In The Humane Economy, I describe two revolutions at work in the food industry: first, how so many of the biggest food retailers are adopting policies to cleanse their supply chains of animal products that come from extreme confinement systems on factory farms; and second, how entrepreneurs are developing cultured and plant-based food items that will upend conventional thinking about the form and origin of our protein sources.
Together, these developments threaten to end factory farming, and offer new options and opportunities for consumers to act on their values about treating animals with respect or taking the animals out of the equation entirely.
There’s a third revolution at work, and the people behind this one are farmers and ranchers who reject factory farming practices and honor long-standing traditions of animal husbandry and proper care.
At The HSUS, we are working to amplify the voices of these farmers and ranchers, who have too often been victimized, pushed aside, or drowned out by the biggest producers who value efficiency over proper farming practices.
Last week, at a well-attended event in Lincoln, Nebraska, The HSUS announced the formation of a National Agriculture Advisory Council that will work to achieve higher animal welfare standards in agriculture and to ensure that more humane supply chains are available to consumers, so they have more choice in the marketplace and can act on their beliefs about the merciful treatment of animals.
The national council will be chaired by cattle rancher Kevin Fulton, who established the first HSUS state agriculture advisory council in Nebraska. It is made up exclusively of family farmers who incorporate higher animal welfare standards in their operations. These experts will help The HSUS’s own Rural Development and Outreach team by serving as advisers and resources in legislative and regulatory work. They’ll also promote traditional family farmers who are currently practicing or who plan to transition to verified higher animal welfare standards. It was Kevin who said his goal is to make sure that the animals he raises “have only one bad day in their lives,” referring to his efforts to ensure that animals raised for food have access to pasture and a good quality of life, in contrast to the overcrowded, heavily drugged animals on factory farms, whose every day is typically filled with privation and stress.
They will also encourage more farmers and ranchers to become certified with animal welfare programs like the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), and encourage food retailers to adopt programs to sell GAP-certified products. There are now 290 million animals on farms certified under GAP’s auditing program who are living under more humane standards than animals in conventional production systems – with the broad adoption of the GAP program by Whole Foods Market providing the shelf space that has driven this shift in agricultural production in the United States.
The HSUS now has 11 state agriculture advisory councils covering 13 states, all created over the past four years, and the working farmers who are members of these councils are doing a great job of advocating for an end to intensive confinement of animals on factory farms and calling on consumers to connect more directly with their food choices. This is all part of The HSUS’s program of conscious consumption, with our construct being the three “Rs” for farm animals: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.
We are grateful to all of the farmers and ranchers raising their voices against agricultural production practices that subordinate animal welfare and other core values in favor of a ruthless approach to efficiency that produces terrible animal suffering on a routine basis. With our efforts to lobby major food corporations to honor higher welfare standards in their supply chains, the emergence of food technologists who can give us remarkable plant-based and cultured proteins, and the farmers who are reaching for higher standards, we are collectively mounting a major challenge to a system of production that has created so many animal victims over the past 60 years.