In 2017, The HSUS continued its campaign to bring about major transformational change in the food and agriculture sector, specifically by rolling out its Nine Billion Lives campaign to take out so much of the pain and misery from the conventional means of raising and killing broiler chickens (those raised for meat). Meanwhile, we’ve been unrelenting in our efforts to eliminate extreme confinement practices, by convincing companies on the international stage to implement purchasing practices that disassociate them from farms that rely on gestation crates and battery cages. In the broadest sense, we are succeeding in moving food companies to shun the worst factory farmed products and to incorporate more plant-based foods into their offerings, thereby giving consumers real-world options to act on their principles.
Corporate wins for chickens
After launching our Nine Billion Lives campaign – calling for a set of minimum standards for the care of broiler chickens – more than 70 companies have agreed to phase in purchasing practices consistent with the terms set forth. Within the last 12 months, we’ve helped convince Burger King, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Subway, and dozens of other companies to announce comprehensive reforms for their chicken supply chains. These include mandates that suppliers switch to healthier breeds of chickens, give the animals more room and provide enrichments that allow them to engage in their natural behaviors, and transition to better and more modern slaughter systems.
McDonald’s agreed to one of the four standards – controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) at slaughter that phases out the use of inhumane shackling of conscious birds. But the company has not embraced the other tenets of a comprehensive broiler welfare policy. As 2018 approaches, a major priority will be urging McDonald’s to join so many other players in the food industry to improve the lives of broiler birds. McDonald’s played a pivotal role in campaigns to phase out gestation crates and laying hen confinement, but it’s lagging on the issue of chickens raised for meat, and this is the moment for the company to show leadership on the broad set of practices that connect to its vast supply chain.
Perdue announces welfare reforms for broiler hens, while Tyson lags
We made a major announcement with Perdue (the nation’s fourth-largest chicken producer) that placed the company as the leader on chicken welfare within the large-scale poultry industry. Perdue has provided updates on its progress toward producing healthier breeds of chickens and providing them with more space, enrichments, natural light, and a shift to CAS for slaughter. The company also joined The HSUS in calling for the implementation of new organic standards that would provide higher welfare for tens of millions of animals.
We’ve also started our 12th Agriculture Advisory Council, in Alabama. Many of the farmers there are contract growers who feel that they are bound up in a fundamentally inhumane and anti-competitive production system. We’ve joined together to make farming a fairer enterprise for farmers and a more humane system for the animals. So many of these farmers are ready to embrace a new future for the treatment of animals, but the major chicken companies, including Tyson Foods, have to get on board for that to happen.
Our Humane Society International team worked with corporations around the world to improve conditions for egg laying hens, from Brazil to Mexico and Singapore. The first Asian, Chilean, and Colombian food companies, and dozens of others around the globe, adopted cage-free egg policies after working with HSI. Among those who committed to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs this year are the Lo & Behold Group, the first Singaporean hospitality company to announce a cage-free egg policy, Melting Cook, a popular restaurant group in Chile, and G&N, a major Chilean restaurant operator, with more than 250 restaurants in the country.
HSI also garnered the first major cage-free egg victories in Colombia. Major Colombian companies, including Hoteles ESTELAR, the country’s leading hotel chain, Pan Pa’ Ya!, one of the leading restaurant and coffee shop chains, and IMC Colombia, a leading restaurant and food service company, partnered with HSI to announce cage-free egg policies.
We continued to drive the transition to cage-free eggs in Mexico and Brazil. Taco Holding, Mexico’s second largest restaurant operator with more than 550 restaurants across the country, announced with HSI that it will go 100 percent cage-free. Seventeen major Brazilian food companies, including JBS, Kraft Heinz, Bunge, Casa do Pão de Queijo, and Sapore also announced cage-free egg policies. HSI also worked with major multinational companies, including Nestlé and Kraft Heinz, two of the world’s largest food manufacturers, to announce global cage-free egg policies.
In Brazil, the fourth largest pig processor, Frimesa, committed to eliminating gestation crates, joining the country’s top three producers that have made similar commitments.
In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling reinstating California’s law banning the sale of foie gras—a fattened bird liver product made by force-feeding birds. The court rejected foie gras producers’ contentions that the California law, which is focused on the way the birds are treated on the farm, was preempted by federal food safety and meat inspection laws.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by several state attorneys general and governors, including former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, seeking to overturn California’s landmark egg sales law, AB 1437, which requires eggs sold in the state come from hens not subjected to cruel confinement practices. This was the latest in a long string of failed attempts by Big Ag and its allies to overturn AB 1437 and Proposition 2, a ballot initiative which mandates that laying hens, breeding sows, and veal calves must have room to “stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and extend their limbs.” Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has announced he’s ramping up another legal challenge the California law, but he and the other state attorneys general who have joined him have no egg producers lined up to join them. Business-minded and forward-looking egg producers recognize that there is no future in cage confinement systems, with more than 300 retailers, including Walmart and McDonald’s, agreeing to phase in the exclusive use of cage-free eggs These politicians appear to be searching for campaign contributions from the larger agribusiness sector that has a knee-jerk opposition to animal welfare reforms, even as so many rank-and-file farmers take intentional steps to move toward more humane production systems. What’s more, we believe it’s the right of every state, including California, to adopt policies that eliminate cruel products from their marketplaces and ensure food safety and the health and well-being of their citizens.
In April, the D.C. Circuit vacated a 2008 Bush-era EPA regulation exempting industrialized animal agriculture facilities, called CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) from their legal obligations to report releases of harmful air emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made final its Organic Livestock and Poultry Practice rule, enshrining into federal law for the first time strong animal welfare standards in agriculture. The new rule covers a whole array of housing, husbandry, and management topics, including the prohibition of certain painful practices, like tail docking of pigs and cattle and debeaking of birds. Importantly, the rule sets minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for egg-laying chickens, and requires that producers provide a sufficient number of exits and outdoor enrichment to entice birds to go outside on a daily basis. It also specifies that covered porches and similar structures do not qualify as outdoor space. While existing organic poultry operations have five years to come into compliance with outdoor access requirements for birds, the minimums for indoor space and all other welfare standards in the proposed rule will come into effect one year after the rule becomes effective.
Implementation of the rule, which was expected to go into effect on March 20 this year, has been pushed back three times already, and the new date is May 2018. We’ll be working hard with the USDA and with Congress to see this family-farmer-friendly rule is implemented, as a way to promote farm animal protection and to give family farmers more opportunities to stay in business and to stay on the farm.
Taking on factory farming lobbyists…and winning
In West Virginia, we helped stop a “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment that would have permanently barred meaningful legislative reforms for chickens, cows, and pigs. We worked with local allies to thwart a “prosperity district” bill in Oklahoma that would have exempted large swaths of the state from anti-cruelty protections. We successfully fought back a whistleblower suppression bill in Maine, an effort to establish a pro-factory-farming commission in California, and multiple pro-factory-farming bills in Missouri. We’ve launched a ballot initiative in California that would ban the cage confinement of laying hens, mother pigs, and veal calves in cages and ensure that eggs and meat sold in the state come from operations that meet this standard. Massachusetts voters approved a similar measure in 2016 with a 78 percent “yes” vote.
Food service industry goes plant-forward
In 2017, we announced far-reaching partnerships concerning plant-based meals with Compass Group and Aramark—two of the largest food service corporations in the world. Combined, they manage dining operations at tens of thousands of U.S. colleges, universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Through this partnership, our team is training their culinary leaders on vegan cooking and baking, and helping them to shift their menus from being meat-centered to being plant-focused.
Our culinary professionals are in the field daily training food service professionals on how to create delicious and affordable plant-based meals. This year alone, we’ve conducted nearly 100 plant-based culinary trainings, teaching more than 1,700 professionals.
We’ve partnered with our corporate contacts to urge them to offer plant-based options at their restaurants. We worked with TGI Friday’s to place on its menus the Beyond Burger – a remarkable plant-based burger that has the qualities and texture of a real hamburger.
In our work for farm animals, we are working to throw the curtain back on archaic and cruel practices, to drive innovation in production and in developing healthier, better-tasting foods, to stir the conscience of caring people, and to build bridges – talking with the biggest production companies in agriculture, with all of the major food retailers in the United States, with politicians of both parties, with chefs and celebrities, with scientists and nutritionist, and with family farmers and others working in agriculture. Ultimately, we need this entire cast of players to transform the food system, to make it more humane and sustainable, for the health of the animals, the planet, the consumers, and rural communities.