I took the liberty of examining the standards for the "Animal Welfare Approved" label. Here's what I found:
- If the farms follow the guidelines then chances are the animals lived relatively well before slaughter.
- If you're simply unwilling to adopt a cruelty-free diet (vegan) then this label is a kinder alternative to purchasing standard animal products.
- Keep in mind, some farms may not follow the guidelines year-round and may only appear to follow them when the once a year inspection comes up.
Also, the guidelines have some loopholes:
- For example, eggs bearing the label can come from hens purchsed from hatcheries that grind up the unwanted male chicks alive. The specific wording is "If only males or only females are required the unwanted birds may be removed from the AWA system"
- Another example, calves may still be removed from their mothers and raised for veal. The guidelines say they can be slaughtered at 4 months of age. But they can be sold to a non-AWA farm when they are just one week old.
- Dairy cows may still be slaughtered when they are no longer able to produce high quantities of milk (a fraction of their natural lifespan).
- The guidelines recommend "on-farm slaughter" because it's less stressful to the animals and avoids any problems related to humane transport, but the guidelines acknowledge that "On-farm mobile slaughter is not readily available." The same thing is said about controlled atmosphere killing (CAK) - it's preferred but not readily available. And thus the AWA label approves of less humane slaughter practices.
- For most animals, a blow to the head by a blunt object is not considered a humane method of euthanasia. However there's an exception for piglets below 12 pounds.
And remember, the Humane Society says these are "The highest animal welfare standards of any third-party auditing program."
I think we can do better.