Activists Put a Face to the Violence Hidden in “Humane” Farming

A California-based animal advocacy organization has released some unsettling footage of hens who are supposedly being raised under humane animal care guidelines, but what they’ve uncovered raises serious questions about whether it’s truly possible to humanely raise animals for food.

A common argument in the industry’s favor is that we can continue to consume animals and animal byproducts as long as animals are treated humanely during their lives. Yet as we grow more concerned about their use and treatment, an ever growing list of certification schemes continue to pop up to ensure us food animals are being treated humanely, including Certified Humane, Humane Choice, American Humane Certified, Animal Welfare Approved, GAP, Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards and Freedom Food in the UK.

While some might be slightly better than others, they vary on requirements causing consumer confusion, and the stamps of approval that come with these certifications, or labels such as cage-free, free-range and organic, aren’t really doing anything but assuaging our guilt and helping companies that exploit and kill animals continue to rake in the profits. Whatever certification scheme is being used, none of them address the basic ethical issues involved in raising, confining, mutilating and slaughtering animals against their will.

The footage, released by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), shows the disturbing and heartbreaking lives of egg-laying hens at Petaluma Farms, which supplies both Whole Foods under its 365 label and Organic Valley. DxE members visited the farm on multiple occasions during 2013 and 2014 and contend that this is the first video to expose what happens on a “certified humane” farm.

One hen in particular, who was later named Mei Hua, was found splayed on the ground on the verge of death. Being left to die slowly, alone in filth, may have ironically been what saved her. She was rescued, but countless others remain behind. Their stories will never be told.

While agribusinesses are busy working with politicians to stop people from exposing what happens to animals on farms, this wasn’t part of an undercover investigation, it was an open rescue and the group plans to conduct many more.

Wayne Hsiung, a founder of DxE, explains that one of the problems with undercover investigations is that they only offer a narrow view into the issues inherent in the industry and that they are “depersonalized.” He writes:

This, unfortunately, is one of the limitations of undercover investigations. We obtain a glimpse into the violence of the system, but learn nothing more about the victims of that violence because all we have is a glimpse. Open rescue completely changes that. We can meet individual animals like Mei, and see them rescued from torment. We can see them heal, strengthen, and even flourish, and use their examples as a vision for the way the world ought to be. We can, in short, tell their stories.

Maybe Mei’s story will change people. You have to wonder, if you were there, would you have been able to walk away and leave her behind? Are eggs really worth the suffering that comes with their production? Would the hens who were left behind have also been able to thrive if given the chance?

The footage and Mei’s story certainly begs questions about whether we can believe the labels on neatly packaged animal products, or really whether humane means to us what it means to the companies pushing these products. Do you consider debeaking humane? Tail docking? A life without access to sunshine and fresh air? Slaughter?

Would you rather make a donation to an animal advocacy organization working hand in hand with these businesses to make us feel better, or an organization working to offer refuge and real change for farm animals, like Animal Place or Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

The farm in this case, which produces organic and conventional is of course countering allegations of mistreatment. Speaking with HuffPost Live, Adele Douglass, the executive director of Certified Humane, also says that Petaluma Farms’ certification previously expired, but that fact is irrelevant because the activists didn’t go to the correct address. However, Hsiung counters that legal documents from previous litigation involving Petaluma Farms shows they’re required to have the entire facility at the address in question certified.

The previous litigation involved a false advertising lawsuit against Petaluma Farms, which owns Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs, that was filed over concerns about misleading packaging that didn’t match reality for hens at the farm. The lawsuit was settled in February 2014, which included the stipulation that the entire farm get certification.

In any case, there’s no denying that the hens found at the farm were in bad shape. Whether it was a single one suffering, dozens or hundreds of them, each of their lives still matter to them.

For more info on this case and future efforts to protect animals, visit Direct Action Everywhere.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

Vegan and proud!

Marion Friedl
Marion Friedl4 years ago

The best thing humans can do to stop this cruelty´s to stop eating animals, it doesn´t matter if people are "only" Veggies like I´ve been for 30 years now, or even vegan, as long as you don´t eat too many dairies!!!

Sheri D.
Sheri D4 years ago

Please just stop eating animals.

Monica Buchanan
Monica Buchanan4 years ago

Thank you.

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

No violence is acceptable

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn4 years ago

thank you

Angev GERIDONI4 years ago

❦ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❧ BECOME VEGETARIAN ❧ ❦ ❦ ❦ ❦

Mike S.
Mike s4 years ago

Companies found to be operating in this manner need to be fined, & fined enough so it is not profitable to continue in the same manner, or not continue atall