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American Humane Certified is raising the bar in animal agriculture

Saturday, April 10, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: humane, animals, health news

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(NaturalNews) Proper animal husbandry is a vital component to any farming operation, whether large or small. With the advent of agricultural industrialization came the tendency to raise ever more animals in increasingly inhumane conditions, all in order to remain competitive and continue to turn a profit. Thanks to the American Humane Association (AHA) and its Humane Certification program, producers are raising the bar in humane animal husbandry standards and setting themselves above the rest.

The oldest humane association in America, AHA has been working for over 100 years to improve the welfare of both children and animals. In more recent years, the organization has developed a certification program that helps consumers choose food products that come from humanely-raised animals.

Whether one eats animal products or not, it is important that animals raised for food are treated decently throughout their life cycle, or "from birth to the knock box" as it is put in the industry. Animals that produce food products like milk or eggs must also be given proper living conditions, and AHA has established guidelines for its certification program that it believes ensures animal welfare while allowing farmers to operate both practically and profitably.

According to Kathi Brock, the Director of Strategic Partnerships for AHA's Farm Animal Program, 85 percent of the nation's cage-free farming operations are certified by American Humane Certified (AHC). These operations meet the AHC "five freedoms" protocols which include:

-Freedom from thirst and hunger by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
-Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
-Freedom from pain, injury and disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
-Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
-Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

AHC is a voluntary program and farmers and producers that join must meet these scientifically-derived guidelines. Every year, independent auditors evaluate AHC Certified operations to make sure they are in compliance. If a company is in violation, it is given a chance to correct the problem within a set time frame.

AHC believes that farms, both large and small, can operate humanely and it seeks to raise standards across the board through its program. AHC also believes that a balanced approach must be taken that seeks to benefit animals, the farmers that raise them and the consumers that buy the goods.

Because AHC deals heavily with cage-free egg producers, it is currently conducting a two-year, international study to evaluate the various methods by which chickens are raised to see which ones provide optimal welfare for both chickens and those that raise them. According to Brock, AHC is most concerned with determining the overall outcome of each method in terms of its effect on chickens and deciding which one is best for both chicken and farmer.

The use of growth hormones, antibiotics and other artificial techniques used to increase production is strictly prohibited under AHC guidelines; however the organization does not make any distinction between conventional and organic products within its program.

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