Tens of millions of cattle and lambs are raised for meat each year in the United States. Large numbers of these sentient beings are subjected to barren feedlots, painful mutilations and unnatural diets that most consumers do not wish to acknowledge. But with the development of AWI's husbandry standards for cattle and sheep, we have one more weapon in our arsenal to reject farm animal cruelty.
AWI's criteria require that husbandry, housing and diet allow the animals to behave naturally. Unlike agribusiness, which views animals as inanimate objects and cruelly subjects them to industrial systems that lower production costs and maximize profits to the animals' detriment, AWI requires that farms accommodate the animals' needs. Animals must be able to perform behaviors essential to their physiological and psychological health and well-being.
AWI's standards for cattle prohibit them from being restrained in close quarters on bare ground without shade or wind breaks, hot-iron branded, implanted with hormones, treated routinely with antibiotics or fed a high-grain diet or questionable feed ingredients. The Institute's standards for sheep dictate life in stable social flocks with the freedom to graze on pasture. Typical industry practices such as confinement on slatted flooring and mutilations like mulesing (removal of a large portion of skin around the anus to prevent blowfly strike) are prohibited. AWI also requires a minimum weaning age of four months, in contrast to the industry standard of five weeks or less. In addition to guidelines for lambs from birth to market, AWI also addresses the husbandry of rams and ewes.
AWI's standards are the gold standards for humane treatment, and they have three requirements not mandated by any other set of criteria. AWI prohibits liquefaction and storage of manure beneath slatted barn floors to protect animals from its toxic effects and forbids the operation of "dual" systems in which any number of a species are simultaneously kept in ways that do not meet the standards. Finally, AWI will only endorse independent family farms that own their animals, depend upon the farm for a livelihood and participate in the daily physical labor of caring for the animals and operating the farm.
We continue to develop and strengthen our husbandry standards as we work with a growing number of family farmers who raise animals in accordance with the criteria; these farmers may use AWI's name in the marketing of products from those animals. We also educate retailers, consumers and chefs about the treatment of farm animals. There are fewer animals kept in cruel confinement and an increased opportunity to purchase products from animals raised humanely thanks to the growth of our program.