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December 18, 2013

Forging Farm Animal Progress in 2013—Top 10 HSUS Advancements

The worst thing in politics, it is said, is to be ignored.

No risk of that happening with The HSUS, especially on farm animal protection.

Feedstuffs noted that The HSUS has “achieved a foothold in the food industry and consumer media.” Meatingplace told its readers that “HSUS and its efforts are having an impact.” Pork magazine said our strategies are “masterful,” and at the World Pork Expo, The HSUS was described as a “tough opponent,” “formidable,” and “sophisticated.” Another observer notes that agribusiness media outlets discuss HSUS 500 percent more than any other animal protection organization.

Pigs in gestation crates
The HSUS

The HSUS was founded 60 years ago to confront cruelties of such vast scope that their cessation required a potent national force. As The HSUS’s first board chairman, Robert Chenoweth, stated, “the American humane movement needed an organization that would tackle the problems which, because they were national, were beyond the views and the powers of any local society.”

I’m proud that 2013 was yet another year of progress on the farm animal front.  Here are our Top 10 Accomplishments for Farm Animals in 2013:

1. Reducing the number of animals eaten domestically and internationally

It’s not sustainable to raise 9 billion farm animals for food in the U.S., or 70 billion worldwide. We’re helping reduce total numbers to spare animals from factory farming and seeing that the animals raised are more humanely treated and receive greater care from farmers on the land. In 2013, we helped school districts from coast to coast, including some of the nation’s largest, adopt “Meatless Monday” programs. Our work with Los Angeles Unified School District alone switched an estimated 34 million meals each year from meat-based to meat-free. We also helped dozens of organizations internationally—from New York to China and Vietnam—promote Meatless Monday menus. Overall, we garnered nearly 100 institutional-level Meatless Monday policies in 2013.

2. Shifting the food industry away from cruel gestation crates

Gestation crates have been decried for decades by animal advocates, but it wasn’t until recently that their demise became, as Meatingplace wrote, “inevitable.” Following our success last year galvanizing McDonald’s, Burger King, Kroger, and dozens of other major food companies to oppose gestation crates, 2013 saw many more companies added to that list. This year alone, we helped Papa John’s, Quiznos, Bob Evans, Applebee’s, IHOP, Johnsonville Sausage, Marriott, Ahold (owner of Giant and Stop & Shop), and others join the movement. Now, more than 60 of the largest food companies are saying ‘no!’ to gestation crates and demanding more humane alternatives in their pork supply chains.

3. Moving Canada toward a gestation crate-free future

In 2013, Canada’s largest retailers (Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys, and Co-op Atlantic) made a joint announcement opposing gestation crates while enacting a timeline for their suppliers to move away from the practice. Shortly after, Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council, which sets the country’s farm animal welfare policies, announced its draft code of practice for the pork industry, which includes a phase-out of the lifelong confinement of breeding pigs. Additionally, Olymel, Canada’s largest pork processor, announced that it will eliminate gestation crates from its operations—another major win for pigs. We are also helping the pork industry in South Africa meet their commitment to phase out the crates.

4. Blocking meat industry-backed anti-whistleblower “ag gag” bills in 11 states

Anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” bills seek to criminalize whistleblowing investigations that spotlight factory farms’ and slaughterhouses’ routine animal abuse and food safety problems. In 2013, agribusiness pushed fifteen bills in eleven states. Not a single one of these dangerous bills has passed so far this year, thanks to The HSUS’s legislative campaigns and partnership with other organizations.

5. Building a more humane economy

HSUS personnel played a major role in helping to develop Hampton Creek, a plant-based food company featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Washington Post, and backed by the likes of Bill Gates and PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel. And our investments in plant-based “meat” company, Beyond Meat, and restaurant chain Veggie Grill helped accelerate their growth and create more options for conscious consumers in the marketplace. This coincides with social leaders promoting a more plant-centric diet, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Pastor Rick Warren, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Z, and Beyoncé.

6. Litigating against factory farms

HSUS litigators worked with California’s Attorney General to successfully defend the state’s historic bans on force-feeding and abusively confining farm animals—scoring four straight legal wins for the animals. We took legal action on behalf of consumers who were duped into buying factory-farmed chicken, mislabeled as “humanely raised,” and on behalf of neighbors of factory farms in rural communities of Minnesota and Iowa. We successfully petitioned the USDA to end the slaughter of veal calves too sick or injured to walk. And we worked with pro bono lawyers from Milbank Tweed and federal prosecutors to secure the largest penalty for animal abuse ever: a $500 million symbolic judgment against the now defunct Hallmark Meat Packing Company, where HSUS investigators exposed shocking cruelty to downer cows in 2008.

7. Curbing factory farming’s spread across the globe

We’ve persuaded the majority of India’s 28 states, and the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, to agree with the Animal Welfare Board of India’s 2012 statement that barren battery cage confinement is in violation of the nation’s animal cruelty laws. This sets the stage for a phase out of barren battery cages in the country, which is currently the third largest egg producer in the world.  We’re also making progress in other parts of Asia. In only three months, our Meatless Monday campaign in China has had great success, with seven restaurants having already joined the movement.

8. Reaching faith-based communities with a message to eat mercifully

Thousands of members of faith-based communities participated in HSUS Faith Outreach programs in 2013, to advance dialogue on factory farming issues and encourage the shift toward eating with a conscience and a more merciful diet—one based on stewardship of farm animals rather than domination of them.

9. Organizing farmers against factory-style production and helping them reach and connect with consumers

We announced new HSUS Agriculture Advisory Councils in Ohio and Iowa, working with family farmers who practice humane and sustainable agriculture. We hosted a workshop helping Nebraska farmers become certified by animal welfare programs. And in Nebraska and Colorado, we hosted farm tours educating people on higher animal welfare practices and family farms.

10. Putting farm animals in the mainstream media

In 2013, The HSUS’s work protecting farm animals—reducing consumption, improving conditions, and giving them a presence in the legal system and beyond—generated massive public attention to their plight. We leveraged the debate over ag-gag bills to discuss the inherent cruelties with factory farms on Ellen, CNN, and so many other outlets. We secured editorials in the nation’s largest newspapers condemning factory farming practices. And we saw feature-length pieces in Salon.com, RollingStone.com, and other outlets that allow long-form journalism.

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