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October 2006 Kim Sturla, Animal Place

Sanctuary Perspectives on “Humane” Animal Products

People who work with rescued farmed animals at sanctuaries have a unique perspective when it comes to talking about “humane” conditions of animals exploited for food. Satya asked a handful of sanctuary founders to share their views on the growing association of animal rights groups with welfare reform and how they respond when people ask them about “humane” meat and “cage-free” eggs.


Kim Sturla with Turkeys.
Photo courtesy of Animal Place

There’s a fear within the animal rights movement that you can’t be honest about your ethics—activists worry they’ll be labeled “radical” or will run afoul of donors or legislators. But in my experience, when you remain consistent in your belief of having compassion for all species and convey this message in a non-judgmental way, the general public and mainstream media do understand and respect it.

We realize that the transition from eating meat, or even being vegetarian, to going vegan is not always an easy one. Some people get it right away, and others take much more time.

Yes, abolition is the ideal, but animal welfare is a positive step, too. Even the legislative efforts like the recent ban of live field coursing in our county and the ban on foie gras in California help raise awareness that animals deserve compassion and respect.

Unfortunately, terms like “humane slaughter” and “humane meat” are misleading—they’re oxymoronic and give folks the wrong idea. These terms are marketing ploys designed to make a segment of the public—compassionate consumers—feel better about buying meat.

Rather than promoting so-called “humane meat” or even cage-free eggs, I prefer to encourage people to give up meat or animal products one day a week. If they do, that will have a more lasting impact on them and the animals, and show how easy it is to enjoy a plant-based diet.

That said, we have Ned Buyukmihci, our co-founder, representing Animal Place at the table with Whole Foods. He fights for the rights of animals, which, we hope, results in a level of humane standards that are higher than Certified Humane. That doesn’t mean I would ever encourage anyone to go into Whole Foods to buy humanely raised meat. But I would encourage them to shop at Whole Foods because they surpass most other companies. They are very progressive, as far as grocery stores go, and what they are doing—such as establishing their Animal Compassion Foundation and not selling foie gras or live lobsters—is groundbreaking.

Kim Sturla is cofounder of Animal Place Sanctuary and Education Center in Vacaville, California,; (707) 449-4814.


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