Our dynamic Farm Animal Protection team has been responsible for a seismic shift in how the country’s largest food companies address animal welfare. From Walmart, Safeway and Kroger, to Denny’s, IHOP and Panera Bread, to Smithfield and Perdue, major corporations have worked with us to enact precedent-setting policies on the treatment of animals used for food. Over the past decade, we have garnered commitments from these corporations (and hundreds more) to end cruel practices that were once accepted as industry norms—like cramming egg-laying hens into cages so tight that they can’t spread their wings, confining mother pigs in gestation crates so small that they do not even have space to turn around, and breeding chickens raised for meat to grow so large and so fast that they suffer crippling leg deformities.
We’re extremely proud of our work in this arena, but we are also aware that simply announcing change isn’t good enough. What’s most critical for the animals is that the change actually happens. Shifting agribusiness away from entrenched systems cannot happen overnight, and most companies have adopted timelines for abolishing these cruel practices (generally, 2022 for eliminating gestation crates, 2024 for implementing better chicken-raising practices in the meat industry, and 2025 for eliminating hen cages).
To make sure that companies are indeed following their timelines, and to keep them accountable, we are launching a new initiative: our Food Industry Scorecard that will help us measure the progress made by each of the companies that has pledged to eliminate objectionable practices in its supply chain.
We have sent this inaugural scorecard to the country’s largest food companies, and we will make the results public. Besides ensuring that companies are enacting the commitments they have previously made, the scorecard will help us identify the steps they are taking to comply with animal welfare legislation we’ve spearheaded through ballot measures, such as those in California and Massachusetts on the extreme confinement of farm animals, and other means. We’ll also evaluate what the companies are doing to adopt and promote plant-based foods.
We have come a long way since we began our work to improve the lives of farm animals. Businesses now realize that in order to remain viable, they need to recognize swelling consumer demand for better animal treatment in the food supply. Globally too, Humane Society International has made major headway in improving the lives of farm animals. From India, Singapore, Indonesia to Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Argentina, we have worked with corporations and governments to make enormous progress toward a global cage-free future for egg-laying hens. We have worked within countries, including Brazil and Canada, toward ending the use of gestation crates for pigs.
We’re also working with independent farmers who have made a strong commitment to more humane husbandry, because we respect and value their contributions in the broader social, cultural and political debate over how animals used for food deserve to be treated.
We understand that there is a long way to go, and that’s why we act with a sense of urgency. Most of the pork industry’s six million breeding pigs are locked up in gestation crates, and the majority of the 300 million hens are still crammed into cages. Billions of chickens raised for meat continue to suffer as well. For these animals, and many others used in the food industry, change couldn’t come sooner.
Our scorecard will help inform compassionate Americans about which companies are making real progress. It will help corporations that are working steadfastly on eliminating abusive practices reassure consumers that they are delivering on their promises. And it will help us ensure that after all the work that’s been done to make these changes happen, we’ll be on track to usher in a new day when animals used for food are able to lead much better lives.