As Nebraskans show concern over where their meat and dairy come from, the Nebraska Farmers Union and the Humane Society of the United States have united to develop new standards and practices for humane animal products, said a report by Global Animal.
The new partnership, said Farmers Union president John Hansen, will boost family farms in Nebraska and ensure that measures are taken to humanely raise meat and other animal products.
As recent polls have shown, said the report, many consumers of meat, eggs, and milk want to know whether their purchases are coming from animals that are treated well while they're alive. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's rural poll, taken in July 2011, for 69 percent of rural respondents, such desired animal welfare entails things such as adequate exercise, space and activities, and common life staples like food, water, and shelter.
Hansen noted the new alliance would be the first-ever teaming of a farm group and animal welfare organization in the U.S.
The Humane Society - reportedly some 15,000 members strong (also counting donors and volunteers in Nebraska) - and its vegan president Wayne Pacelle have made animal welfare one of their largest missions and have taken new measures to bring about positive change.
These measures include leading petition drives in California and Arizona that resulted in restrictions being placed upon battery cages used for laying hens, gestation crates for sows, and crates for veal calves. The group has also come to agreements with producers in five states to entirely phase out the use of those animal confinement methods.
This is an important animal welfare issue because many - if not most - of these cages are so small they prevent animals from being able to stretch their limbs or turn around.
Veal crates, which are being voluntarily done away with in favor of larger and more accommodating group pens, had animals being fed individually with milk replacer.
The Farmers Union now plans to establish a Nebraska Agricultural Council to advise the Humane Society on issues of livestock welfare.
Kevin Fulton, an organic farmer and rancher from Litchfield, Neb., said he is pleased by the new alliance, and believed that it will strongly benefit animals and offer new means of protection, as well as potentially set new standards for animal welfare.
Fulton, who spoke at a press conference in Lincoln (attended by NFU members and HSUS officials), said that often, under current conditions, Nebraska farm animals are held in captivity in huge confinement systems that are cruel and inhumane.
"I'm simply a farmer providing a voice for millions of farm animals in this state that cannot be heard," said Fulton. "My father was a farmer and a veterinarian, and he taught me how to properly care for livestock. It's a responsibility I take very seriously, and one that I'm passing down to my own three children."
Photo: "A group of pregnant female pigs are kept in metal crates that are painfully small." The Humane Society of the United States/AP Photos