Is the term “humanely raised meat” misleading? PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) thinks so, and the animal rights organization is suing Whole Foods Market over claims about the meat products it sells.
The class-action lawsuit, filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, claims that Whole Foods’ 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System is in violation of California consumer protection laws. According to PETA, the farm conditions for animals it claims meet its humanely raised meat standards actually bear too many similarities to the minimum industry standards, which the group says aren’t humane in the slightest.
Whole Foods boasts “"No Cages, No Crates, No Crowding" on a variety of meat products, but a PETA investigation says the opposite is true. The organization says animal crowding, lameness, and even death, are common occurrences at a Whole Foods certified humane pork supplier.
"'Humane meat' is a myth that dupes well-intentioned shoppers into paying higher prices for the very products of crowding, lingering death, and suffering that they were trying to avoid," Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation director of animal law, said in a statement. "The only way to avoid the pervasive cruelty involved in modern meat production is to go vegan, but PETA's lawsuit seeks an end to Whole Foods' lies."
PETA’s lawsuit points to several issues with Whole Foods humane standards, including the claim of “no cages” for broiler chickens and turkeys. According to industry standards, these birds are not typically raised in cages to begin with (unlike egg-laying hens), so the grocer’s claim is misleading consumers. In accordance with Whole Foods’ Step 1 and Step 2 certification, birds can be crowded into sheds at nearly identical density as that of minimum industry standards.
According to PETA, Whole Foods also allows for a higher infant pig mortality rate and poultry mortality rate than the industry average; and the chain permits lameness in animals—a condition where they are too ill, injured, or exhausted to move.
The animal rights group also says that Whole Foods is not adequately monitoring its suppliers to ensure that humane standards are being met.
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