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June 25, 2014

Capitalism With a Conscience – for Animals

All over America, and around the world, corporations are listening to their customers and taking intentional steps to contribute to the new, emerging humane economy, one that lightens the burden of suffering for animals. I recently announced that Cargill, the largest private corporation in the United States, has set a timeframe for purging gestation crates from its supply chain. Earlier this year, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, two other major meat producers, made announcements of a similar nature. And over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen 60 major American food retailers – the companies that sell the product to consumers -- agree to phase out their purchase of pork from operators using gestation crates. 

GESTATION_CRATE
Safeway earns the Spira award for its work to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates. Photo: The HSUS

Across the whole breadth of the economy, we are seeing a raft of companies from Whole Foods Market to Hampton Creek to Beyond Meat and LUSH Cosmetics providing opportunities for their customers to act on their values in the marketplace – on issues ranging from factory farming to animal testing to fur selling. 

One pioneer who contributed so meaningfully to our present-day successes is the late Henry Spira.  Between the mid-1970s and the 1990s, he spearheaded campaigns to end animal testing and pushed better treatment for farm animals, forging alliances between major corporations and animal protectionists. Spira recognized that the attentiveness of corporations to animal welfare concerns was central to our movement’s future success. In fact, Spira biographer and campaign partner Peter Singer published a very useful synopsis of Spira’s rules for effective corporate engagement on animal protection issues.

In recognition of his pathbreaking work, we worked with Professor Singer and others to create the Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award, to recognize businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs committed to advancing progress on animal issues. In 2013, the inaugural year for the award, we recognized Aramark, Burger King and Sodexo for working to eliminate some of the worst factory-farming practices from their supply chains; CeeTox, Inc. for its work to replace the use of animals in chemical and other product testing; and the Consumer Specialty Products Association, which brokered an industry-wide agreement to add a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent accidental poisoning of children and animals.

Fur-free fashion 2
John Bartlett, Inc. earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. Photo: Greg Vaughan

This year, we honor the country’s second largest grocery store chain, Safeway, and fashion designer John Bartlett, Inc. with the Spira Award. Safeway earns the honor for its work last year to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain and for moving toward group housing for pigs. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates that are barely two feet wide, essentially immobilizing the animals for the duration of their lives.

Our second awardee this year is John Bartlett, Inc., which earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. In 2012, my friend John Bartlett, the namesake of the company, made fashion week history with the debut of his 100 percent cruelty-free menswear collection.  His work makes plain that style and fashion won’t suffer in the least when we shed fur from our garment choices.

Safeway and John Bartlett, Inc. are trailblazers leading the way in a private sector that is becoming more aware of animal issues and more humane with each passing year.  While it’s true that a small number of companies and trade associations continue to cling to their business models grounded on cruelty and exploitation of animals, attacking The HSUS and fighting reforms supported by the public, they are really the outliers in a sea of change that’s bringing our economic lives and practices into greater alignment with our values. Their stubborn commitment to the status quo of cruelty and indifference to animals is bound to be swept away by the swell of support for humane values everywhere.

We’re dedicated to transforming our economy for the better, helping animals in the process.  The HSUS is the number one provider of animal-care services among humane organizations, through its own hands-on programs for pets, wildlife and other creatures in crisis.  And we are the nation’s number one, high-impact animal advocacy organization, driving change in the realms of public awareness, public policy and, of course, corporate reforms.  Today, we celebrate the corporations joining our movement and doing right by animals.  These companies would make Henry Spira proud, and we thank them.

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