Animal rights activists hold reins of Whole Foods´ welfare group

Feb 10, 2012

It might be a trite aphorism, but there are some foxes in the henhouse at the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a self-named “standards-setter” for farm animal welfare certification groups. Or perhaps “wolves in sheep’s clothing” is a better phrase.

GAP and its six-step (Steps 1 through 5, with an additional “5 ” step) ranking system for farm animal welfare was created and embraced by Whole Foods Markets as their standard in meat. What’s the issue? Key members of GAP’s leadership hail from aggressive animal rights groups like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and related organizations. GAP’s foxes

The current board of directors for GAP, as listed on their website, includes a number of eyebrow-raising names.

Miyun Park is the current executive director of GAP and has served in that role since 2009. Prior to her work with GAP, Park was vicepresident for farm animal welfare at HSUS.

Before working for HSUS, Park was president of Compassion over Killing (COK) for 10 years. Various sources have compared COK to PE- TA in its behavior and strategies, though on a smaller, less-organized level. During her time with COK, Park co-edited the group’s newsletter, the Abolitionist, which regularly glorified criminal activities of groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which the FBI has classified as a domestic terrorist group.

ALF was involved in the recent arson attacks on the Harris Ranch feedlot, even if only as a mouthpiece for the actual criminals.

Park has similar ties to other animal rights groups such as PETA and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

PCRM is a medical-themed front group for PETA and other animal rights groups. According to Newsweek and other sources, less than 5 percent of PCRM’s membership is composed of medical professionals, and their provegan agenda is evident from their website.

Park has been quoted in numerous places over the years as having no love of animal agriculture and openly admitted to HSUS’ antianimal agriculture agenda.

“We don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed… And so because of that, a number of organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, work on promoting veganism.”

Two other members of the GAP board of directors who deserve some critical attention are Wayne Pacelle and Steven Gross.

Pacelle is well-known president and chief executive officer of HSUS and needs little introduction. The harmful efforts of Pacelle and HSUS on animal agriculture

similarly need little discussion for WLJ readers. Particularly recent efforts include the heavily-edited undercover video of supposed abuses at an Oklahoma hog farm released Jan. 31, and the pushing of a federal bill which would dictate the cage conditions of laying hens around the country.

Gross, the current chairman of Farm Forward, acted as a consultant to PETA for 12 years. In that time, Gross helped lead PETA against a number of big-name groups such as Burger King, Mc- Donald’s, Wendy’s and Safeway stores.

The program

GAP was created by Whole Foods Market in 2005 under the name Animal Compassion Foundation. GAP’s Frequently Asked Questions page says they are not part of Whole Foods Market, but that the retailer was their “exclusive pilot partner” for their first two years. However, the watchdog group HumaneWatch reported that for the first four years of their existence, GAP’s sole funder was Whole Foods Market and the market remained GAP’s largest contributor for years following.

The group calls itself a standard-setter for animal welfare and has created a six-tier system for ranking welfare practices. Each progressive step incorporates the requirements of earlier steps and adds more restrictions. Though there are exceedingly detailed requirements for certification, general differences among the steps are listed below.

Step 1 demands production animals are not kept in crates or cages. Step 2 mandates an enriched environment for animals housed indoors. Step 3 does not apply to beef cattle, but it deals with outdoor access. Step 4 requires pasture-based production. Step 5 prohibits all physical alterations, including castration, disbudding, branding, or any sort of permanent marking system not mandated by law.

The top rank of Step 5 requires that animals spend their entire lives on the farm or ranch where they were born. For this step, slaughter must be conducted on the

ranch or at a facility close enough for the animals to reach on foot. According to GAP’s website, only two of their current 1,815 GAPcertified farms meet the requirements of Step 5 .

GAP itself does not audit or certify farms or ranches directly, but instead leaves that duty to third-party auditing/certification companies. It claims this move is to assure all parties involved that the process is “fair, accurate and free of any conflicts of interest.”

Unlike the Animal Welfare Approved welfare certification program covered by WLJ in the recent past, GAP certification comes with costs to the producer. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor