Seeking a safer way for farm animals–safest would be out of the supermarket

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August, 2002:

NORFOLK, Va.; DAVIS, Calif. –McDonald’s, Burger King,
and other fast-food restaurant chains are international symbols of
the meat-heavy American diet, but the 1,750 U.S. Safeway
supermarkets and 17 meat and dairy processing plants generates three
times as much U.S. revenue, reminds PETA vegan outreach coordinator
Bruce Friedrich.
The Kroger chain is even bigger, and Albertson’s is also a
major competitor.

Therefore Friedrich has spent much of the past two years
pressuring Safeway, Kroger, and Albertson’s to enforce animal
welfare standards for suppliers similar to those that McDonald’s has
apparently at last begun to implement, eight years after agreeing to.
Friedman has also been “working with the Food Marketing
Institute and its animal welfare panel for more than a year on
guidelines” for animal husbandry that were imminently due as ANIMAL
PEOPLE went to press, he said. The FMI guidelines are also supposed
to be recommended by the National Council of Chain Restaurants.
Safeway, Albertson’s, and Kroger have all agreed within the
past two months to abide by the guidelines.
If FMI, NCCR, and the big supermarkets agree to seek major
changes in the treatment of pigs, chickens, and other animals
raised for meat, they have enough market share to ensure that the
changes will be made.
Conversely, if they balk, they may be much less vulnerable
standing together behind “humane standards” that require no real
changes than any of them would be by themselves. Boycotting one
supermarket chain can be done, but effectively boycotting several at
once might not be possible.
On the other hand, the supermarket business is intensely
competitive, with low profit margins wherever the big chains vie for
customers in the same neighborhood. Losing even a relatively low
sales volume can mean a big difference to the economic health of many
stores, so in May, after a four-month PETA campaign featuring
undercover video footage of employees brutalizing pigs at Seaboard
Farms in Guyon, Oklahoma, Safeway–a major Seaboard
customer–“pledged to immediately begin unannounced audits of
Seaboard, the nation’s fourth-largest pig-meat supplier,” Friedrich
announced on May 15.
“Safeway also pledged to audit all suppliers,” Friedrich
continued. Suppliers flunking two consecutive animal welfare
inspections would lose their contracts.”
Friedrich on May 21 asked Kroger to accept the same terms.
On May 31, Kroger indicated to Cincinnati Post reporter Greg Paeth
that it would.

Whose standards?

The risk that “humane standards” for meat, egg, and dairy
suppliers will only codify the status quo and thereby not really
improve conditions for animals can be diminished if humane
organizations either actively participate in drafting the standards,
or themselves form the standards-setting body.
The Royal SPCA of Great Britain formed Freedom Food Ltd. in
1994 to certify farmers who meet basic animal welfare standards.
Freedom Food Ltd. started poorly, but within five years about 4,000
farms were certified, serving more than 6,000 retail grocery stores.
The project momentum was reportedly stalled, however, by the 2001
hoof-and-mouth disease quarantines, which had the most economic
impact on small producers– the producers most likely to avoid
factory farming methods. Those whose farms were near any where
hoof-and-mouth disease was found were unable to transport animals to
market until after the epidemic was eradicated.
The National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales countered
Freedom Food in June 2000 by introducing their own British Farm
Standard seal of approval, also called “Little Red Tractor,” after
the emblem printed on products from approved producers. Scots
producers formed a parallel program called the Quality Meat Scotland
Assurance Scheme.
Compassion in World Farming and the Scots group Advocates for
Animals gave both the NFU and QMS programs low marks in April 2002
program assessments.
CIWF found that the British Farm Standard was ensuring
adequate compliance with only seven of 15 criteria for the well-being
of cattle and sheep, and just three of 15 for pigs. CIWF director
Joyce D’Silva suggested that the NFU is “deliberately misleading the
public about animal welfare.”
Advocates for Animals campaign director Ross Minett reported
that the QMS program was ensuring compliance with only three of 15
basic requirements for pig welfare.

U.S., Canada

The American Humane Association started a subsidiary called
Farm Animal Services in mid-2000 to promote a similar certification
scheme. Twelve companies are now certified. On July 20 Farm Animal
Services announced that after July 1st it will have an independent
headquarters at 943 South George Mason Drive, Arlington, VA 22204;
telephone 703-486-0262; fax 703-486-0265.
In Canada, the Winnipeg Humane Society began certifying
non-factory-farmed meat earlier in 2002, and British Columbia SPCA
-certified organically produced eggs and chicken meat debuted at six
stores in Vancouver toward the end of May.
An attempt by animal advocacy organizations to develop and
promote standards through the USDA Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group
apparently came to naught, United Poultry Concerns founder Karen
Davis disclosed on May 22.
“UPC was among several organizations, headed by Animal
Rights International, which met with the Task Group in May 2000 to
address issues that included the forced molting of laying hens,
humane treatment of downed animals, enforcement of the Humane
Slaughter Act, debeaking of poultry, and forced rapid growth
problems in broiler chickens and turkeys,” Davis recalled.
The participants agreed to meet again in May 2002, according
to Davis, but this year “the USDA declined to meet with all of us,
and would meet only with ARI president Peter Singer.”
Singer asked USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory
programs Bill Hawks, as supervisor of the federal school lunch
program, to buy only eggs from hens who are not subjected to forced
Hawks refused.
“My overall impression was decidedly negative,” Singer
reported. “This administration is interested in the welfare of
producers, not animals.”

Ducks & horses

The British group Vegetarians International Voice for
Animals, better known as Viva!, is also focusing on supermarkets,
at least in the U.S.–but while PETA has a campaign staff of close to
100 paid employees at any given time plus an international network of
volunteers, the sole Viva! U.S. staff member is Lauren Ornelas,
formerly of Atlanta and now living in Davis, California.
Instead of targeting the biggest companies in retail meat
marketing, and the most purchased animal products, Ornelas has for
two years been dogging the fast-growing duck industry, with
increasing success. Small retailers including Earth Fare,
Huckleberry’s Fresh Market, Whole Foods Inc., Trader Joe’s, and
Wild Oats have all stopped selling ducks from the factory-style
facilities operated by Grimaud Farms, Woodland Farms, and Maple
Leaf Farms (the owner of Woodland), according to Ornelas.
The Viva! campaign may be keeping duck meat from crossing
over from the specialty markets into the major chains.
Likewise hitting a vulnerable meat specialty, a
British-funded Polish chapter of Viva! with three fulltime staff
claims to have begun 43 local groups to try to stop the export of
horses to slaughter in Bari, Italy, after enduring hauls lasting 90
to 95 hours by truck. Much of the meat is consumed within Italy;
some is sold to France, Belgium, and Japan.
Also a regional campaign focus of Compassion in World Farming
and the Anglo/German group Animals Angels, the horsemeat traffic
boomed during the “mad cow disease” and hoof-and-mouth disease scares
of recent years, which cut deeply into European beef consumption,
and coincided with the increasing mechanization of agriculture and
transportation in rural eastern Europe, a decade after the collapse
of Communism.
About 100,000 horses were exported from Poland to Italy in
2001, according to Maja Czarneczka of Agence France-Presse.
In March 2002, after 20 airings of a Viva! television
advertisement using video of horses in distress en route to Italy,
an opinion poll commissioned by Viva! reported that 40% of the Polish
people had heard of the campaign on behalf of the horses, and 73%
were opposed to exporting live horses for slaughter.
Branching away from food issues, Viva! is planning an
international day of protest on August 31 against the use of kangaroo
leather in athletic shoes.
Positioning Viva! as a people-friendly alternative to PETA,
Viva! founder Juliet Gellatley in April 2002 announced the debut of
the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation, a “health charity formed to
provide reputable science-based information to the media and public
on research linking degenerative diseases to diet.”
Viva! itself, founded in 1995, will continue “campaigning
against the cruelty of livestock farming and its impact on the
environment and the developing world.”
VVF will be to Viva! more-or-less as the affiliated but
officially independent Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
is to PETA. The first VVF project was publication of a 68-page
report called Safeguarding Children’s Health: Defeating Disease
Through Vegetarian/Vegan Diets, downloadable at

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