Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS)

hsus_new.gifThe Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization—backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one in every 30. Established in 1954, HSUS seeks a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people. America’s mainstream force against cruelty, exploitation and neglect, HSUS is also the most trusted voice extolling the human-animal bond. Our mission statement: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.

Force-Feeding for Foie Gras Production and Duck and Goose Welfare

The force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of pâté de foie gras causes the birds’ livers to become diseased and swollen, inducing hepatic lipidosis; pain and injury from feeding tube insertion; fear and stress during capture and handling; gait abnormality due to distended livers; pathologies in liver function; and increased mortality. An extensive body of scientific evidence confirms that the practice of force-feeding for foie gras is detrimental to animal welfare. Compiled below are statements by leading welfare scientists and experts, including veterinarians who have personally examined force-fed birds or reviewed necropsies.

An HSUS Report: Welfare Issues with Genetic Engineering and Cloning of Farm Animals

Developments in biotechnology have raised new concerns about animal welfare, as farm animals now have their genomes modified (genetically engineered) or copied (cloned) to propagate certain traits useful to agribusiness, such as meat yield or feed conversion. These animals have been found to suffer from unusually high rates of birth defects, disabilities, and premature death. In the United States, there is significant public opposition to the introduction of meat and milk from cloned animals and their progeny into the food supply and currently no regulations exist to protect the welfare of farm animals during cloning or genetic engineering agricultural research.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Cows in the Dairy Industry

More than 9 million cows compose the U.S. dairy herd. Repeated reimpregnation, short calving intervals, overproduction of milk, restrictive housing systems, poor nutrition, and physical disorders impair the welfare of the animals in industrial dairy operations. Once their productivity wanes, the cows are often weak as a result of high metabolic output. Typically, these “spent” dairy cows are culled and processed as ground beef. In their fragile end-of-production state, handling, transport, and slaughter raise additional welfare concerns.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Foie Gras Industry

The production of pâté de foie gras involves force-feeding ducks and geese by placing a long tube down the
birds’ esophagi and pumping an unnatural quantity of food directly into their stomachs. Force-feeding induces hepatic lipidosis and causes the birds’ livers to become diseased and swollen. Substantial scientific evidence suggests that force-feeding causes pain and injury from feeding tube insertion, fear and stress during capture and handling, gait abnormality due to distended livers, pathologies in liver function, and increased mortality. Force-feeding birds to produce foie gras is detrimental to their welfare.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Duck Industry

Duck production in the United States shares many of the same intensive husbandry practices found in the chicken and turkey industries, despite being much smaller in scale. The vast majority of farmed ducks are reared in dimly lit sheds with high stocking densities and without access to water for swimming, a significant welfare concern for these aquatic animals. Lameness, feather pecking, respiratory problems, and eye infections are common, and most birds are subjected to bill-trimming, a physical mutilation known to cause pain. The stress and physical trauma of catching and crating for transport, as well as the journeys themselves, further compromise duck welfare. Inappropriate and inefficient stunning procedures may result in birds experiencing painful electric shocks before slaughter or having their throats slit while fully conscious.

An HSUS Report: The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change

The farm animal production sector is the single largest anthropogenic user of land, contributing to soil
degradation, dwindling water supplies, and air pollution, in addition to detrimentally impacting rural and urban communities, public health, and animal welfare. The breadth of this sector’s global impacts has been largely underestimated and underappreciated. Indeed, meat, egg, and milk production are not narrowly focused on the direct rearing and slaughtering of farm animals. Rather, the animal agriculture sector encompasses grain and fertilizer production, substantial water use, and significant energy expenditures to transport feed, farm animals, and finished meat, egg, and dairy products.

An HSUS Report: Food Safety Concerns with the Slaughter of Downed Cattle

Nonambulatory cattle may be at higher risk of harboring foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7,
Salmonella, and, very rarely, the infectious agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, colloquially known as “mad cow disease.” The exclusion of nonambulatory cattle from slaughter for human consumption may strengthen the safety of the food supply and is a prudent measure already in place throughout the European Union.

An HSUS Report: Welfare Issues with Gestation Crates for Pregnant Sows

Throughout nearly the entirety of their 112-115 day pregnancies, 80% of breeding sows in the United States are confined in gestation crates (also known as sow stalls)—individual metal enclosures so restrictive that the pigs cannot turn around. Crated sows suffer a number of significant welfare problems, including elevated risk of urinary tract infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, lameness, behavioral restriction, and stereotypies. Due to concerns for the welfare of intensively confined sows, legislative, industry, and corporate policies are increasingly phasing out the use of gestation crates.

The Welfare of Intensively Confined Animals in Battery Cages, Gestation Crates, and Veal Crates

Within U.S. animal agriculture, the majority of egg-laying hens, pregnant sows, and calves raised for veal are reared in battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates, respectively. The intensive confinement of these production systems severely impairs the animals’ welfare, as they are unable to exercise, fully extend their limbs, or engage in many important natural behaviors. As a result of the severe restriction within these barren housing systems, animals can experience significant and prolonged physical and psychological assaults. Indeed, extensive scientific evidence shows that intensively confined farm animals are frustrated, distressed, and suffering. Battery cages for egg-laying hens and crates for pregnant sows and calves are simply not appropriate environments.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Veal Industry

Intensive confinement of calves raised for veal has long raised pointed concerns regarding the animals’ welfare. Traditional production practices include individually isolating calves in narrow wooden stalls or pens, which severely restrict movement, feeding the animals an all-liquid diet deliberately low in iron, and prematurely weaning the animals. Stressful conditions lead to a high incidence of stereotypic behavior and illness. Scientific reviews of the welfare of intensively confined calves raised for veal have concluded that the young animals suffer when reared in conventional systems.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Egg Industry

Hundreds of millions of chickens in the egg industry suffer from poor welfare throughout their lives. Male chicks, considered a byproduct of commercial hatcheries, are killed soon after they hatch. The females are typically beak-trimmed, usually with a hot blade, to prevent them from developing the abnormal pecking behaviors that manifest in substandard environments. The overwhelming majority of hens are then confined in barren battery cages, enclosures so small that the birds are unable even to spread their wings without touching the cage sides or other hens. Battery cages prevent nearly all normal behavior, including nesting, perching, and dustbathing, all of which are critically important to the hen, as well as deny the birds normal movement to such an extent that the hens may suffer from physical ailments, including osteoporosis and reproductive and liver problems. Once their productivity wanes, typically after 1-2 years, the hens are “depopulated,” and many experience broken bones as they are removed from the cages. The birds are either killed by gassing on the farm or after long-distance transport to a slaughter plant, where they experience further stress and trauma associated with shackling, electrical water-bath stunning, and throat-cutting. Throughout the commercial egg industry, the welfare of birds is severely impaired.

An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Aquaculture Industry

In the United States, approximately 1.3 billion fish are raised in off-shore and land-based aquaculture systems each year for food, making them the second-most commonly farmed animal domestically, following broiler chickens. The majority of farmed fish are subject to overcrowded and restrictive conditions, which, if unchecked, can quickly deteriorate water quality, cause severe stress, and result in increased mortality. Aquaculture practices and production—including handling, grading, transport, genetic manipulation, aggression from conspecifics, predation, physiological stress, and inhumane slaughter—compromise the welfare of these animals.

An HSUS Report: Human Health Implications of Intensive Poultry Production and Avian Influenza

The high stocking density, stress, unhygienic conditions, lack of sunlight, and breeding practices typical of industrial poultry and egg production systems may facilitate the emergence and spread of diseases, including highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses with public health implications such as H5N1.

An HSUS Report: A Comparison of the Welfare of Hens in Battery Cages and Alternative Systems

Housing systems for egg-laying hens range from small, pasture-based flocks to large, commercial-scale operations that intensively confine tens of thousands of hens indoors. The overwhelming majority of laying hens used for commercial egg production in the United States are confined in battery cages and provided 432.3 cm2 (67 in2) of space per bird. Cages prevent hens from performing the bulk of their natural behavior, including nesting, perching, dustbathing, scratching, foraging, exercising, running, jumping, flying, stretching, wingflapping, and freely walking. Cages also lead to severe disuse osteoporosis due to lack of exercise. Alternative, cage-free systems allow hens to move freely through their environment and to engage in most of the behavior thwarted by battery-cage confinement. Given their complexity, cage-free systems can be more challenging to manage and may require superior husbandry skills and knowledge. Laying hens must be genetically suited to the alternative housing system to realize its full welfare advantages. Regardless of how a battery-cage confinement system is managed, all caged hens are permanently denied the opportunity to express most of their basic behavior within their natural repertoire. The science is clear that this deprivation represents a serious inherent
welfare disadvantage compared to any cage-free production system.