American Humane Association seal
The American Humane Association said its program was developed by a scientific advisory committee and is based on the Five Freedoms.

WASHINGTON – The American Humane Association addressed claims by an animal welfare group that criticized the organization’s certification program.

The association responded to its critics following the release of an undercover video taken at Foster Farms Inc. poultry facility in Fresno. Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms suspended five employees after the release of the video which was taken by Mercy For Animals (MFA). The video depicts employees mistreating birds. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department has launched an investigation into the matter, and Foster Farms has pledged its cooperation.

The AHA was made aware of the video on June 17. The association said animal abuse in any form is intolerable and unacceptable.

“The video was very surprising, as Foster Farms has worked hard to create a culture of humane treatment,” AHA said in a statement. “In fact, they have never failed an audit in the three years we have been working with them.”

In addition to filing a criminal complaint against Foster Farms, Mercy For Animals criticized the American Humane Association which administers the American Humane Certified animal welfare auditing program. The undercover video was taken at a Foster Farms facility that was Animal Humane Certified. Foster Farms defended its participation in the program, and the AHA denied MFA’s claim that AHA is “rubber-stamping” animal cruelty.

“The negative things being said about our program by MFA, which is a group that works to eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from American dinner tables, are false,” the AHA statement said. “Everything we do is for the benefit of the animals and we have a very strong and comprehensive program that helps give better lives to more than a billion animals.”

AHA said its stringent standards are backed by Dr. Temple Grandin, an associate professor at Colorado State Univ., animal welfare and livestock handling expert and long-time MEAT+POULTRY contributing editor. The association explained the standards were created by an independent scientific advisory committee and are based on the Five Freedoms which address issues such as air quality, adequate space, lighting, temperature, food and humane treatment.

“While MFA would like people to stop eating animal products altogether, and we respect their right to that opinion, they are attacking the wrong target in going after certification programs,” AHA said. “Instead of attacking humane groups that are working to improve life for farm animals, MFA should be working on behalf of the 8 billion animals that aren’t being raised under any independent standards.”

The association said the incident is “an extremely rare situation” for the organization which intends to investigate the matter.

“We will work with the producer to make sure corrective actions are taken so this doesn’t happen again,” AHA said. “Foster Farms is already planning on retraining workers on the live hang line and those working with chicks.”