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Candid camera: Undercover videos on rise in poultry industry

Undercover videos of poultry farms made by animal activists appear to be on the rise, Mark Crouser, a consultant to the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), reported at the recent National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production in Ocean City, Maryland.

The videos are often taken out of context and are intended to portray “the worst of the worst” regarding farm-animal treatment, Crouser said. They are also edited in such a way that it’s difficult for the average consumer to understand what’s going on.

“These tactics are highly successful,” Crouser continued. “Activists link what they perceive as animal abuse to poultry companies and then take their videos to large food vendors, such as McDonald’s, that buy from those companies.”

‘Balanced perspective’

To respond to the videos, CFI established animal-care review panels for cases involving poultry as well as dairy cattle and pigs. Each panel is made up of a recognized animal-care scientist, ethicist and veterinarian. Panelists examine the videos and provide their expert perspective, which is reflected in a report to food retailers, the poultry industry and the media. The process is intended to test the veracity of each video and provide a balanced perspective, Crouser explained.

In some cases, the panelists have found the videos display necessary farm-management practices, such as the humane euthanasia of sick animals, while in other cases, they have found the treatment of animals to be inappropriate.

Poultry companies certified by organizations such as Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit group that has a voluntary animal-welfare certification program, are more likely to be targets for undercover videos, warned Charles Hofacre, DVM, PhD, of the University of Georgia and a member of CFI’s poultry review panel.

‘Do what’s right’

Crouser encouraged poultry operations to make sure they are hiring and training the right people who will treat animals well and not give activists any reason to make an undercover video. He suggested poultry producers and growers be more open and vocal about explaining their production practices because to do otherwise could imply something is amiss.

Crouser and Hofacre both asked everyone in the poultry industry to “do what’s right” and, if something is wrong, take action to correct the situation. Hofacre also challenged the audience to “put me out of business” on the review panel.

Hofacre further urged the poultry industry to “think about how consumers view these videos and analyze your practices through the eyes of the consumer.”

For more information on CFI’s animal-care review panels, click here.

Posted on February 3, 2016

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