Celebrations for Animal Welfare: Our Voices at Work

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Our growing awareness about the food that we eat and the impact that it has on our bodies, our communities and our planet is shaping into powerful action that is achieving results big and small.

Three great pieces of news for food systems activists crossed our paths this over the last couple of weeks that we are excited to share. They are cases of consumer advocacy and public opinion swaying the “powers that be” to levy changes on the ways animals are treated.

With a decree that could “ripple through the food industry,” giant corporate food oligarch, Nestle recently announced that it will require their suppliers to make big changes to the way that they treat their livestock. The changes include providing more space for the animals and stopping inhumane practices like cutting off tails without pain killers and dehorning cattle. David Pierson of the LA Times reports:

Nestle, the maker of popular brands such as Carnation, Dreyer's and Hot Pockets, said it would partner with World Animal Protection International, a nongovernmental organization, to shore up its animal welfare guidelines and practices.

The company said those guidelines will be issued to its 7,300 suppliers and the thousands more farms those suppliers contract with to deliver dairy, meat, poultry and eggs.”

Of course, the Swiss food company has a long way to go before we might consider its food truly sustainable (consider that they are the makers of Hot Pockets, and then you’ll get where we’re coming from), but we are happy to see this development and hope to see it expand to other companies.

With more news about livestock changes for the better, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced last week the ruling of their Minnesota case against a large pig CAFO. At issue was the state’s allowance for the company to take up huge amounts of groundwater for their operations (which, by the way, often end up polluting waters downstream). The MN court rules in the favor of HSUS on the argument that the state did not follow due diligence in making the designation. Though it’s not a national case, it’s a powerful message as the HSUS news release explains. Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said:

These pig factories can have ruinous effects on the environment, animals and neighbors. Today's decision shows that pig factories in Minnesota are not above the law.”

And, while we’re at it, in another good sign for the direction of meat, just incase you missed this a couple of weeks ago, the chicken giant Perdue is planning on moving 15% of its operations to organically raised meat to meet consumer demand. Rona Kobel of Modern Farmer explained, how this could not only have a positive impact on chicken and human health, but on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. As chickens grow, they produce manure, manure is then placed on surrounding fields to grow corn (often to feed more chickens) and the cycle continues. This seems like a great closed loop system, but the reality is that the manure applied to fields is more than the watershed can handle and runoff leads to pollution and problematic algal blooms. Kobel explains that there may be a good chance that organic chickens could lower this manure burden:

Intuitively, the organic-means-less-manure theory seems correct because organic chickens do grow more slowly, said Russ Brinsfield, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Agro-Ecology and a farmer himself. But it hasn’t been studied; the organic standards, Brinsfield said, focus on what the birds eat, not what comes out the other end. Other factors in reducing the manure burden include raising chickens in less confined quarters, diversifying an operation to include eggs and changing the feed to something less corn-intensive."

Let’s keep on making noise about the problems in our food systems, Warriors. By speaking out, and voting with our wallets every time we go to the grocery store (or better yet, the farmers market) we’re making a difference that is slowly shifting the way our food is produced!

Nestle imposes animal welfare standards for suppliers

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0822-nestle-animal-welfare-20140822-story.html

Victory in Lawsuit Challenging Massive Minnesota Gestation Crate Pig Factory

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2014/08/mn_lawsuit_victory_gourley_081814.html?credit=web_id93480558

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Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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