The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has responded to the Tyson Foods announcement that it will launch a new animal welfare audit program for its supply chain. The audits are called the Tyson FarmCheck Program, and cover animal access to food and water, worker training, and proper human-animal interaction. The company is also going to develop a Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program to review research on the topic.
The treatment of farm animals has been under scrutiny since the Central Valley Meat debacle, where an undercover video showed workers abusing cows. Central Valley Meat was shut down for a short time after that video was released. Scientists link stressed animals with food safety issues, since when livestock are unduly stressed, the “undergo physiological changes that can increase their changes of catching and spreading diseases.”
Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of HSUS, said, “audits are valuable if farm inspectors ask the right set of questions. Tyson’s announcement would mean more if the company was getting its pork from farmers who do not confine sows in crates that immobilize the animals.”
HSUS filed a complaint in April 2012 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying that Tyson’s animal welfare assurances were “hollow, given that the company lacked any meaningful audit program.” An HSUS undercover video at a Wyoming pig farm that supplies animals to Tyson documented cruelty to pigs. HSUS says that “the company’s declaration today omits mention of the most pressing animal welfare issue of the day: the extreme confinement of pigs in gestation crates.” Companies that are phasing out gestation crates include Cargill, Hormel Foods, and Smithfield Foods. McDonald’s and Wendy’s are eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains.