Editorial feature: “Zero grazing” vs. the Five Freedoms

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)
Few animal advocates doubt these days
that the use and misuse of more than 47 billion
farmed animals worldwide is the most urgent and
critical issue before us. Whether one favors
ushering humanity toward vegetarianism or
veganism, or only more nuanced efforts to reduce
and mitigate animal suffering in husbandry and
slaughter, animal agriculture involves many
times more animals and more misery than all other
human activities combined.
Indeed, from a third to half of all the
birds in the world are factory-farmed chickens.
Farmed mammals far outnumber all companion
animals and probably all wildlife larger than a
dog. Even the highest estimates of the numbers
of animals used in laboratories per year appear
to be lower than the volume of animals
slaughtered for human consumption on most days of
the week.

Farm animal welfare has also become a
priority for consumers, voters, governments,
and even agribusiness itself. Probably the most
significant achievement of animal advocacy,
recently or ever, is that animal product
marketers now feel compelled to use terms such as
“cage free” and “free range” in their advertising
and on product labels, and that most major U.S.
supermarkets now stock vegetarian and vegan
products, from block tofu to whole
heat-and-serve meatless meals.
Competing animal welfare certifications
appear in almost every supermarket refrigerator
or egg case, along misleading labels offered by
companies who are unwilling to change their
methods, yet recognize the importance to the
public of at least appearing to be humane.
Some agribusiness front groups continue
to resist almost every effort to improve farm
animal well-being, even in areas such as disease
control, where better welfare means bigger
profits. Yet few agribusiness executives today,
even those trying to obstruct or evade
legislation to help farm animals, do not at
least pay lip service to the ideal of better farm
animal welfare.
Widespread concern about the care of
farmed animals is of relatively recent origin.
Despite a short-lived flurry after Ruth Harrison
published Animal Machines in 1964, farmed animal
welfare was almost absent from mainstream humane
literature for most of the 20th century. Peter
Singer to some extent directed attention to the
treatment of farmed animals in Animal Liberation,
the 1976 book credited with sparking the animal
rights movement, but the first animal rights
organizations that focused entirely on farmed
animals–the Coaliton for Nonviolent Food, Farm
Animal Reform Movement, Humane Farming
Association, Farm Sanctuary, and United Poultry
Concerns–all struggled for nearly two decades in
the shadows of organizations focused on
vivisection, animal use in entertainment, and
other campaigns that do not tend to go so far
inside the average person’s comfort zone as
discussions of diet.
Arguably the most influential person in
humane work worldwide in the mid-20th century was
Eric Hansen, who at various times headed the
Humane Society of Missouri, the American Humane
Association, and the Massachusetts SPCA, which
were then three of the five largest humane
societies worldwide. Hansen saw farm animal
welfare as a priority, unlike most of his
contemporaries, but from an inverse perspective.
Hansen believed, before the rise of factory
farming, that the attention to animal welfare
offered on the best small family farms of his era
could become a model for responsible pet care,
and for improving the care of animals in zoos and
Hansen had some reason to think so.
Despite the certainty of slaughter at an early
age, most farmed animals in the mid-20th century
got a great deal more fresh air, sunshine, and
outdoor exercise than laboratory and zoo animals.
Even in the U.S., many dogs and most cats still
foraged and hunted on their own for most of their
food, were not allowed indoors, and never
received veterinary care.
Hansen at the MSPCA dismantled the
financially struggling Bands of Mercy, begun by
MSPCA founder George Angell to promote humane
education, and the Jack London Clubs, begun by
Angell’s successor Francis Rowley as proto-animal
rights groups, which mobilized teens to seek
abolition of abuses including dogfighting and
animal use in circuses. In place of sponsoring
national youth organizations directed by the
MSPCA through the subsidiary American Humane
Education Society, Hansen forged alliances with
the 4-H Clubs and Future Farmers of America. A
model farm at the then-MSPCA headquarters taught
what was then considered best practice animal
husbandry, including the slaughter methods later
institutionalized nationally by the Humane
Slaughter Act of 1958.
Hansen was aware of the many routine
cruelties commonly practiced on small traditional
farms, but believed that the influence of humane
societies aligned with farmers could introduce
gentler methods. By the end of Hansen’s MSPCA
tenure, however, small traditional farms were
already fast disappearing, and whatever
possibilities might have evolved as result of
Hansen’s alliances with 4-H and the FFA were lost.
A Hansen initiative of more enduring
success was the 1959 formation of the
International Society for the Protection of
Animals. Initially an MSPCA subsidiary, ISPA
was in 1981 merged with the World Federation for
the Protection of Animals, which had been
founded in 1953 as a project of the Royal SPCA of
Great Britain, and became the World Society for
the Protection of Animals.
The World Federation was formed to help
rebuild humane societies in western Europe after
World War II. Later it sponsored national humane
societies in developing nations which had been
spun off from the British empire.
By the time WSPA came into being, both
founding partner organizations had already often
worked in the same places as the livestock gift
charities now known as Heifer International,
based in the U.S., and Send A Cow, an allied
charity based in Britain.
Heifer International and Send A Cow were
begun to rebuild animal agriculture in western
Europe after World War II. They too expanded
into the developing world after western Europe
recovered. The Heifer International and Save A
Cow founders, like Hansen, believed in the
small traditional farms of the mid-20th century
U.S. and rural Britain as role models. As in the
U.S. and rural Britain, however, that model
proved unsustainable. Where Heifer and Send A
Cow have succeeded in introducing or
reintroducing animal husbandry, as in western
Europe, increased animal production has helped
to reduce prices and stoke demand for animal
products, until the cycle ends with small farms
being swallowed up by factory farms which are
capable of producing many times more animals, at
less cost in human labor.
Elsewhere, in nations where the full
cycle has not yet occurred, stimulating animal
husbandry has often merely depleted soil and
water. The July/August 2010 ANIMAL PEOPLE
editorial, for instance, detailed how the
effects of doubling livestock production in only
10 years destroyed topsoil and water holding
capacity across much of Pakistan, contributing
to catastrophic floods.
Animal welfare guidelines
Even where encouraging animal husbandry
has not yet brought either factory farming or
eco-disaster, gift livestock recipients who sell
the offspring of successful breeding programs to
friends and neighbors (who may not have recived
Heifer or Send A Cow training) have often
produced neighborhood animal welfare
catastrophes, a tendency ANIMAL PEOPLE examined
in May 2003 and January/February 2007.
Under criticism, Heifer International
eventually adopted a set of “Animal Well-Being
Guidelines,” introduced as part of all
Heifer-sponsored projects. The seven focal
points include:

* Giving preference to purchasing
animals who are already acclimatized to the area.
* Providing full training to farmers
before they receive any livestock.
* Using appropriate shelter and separate
pens for animals of different species.
* Teaching zero grazing techniques,
which enhances animal health and ensures
that adequate food and water are provided.
* Emphasizing nutrition, including
providing clean water at least twice a day,
* Encouraging indigenous breeds.
* Providing project participants with all initial vaccinations.

Most of these guidelines are only the
basics of animal care in any captive context,
but Heifer International defines “zero grazing”
as “keeping livestock in an enclosed, shaded
area and carrying fodder and water to them,
instead of letting them wander in the open where
they are more likely to catch diseases or damage
the environment.”
Simply translated, “zero grazing” is
raising animals in close confinement–the basis
of factory farming. Though Heifer International
works at the village and family level, and does
not undertake corporate-scale developments, the
“zero grazing” approach is in effect cultural
preparation for accepting factory farming when
corporate investors take over the markets that
Heifer helps to create.
Of course Heifer International resists
recognizing the “zero grazing” policy as a
precursor to factory farming. Instead, Heifer
International touts it as part of “agroecology,”
defined as “the sustainable use and management of
natural resources, accomplished by using social,
cultural, economic, political and ecological
methods that work together to achieve sustainable
agriculture production.” Heifer International
emphasizes that animals kept in “zero grazing”
systems are not overgrazing pastures and eroding
hillsides with their hooves–but cultivating the
same erosion-vulnerable land to produce
high-yield fodder crops has the same net effect,
or worse.
Further, instead of grazing animals
distributing dung fertilizer wherever they
wander, to replenish the topsoil, confined
animals leave dung where it is easily collected
and sold, or burned for fuel. The net
effect–unless the farmers buy chemical
fertilizer to rebuild the nitrogen and other
nutrient content of their topsoil, and grow and
plow under “green manure” crops such as winter
wheat–can be more loss of productive land.
Send A Cow adopted the same animal care
guidelines as Heifer International, plus the
Five Freedoms:

* Freedom from hunger and thirst: by
ready access to fresh water and a diet to
maintain full health and vigour.
* Freedom from discomfort: by providing
an appropriate environment including shelter and
a comfortable resting area.
* Freedom from pain, injury and
disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and
* Freedom from fear and distress: by
ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid
mental suffering.
* Freedom to express normal behavior:
by providing sufficient space, proper facilities
and company of animals’ own kind.

Heifer International does not promote the
Five Freedoms, which were first articulated in
1967 by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory
Committee, formed by the British government in
response to Animal Machines. This committee in
1979 became the present Farm Animal Welfare
Though not codified into international
law as such, the Five Freedoms are the
foundation concept behind the Council of Europe’s
Convention for the Protection of Animals During
International Transport (1968), Convention for
the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming
Purposes (1976), and Convention for the
Protection of Animals for Slaughter (1979).
Portions of these conventions have now been
enacted in binding form by the European Union.
A succession of individuals and
organizations have since 1924 sought the adoption
by first the League of Nations and later by other
bodies a document which has in many amended
forms, been variously called An Animals’ Bill of
Rights, A Declaration of Animal Rights, an
International Animals Charter, and A Charter of
Rights for Animals. WSPA in June 2000 introduced
the current version as the Universal Declaration
on Animal Welfare, hoping that it might
eventually win adoption into international law by
the United Nations.
Earlier versions had addressed various
abuses of farmed animals, but the June 2000
Universal Declaration was the first to pay
explicit attention to factory farming, albeit in
just one sentence: “Animals raised under the
control of humans or taken into captivity by
humans should be afforded the provisions of the
basic Five Freedoms.”
This one passage in the WSPA version of
the Universal Declaration is to date the apparent
whole of WSPA policy pertaining to the use of
animals for food. Yet WSPA–like the rest of the
animal advocacy cause–has become increasingly
active on behalf of farmed animals. WSPA
representatives have prominently lobbied for the
European Union farmed animal welfare
requirements, and for legislation that would
improve the lives and ease the deaths of farmed
animals in many other venues.
WSPA is scarcely unique in lacking a
comprehensive policy delineating what it
institutionally believes about farmed animals or
the use of animals for food, and what it seeks
to do on behalf of these animals. Few animal
welfare organizations have comprehensive farmed
animal policies.
Partly this may be a matter of oversight:
until farmed animal welfare became a focal issue,
such policy statements were seldom needed.
Animal advocacy organizations may also wish to
avoid possibly alienating meat-eating donors,
and to avoid becoming marginalized by animal use
industry attacks on a vegetarian or vegan policy
as “extremist.”
Yet global public opinion may be racing
ahead of animal advocacy strategists.
Vegetarianism is now relatively well understood
in much of the world. The concept of veganism is
recognized in Europe and North America.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has editorialized since our
very first edition in 1992 that pro-animal
organizations should be forthrightly vegetarian
in their food presentations at public events,
and should as a matter of policy favor an end to
animal slaughter.
We recognize, however, that even today
many pro-animal organizations may remain
reluctant–for cultural, strategic, and
economic reasons–to define themselves as
advocating for vegetarianism. We further
understand that for organizations which set
standards for animal husbandry–such as
Compassion In World Farming, the Royal SPCA of
Great Britain, Humane Farm Animal Care, the
American Humane Association, and the Animal
Welfare Institute–adopting a pro-vegetarian
policy could be self-defeating. As a matter of
strategy, organizations seeking to improve the
well-being of farmed animals here and now are
more-or-less obligated to operate as trusted
allies of animal producers, whose certifications
help producers using methods less onerous for
animals to take market share from the rest.
Even as the longterm goal of animal
advocacy should be to end the exploitation of
farmed animals, reducing the sum of misery
resulting from animal husbandry also requires
encouraging short-term efforts such as
fulfillment of the Five Freedoms.
With that concession acknowledged,
ANIMAL PEOPLE believes that even if an animal
welfare organization promotes measures such as
the expansion of cage-free egg farms to replace
egg production from battery cage farms,
promoting the expansion of animal agriculture
itself is self-defeating. Moreover, promoting
animal agriculture is not what animal advocacy
donors support, nor is it what the public
Incoming American Humane Association
president Robin Ganzert, for example, went far
beyond necessity in declaring in her first public
statement that under her tenure, the AHA would
not be “accepting extreme ideas purported by
those who argue that..people have no right to
raise animals for food.” The directors of other
organizations that accredit “humane” production
methods have not felt a need to denounce animal
advocates who believe animals should not be
eaten–and agribusiness itself has for the most
part accepted vegetarians and vegans as a market
sector worth courting.
The global rise of concern about farmed
animal welfare has been produced by animal
advocates presenting a clear ethical challenge to
agribusiness, to which much of the otherwise
uninvolved public has responded in a positive
way, motivated by personal discomfort about food
choices. The effective message has been simply,
“This treatment of animals is unacceptable.”
The legislation scaring agribusiness into
accepting animal welfare reforms has defined what
animals must be able to do–such as stand, turn
around, and stretch–while leaving the
development of techniques that meet the test of
public acceptability mostly up to those who use
The success of this approach is
illustrated, ironically, by the debate
spotlighted in the July/August 2010 edition of
ANIMAL PEOPLE between the Humane Farming
Association and the Humane Society of the U.S.
over the concessions made by agribusiness
representatives to avoid having an initiative
similar to one passed in 2008 by California
voters on the November 2010 Ohio state ballot.
Not so very long ago leading animal advocacy
strategists questioned whether political
mobilization on behalf of farmed animals could
even be done. Now the strategic question is
whether the mobilizers are driving the best
possible bargain against an industry which
clearly wants to minimize public exposure.

WSPA & Heifer International

Concern about farmed animal welfare has
evolved parallel to increasing recognition of the
ecological consequences of intensive animal
husbandry, including soil erosion, water
pollution, and global warming. Much of the
public is now at least vaguely aware of
ecological arguments against further expansion of
animal agriculture. Thus the time is now for
animal advocacy organizations to press the case,
especially in the wake of major news events such
as nationwide outbreaks of salmonella poisoning
and natural disasters which have been made hugely
worse by inappropriate animal husbandry.
And thus two recent WSPA media releases
have stirred considerable discussion,
consternation, and feelings of betrayal among
some animal advocates.
Neither release appeared to represent an
intentional WSPA policy statement. Neither was
even seen by WSPA director general Mike Baker
prior to distribution. Reflecting a shift away
from top-down management under Baker, who became
director general in mid-2009, both press
releases were authored and distributed by U.S.
interim executive director Silia Smith, who has
long headed the WSPA Canadian office. Neither
media release attracted much media notice. Both,
however, were soon widely forwarded by animal
The first media release, issued on
August 23, 2010, was distributed by
PRNewswire-USNewswire, and was archived at
NewsLibrary, but was apparently not picked up by
any mainstream periodicals.
Began the release, “Joining more than
2.2 million people and organizations worldwide,
Heifer International today signed on to support
the WSPA ‘Animals Matter to Me’ campaign–a
movement to encourage changes in policies and
legislation to improve animal welfare worldwide.”
What exactly that meant was not clearly
explained. Clarified WSPA U.S. communications
manager Laura C. Flannery almost a week later,
“This means that Heifer signed the following
declaration (there was no funding or pledge for
funding involved): A universal declaration for
animal welfare (UDAW) is crucial to achieving
international recognition that animal welfare is
important, not only to animals, but also to the
people who care for them. By promoting better
living standards for animals, we are in fact
improving the lives of people. lf endorsed by
the United Nations, UDAW would become a set of
non-binding principles that would encourage
nations to put in place or, where they already
exist, improve animal welfare laws and
In other words, Heifer International
merely endorsed a statement which has already
been endorsed by numerous other organizations.
Few of the others, if any, rated a WSPA media
release. Acknowledged Flannery, “We worked
directly with Heifer’s communications department
to develop and approve this press release.” Thus
Heifer International saw the release in advance,
though Baker did not see it at all, he said,
until ANIMAL PEOPLE showed it to him two weeks
Heifer International did not issue their
own press release. Instead, the WSPA release
incorporated Heifer International talking points:
“The health and well-being of animals are
vital to our organization’s mission to help
people obtain sustainable food and income
sources,” said Terry Wollen, Interim Vice
President of Advocacy for Heifer International.
“For nearly 65 years, humane animal handling and
protection has been one of our cornerstone
principles and a vital part of our management and
training programs. Today, we proudly affirm to
that ideal by supporting WSPA’s ‘Animals Matter
to Me’ movement.”
Heifer, which recently ranked as one of
the top 10 most trusted nonprofits in America,
joins more than 266,000 people and 40
organizations in the U.S. –including the
American SPCA, the Humane Society of the United
States, and International Fund for Animal
Welfare to name a few–that have expressed their
support for WSPA’s campaign.
“We are thrilled that Heifer has joined
us in furthering the animal welfare movement,”
said Silia SmithÅ ”We’re confident that the
organization’s prestige and support will help us
reach our goals of changing existing policies and
legislation, as well as inspiring positive
attitudes toward animals in every corner of the
Added an afterword, “Heifer’s mission is
to end hunger and poverty while caring for the
Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has
provided livestock and environmentally sound
agricultural training to improve the lives of
those who struggle daily for reliable sources of
food and income.”
Even the most committed vegan
abolitionist may concede that Heifer
International is larger and wealthier than any
animal advocacy charity, and widely recognized
and respected, regardless of whether it deserves
to be. The Heifer International endorsement may
help to advance the Universal Declaration, which
if adopted by the United Nations as a covenant
similar to the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species may hugely benefit all
Accordingly, a press release announcing
the endorsement may have been warranted.
Endorsing the Heifer International
program, however, stepped well beyond
necessity–and, since Heifer International did
nothing similar to boost WSPA, went well beyond
the normal bounds of quid-pro-quo politics.
Asked ANIMAL PEOPLE, “Does WSPA perceive
a conflict of interest in partnering with an
organization whose mandate is expanding animal
Replied Flannery, reciting Heifer
publicity in evident ignorance or disregard of
the actual record, “Heifer’s mission is to work
with communities to end hunger and poverty and
care for the earth. As part of its animal
management and training program, Heifer teaches
several strictly-followed animal well-being
guidelines. Heifer’s consideration of animal
well-being is certainly in line with WSPA’s
‘Animals Matter to Me’ campaign and the UDAW
Technically one might be able to
reconcile the Heifer International requirement
that animals be watered twice a day, minimal
though that is, with the Five Freedoms
requirement of “ready access of fresh water.”
Technically one might argue that there
are examples of “zero grazing” husbandry that
satisfy the Five Freedoms by “ensuring conditions
and treatment which avoid mental suffering,” and
allowing “Freedom to express normal behavior.”
But despite the possibility of parsing
the rhetoric to discover exceptions, reality is
that Heifer International has from inception
existed to expand and encourage animal
agriculture. Reality is that “zero grazing”
means confinement. Reality is that the Five
Freedoms were drafted in the first place in
response to the growth of confinement husbandry.
Even in absence of a detailed WSPA policy
on animal agriculture, the longstanding WSPA
promotion of the Five Freedoms would appear to
preclude accepting the Heifer International
animal well-being guidelines as adequate.

Livestock & disaster

Had Smith and Flannery not so fulsomely
praised Heifer International on August 23, their
August 27, 2010 press release about the WSPA
role in Pakistan flood relief might have passed
without particular notice. Most of it paralleled
releases about previous disasters in which WSPA
partnered with local organizations, veterinary
universities, and government agencies to feed
stranded and starving livestock.
While animal advocates are certainly
willing to donate funds to aid suffering animals
of any kind in a disaster situation, leadership
of animal charities soliciting donations should
feel obliged to consider if these funds should be
used to support and sustain animal agriculture.
Often the net effect of aid to farm animals is
merely to keep animals alive and moving for a
little while longer so that farmers can sell them
to slaughter instead of suffering a total
financial loss by having the animals die under
conditions in which their meat cannot be
butchered and sold. Nonetheless, the animals
caught in disaster are suffering sentient beings,
and–if the circumstances are properly
managed–providing them some relief can help
animal advocacy to develop recognition and
The trick is to help the animals without
encouraging repetition and expansion of the
practices that put them in crisis.
The August 27 WSPA press release flunked that test.
“WSPA’s 30-year history treating animals
in disasters has shown that animals are crucial
to the recovery of the region,” wrote Smith,
apparently unaware that for 5,000 years the
people of the Indus River region have kept fewer
animals and eaten less meat than almost anyone
else in the world. “Agriculture, including
livestock, is the livelihood mainstay of nearly
90% of the flood-affected community in Pakistan’s
rural areas,” Smith continued. “These animals
are so important to the people of Pakistan. Your
gift will not only help the animals, it will
help their whole community recover too.”
In other words, according to Smith, the
WSPA intervention in Pakistan was undertaken
chiefly to rebuild animal agriculture, which was
largely responsible for causing the disaster. By
contrast, the Karachi-based news magazine South
Asia recognized the harmful effect of the recent
doubling of the regional livestock population by
reprinting most of the July/August ANIMAL PEOPLE
editorial about it, including the conclusion
that “The present calamity offers a chance to
promote a permanent downsizing of animal
“Pakistani livestock experts agree that
there are too many animals, though they are more
concerned with low productivity than high
populations,” affirmed Christian Science Monitor
staff writer Ben Arnoldy.
“We as professionals involved in the
livestock sector have always advocated decreasing
the number of livestock and increasing the
productivity,” agreed Lahore University of
Veterinary & Animal Sciences faculty member
Muhammad Abdullah.

WSPA’s strategic plan

WSPA director general Baker, a vegan,
is personally familiar with the Indus River
region from his previous service as chief
executive officer of the Brooke Hospital for
Animals. Acknowledging unfamiliarity with Heifer
International policies and history, Baker
personally assured ANIMAL PEOPLE that, “We
certainly do not want to encourage any expansion
of animal agriculture,” either in Pakistan or
anywhere else.
ANIMAL PEOPLE president Kim Bartlett
asked Baker if he would remove the August 23 and
August 27, 2010 media releases from the WSPA
website, to avoid conveying an erroneous
perception of the WSPA mission. Baker said he
would have to look into them first. At press
time both releases remain posted, without
subsequent clarification or amendment.
To ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton,
Baker pledged to investigate before WSPA does
anything further in partnership with Heifer.
Meanwhile, Baker delivered the most
comprehensive WSPA statement to date on issues
and strategies pertaining to animal agriculture
on September 7, 2010 at the Africa Animal
Welfare Action conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The case showing good economic models
for livestock that are also positive for animal
welfare is not as advanced as it is in areas such
as disaster management and working animals,”
Baker began. “This is something that WSPA is now
committed to changing. And there are concrete
examples of where good animal welfare can make a
difference to the economics of farming. For
example, more humane handling by farmers,
transporters and slaughtermen has been shown in
studies to reduce bruising by 15%. Bruising
costs the farming industry millions of dollars in
lost meat and improved humane handling can save
them millions. This has been shown in work in
both the US and Uruguay. The benefits of humane
slaughter can be great too, and not just for the
animal. This is something that we have worked
with industry and government on in both China and
“WSPA believes though,” Baker continued,
“that we need to make the case for humane
production above all. This is something we have
been discussing with HSUS, CIWF, RSPCA and
Eurogroup, among others and will be taking
forward, with a view to producing models that
demonstrate that animal welfare-friendly farming
is also people friendly.
“The positive models will vary from
region to region and animal to animal,” Baker
projected. “In fact they are more likely to be
positive principles with added concrete examples.
They may not yet be properly demonstrated and
fully articulated, but one thing is clear: the
alternative is the industrialization of the
farming industry.”

Poultry program

Baker cited as an example the Rural
Backyard Poultry Development program, introduced
by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic
Affairs in 2009 as an attempt to help local egg
producers keep their remaining 30% of the Indian
national egg market share, after losing 70% to
industrial poultry conglomerates. The program is
intended to help about 270,000 backyard egg
producers over the next five years with a variety
of technical and promotional assistance.
“This is an infinitely better and more
sustainable model than the battery hen route,”
Baker said, after giving a rather glowing and
garbled description of it, apparently based
chiefly on promotional literature from a company
involved in supplying breeding stock and
pharmaceuticals to the program. This same company
is also a major supplier to Indian industrial egg
The Rural Backyard Poultry Development
program is designed according to Gandhian
economic principles, though Mohandas Gandhi only
promoted vegetarian forms of agriculture and
cottage industry. It has been lampooned by
Indian media as the “Rural Backward Poultry
Development program,” who have noted the failure
of many past rural development programs based on
the Gandhian model, and appears to be widely
seen as a boondoggle meant to attract rural
political support for the present government,
while having little chance of success.
The goal of the program is to boost the
size of existing backyard flocks to the range of
“20 to 50 birds per [participating] family,”
which will be difficult to do in the cramped
confines of Indian village housing without
resorting to close caging. Even if backyard
flocks can be increased to that extent, the
effort is likely to increase the neighborhood
conflicts already resulting from poultry noises,
odors, traffic injuries to free-roaming birds,
egg thefts and bird-snatchings by dogs, and the
tendency of flocks to lure predators including
snakes, jackals, and leopards into villages.
Most likely, “success” would necessitate
moving “backyard” flocks beyond the present
village limits, into more-or-less conventional
poultry farms undertaken on a smaller scale. The
end fate of the birds would be essentially the
same as for any poultry, except that they might
be killed and sold closer to home.

Consumption & development

Baker’s larger point was that it is in
agriculture, especially in the developing world,
“more than anywhere [else] that our interests
overlap with development, and where we must
reach out and work to help both animals and
people. This will be a major priority for WSPA,”
Baker pledged. “We’re going to ramp up our
efforts from next year.”
This raises complex ethical issues.
If a particular approach to animal
agriculture, such as the Rural Backyard Poultry
Development program, really can reduce animal
suffering, in successful competition against
factory farming, this is a preferable choice,
but only within the limited sphere of recognizing
that human consumption of animal products
worldwide is not likely to end or even
substantially diminish at any time soon.
Animal advocacy has helped to achieve
reductions of consumption in the developed world
of some animal products produced by particularly
cruel methods, such as veal. Younger and better
educated Americans and Europeans are consuming
much less meat, fewer eggs, and less milk than
their elders.
Documenting the influence of exposure of
animal welfare issues on animal product
consumption in the U.S. since 1982, livestock
economists Glynn Tonsor of Kansas State
University and Nicole Olynk of Purdue University
reported on September 16, 2010 that “pork and
poultry demand increases over the last decade
would have been 2.65 percent and 5.01 percent
higher, respectively,” if not for the
increasing volume of exposes of abuses in factory
However, animal product consumption in
the developing world is continuing to rise at a
greater rate than gains against consumption are
made in the U.S. and Europe.
Exposure of abuses associated with
factory farming has rapidly increased in India
and China too, and has helped to build animal
advocacy in opposition to animal product
consumption, as well as against specific harmful
practices. However, most analysts within both
the livestock industry and animal advocacy
believe that animal product consumption in both
India and China is likely to continue to rise for
several years, at least, before the influence
of activism and ecological limiting factors such
as stress on topsoil and water catches up to the
factors pushing demand.
The trends in India and China probably
presage those of the rest of Asia, Africa, and
Latin America, where animal product consumption
is also fast rising, with animal advocacy on
farmed animal issues having barely begun and the
ecological limiting factors usually somewhat less
Nonetheless, despite recognizing the
need to eliminate animal suffering as much as
possible in the expanding animal industries of
the developing world, as well as in U.S. and
European agribusiness, eliminating human
consumption of animal products is the longterm
goal of animal rights advocates. This is the
only way to completely end animal suffering in
food production, and to raise the moral status
of animals across the spectrum of issues.
The bedrock issue for animal advocates in
promoting agricultural reform is to avoid
co-option of guiding principles–whether “animal
welfare” in nature or “animal rights”–and be
wary of alliances with animal use industries or
industry front groups that may cause them to lose
gains on behalf of animals that are already
favored by the public and within political reach.

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