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Deceptive Labels — Don’t Buy It!

We recently came across a thought-provoking article on Vox titled “Undercover audio of a Tyson employee reveals “free-range” chicken is meaningless”. As an organization deeply committed to protecting the lives of farmed animals, we felt compelled to address this investigation and to share our perspective on deceptive labeling within the food industry.

The investigation conducted by Animal Outlook, which took place at a Virginia farm outside Richmond,  revealed that the “free range” label on meat packaging is nothing more than a marketing ploy. An investigator extensively recorded the common horrors witnessed in the farm, capturing distressing scenes of tens of thousands of birds crammed into large, dimly lit barns, who, despite claims to the contrary, had no access to the outdoors. Among the horrors were many birds with severe injuries, gruesome lesions, and deformities. The investigator witnessed birds decapitated by hand and denied access to food and water. Additionally, both a severe rat infestation and unsettling footage of bugs crawling in the chickens’ feed were dismissed by employees.

“It’s just a living nightmare… A video just does not do it any justice,” the investigator claims.

At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, we have long advocated for the animals trapped in our food system, urging the public to look beyond misleading terms like “free range” and “cage free,” like “humanely raised” and “grass fed.” Tyson and other corporations would have consumers believe that these labels equal a better life for animals, but that rosy simply doesn’t square with reality. Animal Outlook’s recorded conversation between the farm manager and a Tyson Foods “broiler technician advisor,” reveals the hard truth. “That is strictly for commercial [advertising] purposes…” “Those birds don’t go outside — you know that.”

The Animal Outlook investigation into Tyson’s practices is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. These reports shed light on the stark disparity between these glossy labels and the harsh reality experienced by animals. But these investigations are too often dismissed by executives as “one-offs”, or shortcomings of individual farms instead of a failing of corporate policy and humane laws to adequately protect animals. We know that animal cruelty is not the exception; it’s the rule. It is a systemic problem that won’t be fixed by ceasing operations of single farms like the one in Virginia. Investigations like this one reaffirm our belief that we must continue to demand transparency and honesty from the major corporations that profit off of the suffering of billions of animals, and we must continue to choose compassionate, vegan choices over ones that cause harm.

For years, we have strived to educate individuals about the intelligence and emotional capacity of farmed animals. We have even rescued “broiler” chickens from farms just like the one from Animal Outlook’s investigation. For the past 22 years, our sanctuary has served as a haven for these resilient beings, offering visitors the chance to connect with the stories and lives of animals who have endured unimaginable hardships. We have witnessed people’s preconceived notions about chickens melt away as they held a rooster for the first time, or witnessed their compassion for other beings through gestures of generosity and kindness. We have known birds who were protectors, who were snugglers, who could problem-solve their way into off-limits back rooms, but the important truth is that every single bird we’ve known—and, more importantly, all the ones we will never know—are intelligent, emotionally capable animals who feel fear and pain in all the same ways we do.

The deceptive practices employed by companies like Tyson highlight the urgency of our mission, and the need for a more widespread understanding of who these animals truly are. As consumers, we must not be swayed by empty promises or misleading labels. It is our responsibility to question and challenge the status quo, demanding accountability and real change.

Through our programs and online presence, Catskill Animal Sanctuary advocate and raise awareness for animals every single day. By exposing the realities of factory farming and emphasizing the disconnect between consumer perception and animal suffering, we strive to create a more compassionate world for all beings, just as we have since we opened our doors in 2001.

We urge you, our dedicated community of supporters, not to buy into the humane myth. Let us continue to question the claims made by the industry, demand transparency in labeling practices, and advocate for a more just and compassionate world for all beings by choosing vegan at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Thank you for joining us on this journey and for choosing compassion.

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