animal products labeled “organic.” Thankfully, as information surrounding what constitutes “organic” and other labels become more available, people are making informed choices and looking to plant-based alternatives.
70 percent of consumers worldwide are eating more plants, and demand for plant-based food is up by 140 percent, with 50 percent of Americans saying they would prefer to ban slaughterhouses and eat meat that did not harm animals! Wise investors like Richard Branson and Bill Gates have noted this trend and have invested in the creation of “clean meat” in laboratories, fueling hope for a future with meat that is truly humane.
There can be no such thing as “better” treatment for animals in a system that is constantly looking to undermine their welfare for the sake of profit. This repeal is just one example of the many ways that Big Meat and Dairy are fighting to keep people in the dark and cutting corners to keep prices – and quality – low. Neither the consumer nor the billions of animals caught in this horrible system are winning in this situation.
To learn more about the politics of meat and dairy in the U.S., check out this recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias featuring Marion Nestle:
If you’re ready to stop buying into this corrupt system, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign to learn more about how you can use your food choices to help animals and the planet.
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