30 November 2010

HSUS files class action lawsuit against Perdue Farms

On Monday, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a class action lawsuit against Perdue Farms, the nation's third largest poultry producer, for allegedly marketing factory farmed chicken products as "humane." The lawsuit, filed by an HSUS member on behalf of all duped consumers, accuses Perdue of slapping a "humanely raised" label on it's "Heartland" and "Perdue" branded products and seeks a jury trial, compensation for class members, and injunctive relief against further use of the "Humanely Raised" claim by Perdue.

Perdue claims that it bases its humane labeling on the "Animal Welfare Guidelines" of the National Chicken Council, the trade group for the chicken industry. However, the guidelines allow for routine inhumane practices, such as painful handling and shackling of live birds and the transporting and holding of birds in tightly packed trucks with no food or water- and that's in addition to known inhumane slaughter practices. In an industry trade journal, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., one of the world’s foremost farm animal handling and slaughter experts, explains, “The National Chicken Council Animal Welfare audit has a scoring system that is so lax that it allows plants or farms with really bad practices to pass.”

And shockingly, since the USDA interprets the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to exclude poultry, there is no federal requirement to slaughter the animals by methods that render them insensible to pain before they are killed. The lawsuit, however, alleges that Perdue's illegal marketing violates the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act rather than the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

“Companies like Perdue are exploiting the dramatic growth of consumer demand for improved animal welfare for their own profit,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel of Animal Protection Litigation for The HSUS. “Rather than implementing humane reforms, Perdue has simply slapped ‘humanely raised’ stickers on its factory farmed products, hoping consumers won’t know the difference.”

It's a shame that Perdue's actions will likely bring down producers trying to do the right thing; let this lawsuit send Perdue and other factory farms the message that it's not okay to mislead concerned consumers.

Teresa Abbate| @TheFriendlyVeg
Born and raised in New York City, Teresa is a TV producer and the blogger behind TheFriendlyVeg.com, where she believes (like a good Italian girl) that the best way to an omnivore's heart is through their stomach. When not saving the day on set or rescuing potluck dinner parties, Teresa loves swimming, playing soccer, and traveling.

Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary