The HSUS and Humane Society International are about protecting all animals. And nowhere is that more evident than our campaign to help the biggest category of animals at risk – farm animals. With legislative, corporate, judicial, rural outreach, and public awareness campaigns, we have generated major reforms within agribusiness. This year turned out to be one of our most impactful ever, and here is a rundown of our 10 biggest gains:
- Following a major 18-month HSUS campaign, Tyson Foods—among the biggest meat producers in the world—reversed its position in defending gestation crates by advising its contract farmers that “future sow housing” should allow animals to turn around and engage in other basic behaviors prevented by crate confinement. Tyson’s announcement came just days after we prevailed in our efforts to persuade Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—to extend its group housing policy to its contractors, a move that will positively affect several hundred thousand pigs. Months later, Cargill – the largest private corporation in the United States – announced with us that it will phase out gestation crates from its supply chain. And Clemons Food Group (Hatfield Pork) made a similar announcement with us, too.
- As 2014 came to a close, coffee giant Starbucks made a groundbreaking announcement that it will put in place a North American cage-free egg policy. The company has pledged to phase out gestation crates for pigs and cages for chickens, eliminate the use of artificial fast growing practices that cause chickens to suffer chronic pain, end the dehorning, tail docking, and castration of animals without anesthesia, and move away from the most inhumane chicken slaughter practices. We also helped persuade the largest food manufacturer in the world, Nestlé, to announce a similar policy to eliminate a range of cruel factory farming practices, including cages for laying hens, tail-cutting of dairy cows, castration, and forced rapid growth of poultry. And also in the realm of gains with huge multinational food corporations, we worked with Unilever to announce its intention to be the first major egg user to seek alternatives to the standard industry practice of killing male chicks.
- In a major victory resulting from both The HSUS’s recent success in corporate reform and HSI’s tireless campaigning, Canada passed new regulations banning lifelong cage confinement of sows. Brazil’s biggest pork producer also committed to phase out crates, and the government pledged to work with producers to phase out the practice.
The HSUS implemented new Meatless Monday policies in Boston Public Schools and dozens of other school districts across the nation. That list includes many big cities, as well as Knowledge Universe, the largest provider of childcare in the United States, with more than 2,000 locations globally. We also partnered with Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service company, to launch perhaps the largest campaign of any company in its sector centered on replacing meat with plant-based foods. These institutional meat reduction campaigns help spare vast numbers of animals from factory farms and slaughter plants.
- Our undercover investigation at Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky, revealed sows confined in gestation crates being fed ground up intestines from piglets who had recently succumbed to a highly contagious diarrheal disease. Also in Kentucky, we helped to ban veal crates, making the state the 8th state to ban this cruel practice, and the 10th state to ban a form of farm animal confinement.
- An HSUS investigation at the Catelli Bros. calf slaughter plant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, resulted in a two-week shutdown, after our undercover investigator documented cruelties that included calves being forced to rise to their feet by men who wrapped the calves’ tails around their hands – lifting the entire weight of the calf by this appendage. One calf with a broken leg was dragged by a chain around his neck, while other calves were struck, kicked, pulled by their ears, and sprayed with water.
- We defeated the notorious King amendment in Congress, a reckless measure that threatened to nullify state farm animal protection laws, and we killed 11 of 12 ag-gag bills that threatened our undercover investigations.
Perdue Farms and The HSUS announced the settlement of two federal cases in New Jersey and Florida concerning Perdue’s “humanely raised” claim on its Harvestland chicken labels. The settlement required the plaintiffs to dismiss their claims with prejudice, in exchange for Perdue agreeing to remove the “Humanely Raised” label claim from its Harvestland chicken packaging.
- A federal court granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging AB1437 — an HSUS-sponsored bill that bans the sale of eggs from battery cages in California. The court found that a half dozen attorneys general do not have standing to file their case, ordered that the case can never be refiled, and concluded that their theory for why the egg law will harm consumers is without merit. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take an appeal of the 9th Circuit Court ruling upholding California’s landmark ban on force feeding ducks to produce foie gras. In August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with The HSUS and members of a community fighting a massive new gestation crate pig factory in Todd County. This facility planned to drink up eight million gallons of groundwater per year.
In the category of near misses, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill to ban gestation crates, after it passed both the Assembly and Senate by wide margins. The fight attracted hugely favorable national media, generating massive news coverage, including multiple hits on The Daily Show and MSNBC. We also fell just 2,000 votes short, out of one million cast, in our effort to defeat Missouri’s Amendment 1, a right-to-farm measure supported by Big Ag interests in that state.
While the gains outnumber the near-misses by a wide margin, we are committed to delivering results for all farm animals, at home and abroad. The momentum is with us, but there is no inevitability of progress in dealing with a problem so massive and an opposition so formidable. More than any other issue, our farm animal protection efforts show that The HSUS is the nation’s most effective voice for farm animals, and we’ll continue with these efforts in 2015 with an earnestness and a resolve and a set of strategic actions you will be hard pressed to see anywhere else.