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Newly Proposed Meat Labeling Guideline Encourages Misleading Industry Practices
SAN FRANCISCO – The Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Compassion Over Killing (COK), representing more than 6 million members and supporters, have submitted a joint comment today, as the comment period closes, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sharply criticizing the agency’s “Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions,” released in September. Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly critical, and today’s joint comment from the animal protection coalition leads the outcry.
The comment argues that FSIS’ Guideline violates the law by enabling—even encouraging—rampant consumer deception. Instead of defining a baseline standard for commonly used consumer-attracting animal product labels, like “humane,” “free-range,” and “raised without antibiotics,” the Guideline allows each company to define the terms based on their own interpretation and their internal company policies—and doesn’t even require that these policies be made public. This creates confusion and inconsistency for consumers across the market, and an open invitation for companies to mislead customers who have a reasonable expectation of what certain terms and claims mean.
The Guideline effectively renders any and all animal raising claims meaningless. It allows producers that use standard, industrial production methods to make “humane” or “animal-friendly” claims, while hindering producers that have actually instituted strict standards that come closer to satisfying consumer expectations and likely misleading the large percentage of conscious consumers who are willing to pay extra for products they believe are raised more humanely.
“The USDA’s approach blatantly violates its statutory duty to protect consumers,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the agency to take steps that genuinely ensure animal products’ and by-products’ labels clarify and inform purchasers, not mislead the public.”
“Without any authority to go onto farms to see for itself how animals are being treated,” says Jared Goodman, the PETA Foundation’s Director of Animal Law, “the USDA has all but guaranteed that it will continue to approve ‘humane’ labels where portions of birds’ beaks and pigs’ tails are cut off and animals live their entire lives indoors without enrichment before being roughly rounded up and loaded onto a truck for a terrifying transportation to a violent death.”
“FSIS is taking a step in the wrong direction with this Guideline, which violates the agency’s own statutory mandates and allows producers to use inconsistent claims that will mislead consumers who care about animal welfare,” says Cheryl Leahy, General Counsel for Compassion Over Killing.
The comment is just one voice in a loud outcry against the USDA’s label giveaway to the animal slaughter and by-product industry. An online petition from PETA has garnered more than 36,000 signatures, and public interest organizations of many constituencies have weighed in with opposition to FSIS’ industry-friendly proposal.
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About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
Founded in 1980, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide. PETA uses public education, cruelty investigations, celebrity involvement, protest campaigns, and other innovative tactics to spread the message that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or to abuse in any other way. For more information, please visit PETA.org.
About Compassion Over Killing
Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization working to end the abuse of farmed animals through undercover investigations, litigation, corporate outreach, public education, and other advocacy programs. https://cok.net