How to move the earth to help farmed animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:

“Give me a lever and a place to stand,”
the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes
reputedly said, “and I shall move the earth.”
His premise affords a metaphor for how
animal advocates sometimes manage to motivate
animal use industries to change-and an
explanation of why some seemingly promising
efforts fail.
As large and influential as some of the
biggest animal advocacy organizations appear to
be from within the cause, the budgets and assets
of the entire cause, worldwide, are still
substantially less than those of supermarkets in
any major U.S. metropolitan area. Graphing the
economic magnitude of animal advocacy compared to
that of agribusiness is much like trying to graph
the size of the earth in proportion to the rest
of the solar system.


Yet animal advocates time and again do
influence animal use industries, including
aspects of agribusiness, by finding a good lever
and a strategic place to stand. The lever needs
to be an issue so compelling that mainstream
public opinion is motivated to help press it.
The place to stand needs to be widely recognized
as an ethical position. The fulcrum that gives
the lever force must be a practical and plausible
alternative, such as a different product or a
less abusive practice. The larger and more
resistant the institution or industry is to
change, the greater the swing in public opinion
must be to compel change. Achieving large swings
in public opinion requires presenting a clear
difference between what is to be changed and the
more humane alternative.
Translating metaphor into real-life
example, ANIMAL PEOPLE in November/December 2010
described the debut of Global Animal Partnership,
an outgrowth of an earlier animal product
certification program developed by Whole Foods
Markets. In our January/February 2011 edition,
GAP executive director Miyun Park and the
founders of three earlier animal product
certification programs squared off in debate.
There were actually only two other participants
in the debate, Animal Welfare Institute director
Cathy Liss and Humane Farm Animal Care founder
Adele Douglass, but Douglass earlier founded the
American Humane Certified program run by the
American Humane Association. Douglass left the
AHA three years later when she felt it had been
co-opted by increased agribusiness influence on
the AHA board of directors-a trend ANIMAL PEOPLE
warned against in our May 2000 editorial, “Got
sacred cows?”
Altogether, there are now at least 26
animal product certification programs operating
in the U.S., and several more abroad. Most are
under the direction of the particular branches of
agribusiness that they serve. Within the U.S.,
only the GAP, AWI, HFAC, and AHA programs are
operated by organizations which claim
independence from agribusiness. There are major
structural differences among them. Perhaps most
notably, the Animal Welfare Approved program
begun by AWI admits only family-owned farms. The
GAP program uses a controversial five-step
evaluation system, rather than the pass/fail
approach of the others. There are also
significant differences among the animal welfare
standards advocated by GAP, AWI, HFAC, and
the AHA.
Because industries under pressure to
change usually seek to avoid changing, the
leverage actually applied by industry-controlled
animal product certification programs is
practically invisible, if it exists at all.
How much leverage is exercised by the
certification programs operated by humane
organizations is largely determined by their own
strategic positioning. To be positively
influential, each must find what the directors
believe to be the appropriate balance of
considerations, and then attract enough public
support to encourage producers of animal products
to change their methods and join the programs. A
program that stands too close to agribusiness may
attract considerable industry participation, yet
have no real influence. A program that attempts
to apply leverage from a fulcrum that is too far
removed from most of the industry may never
generate the force needed to move the greater
mass.
A convenient example of flunking the
“physical science” of animal welfare advocacy
comes, amid the U.S. debate, from the Animal
Welfare Board of India.
AWBI under the current chair, retired
General Rammehar Kharb, has become perhaps more
effective than ever before, promulgating and
enforcing standards for operating animal birth
control programs, moving aggressively to
eradicate rabies, and disbarring corrupt member
societies. Kharb in January 2011 received one of
the first lifetime achievement awards presented
by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection
Organizations, founded with his encouragement in
2007 as an independent umbrella through which,
among other functions, animal welfare societies
may lobby and monitor the performance of the AWBI.
But someone at the AWBI goofed big-time
in securing sponsorships for the newspaper ads
promoting Animal Welfare Fortnight 2011. This
annual event is the Indian equivalent of Be Kind
to Animals Week, promoted by the AHA each year
since 1915.
While practically everyone who is anyone
within AWBI was preoccupied with the first-ever
FIAPO conference, at least 11 leading Indian
newspapers published an Animal Welfare Fortnight
ad prominently bearing the name and web address
of the Council for Leather Exports.
To understand the magnitude of this
mistake requires understanding that slaughtering
cattle is illegal in most of India, and is
rarely done in licensed, regulated, and
inspected slaughterhouses. Devout Hindus are
only allowed to wear or use leather from cattle
who have died naturally. Elsewhere in the
world, the most valuable part of a cattle
carcass, by far, is beef. The hide value is
relatively slight. But because selling beef is
prohibited in much of India, and is culturally
discouraged even where it is legal, the hide
value of cattle in India is often greater than
the meat value. Dairy farmers consequently often
sell unwanted cattle (mainly old cows and young
males) to drovers who may truck them the length
of India to slaughter, with few if any
provisions for the animals’ welfare; or they may
simply starve cattle to death, forgoing the
minimal meat value to sell the hides.
Unfortunately, the practice of
deliberately allowing cattle to die “naturally”
by starvation are also common among the
frequently corrupt operators of cattle shelters,
called gaushalas and pinjarapoles.
The abuses within the Indian leather
trade have been extensively documented, time and
again, for at least 80 years. The AWBI itself
was formed in part to address these abuses. The
Council for Leather Exports was created as a
voice for the Indian leather industry in response
to appeals issued by Indian animal welfare
organizations and a PETA-led global boycott of
Indian leather goods.
Responded AWBI spokesperson Anjali
Sharma, as dismay over the ads erupted from
FIAPO members, “So AWBI allowed the Council for
Leather Exports to fund the campaign-why not?
Let some of their money be put to good use. I am
told that the endeavor is going to get the
Council for Leather Exports to endorse better
policies, procedures, etc. At least that will
be a beginning.”
Countered Poorva Joshipura of PETA-India,
“We attempted to work with the CLE for many
years. Our experience with the CLE is that they
are eager to give the misleading impression that
they have a genuine interest in improving animal
welfare. It is our guess that the CLE may be
showing the AWBI advertisement to potential
buyers of leather from India to make it seem like
they are doing their bit to help animals, while
animals used for leather continue to be
transported by vehicles so overcrowded their
bones often snap, and continue to be killed with
dull knives, typically in full view of one
another. By the CLE joining with AWBI in putting
out an advertisement, the general public may get
the incorrect idea that the treatment of animals
by the Indian leather industry has AWBI’s full
seal of approval, which could lead to people
buying [more] leather.”
Asked Mini Vasudevan of the Humane Animal
Society in Coimbatore, “Would AWBI also accept
if slaughterhouses and illegal pet shop owners
asked to fund a campaign?”
Echoed Bangalore activist Gopi Shankar,
“If a major poultry producer came forward to
donate toward running ad campaigns without moving
a finger to alleviate the suffering of chickens,
would we accept that sort of blood money?
Instead of sponsoring ads,” Shankar suggested,
“CLE should at least take some small incremental
steps toward reforming the cruel practices of the
leather industry.”
Almost unanimously the first concern of
critics of the CLE sponsorship was that it would
in effect cut off humane leverage against the
cattle breeding, sale, transport, slaughter,
and leather industries, by wrongly conveying to
the public the message that the AWBI and CLE had
reconciled their differences, and now stand
together.

Backsliding since 1935

The back cover of the January 1935
edition of the National Humane Review, published
by the American Humane Association, editorially
warned against factory egg farms, then just
beginning to gain significant market share. The
National Humane Review identified “high-pressure
production of eggs as detrimental,” noted “high
mortality among laying hens attributed to burning
up vitality in artificially forced production,”
mentioned the ill effects of “electric lights to
make a longer working day in the chicken coop,”
denounced the view that “the hen is a machine in
which raw material is regularly converted into
finished products,” and lamented the outcome
that “Overtrained, overfed hens do their level
best to deliver the goods, and then collapse.”
The word “overtrained” was apparently used in the
sense that is applied to “training” a bonzai tree.
More than half of the American Humane
Certified producers as of July 2010 produced
eggs. But long recognition of the relevant
animal welfare issues has not caused the AHA to
leverage better conditions for laying hens.
Indeed United Poultry Concerns founder Karen
Davis in July 2010 denounced the AHA as “a bogus
animal welfare group that fronts for
agribusiness,” for routinely taking positions
which appear to ignore many of the points that it
recognized 75 years earlier.
For example, California voters in
November 2008 approved Proposition Two, an
initiative requiring that by 2015 whole eggs sold
within the state must come from hens who are able
to stand up, turn around, and fully extend
their limbs. To most animal advocates, this
means birds who are cage-free, though it is
possible for birds to be physically comfortable
in spacious cages with perches and nest boxes.
But in June 2010 the AHA authorized the egg
producer J.S. West, of Modesto, California, to
use the American Humane Certified logo, after
West replaced conventional battery caging with
“enriched” cages like those that must be used in
the European Union by 2012. In effect, the AHA
agreed with West that Proposition Two allows
laying hens to be caged, if the hens get the
equivalent of one and a half sheets of paper to
stand on apiece, instead of less than one.
With the AHA reading of Proposition Two
expected to land in court, Humane Society of the
U.S. factory farming campaign senior director
Paul Shapiro and Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur
on January 18, 2011 introduced an initiative
petition seeking to pass a similar ballot measure
in Washington state.
Attempting to counter the initiative
effort, six pro-agribusiness Washington state
senators on February 4, 2011 introduced SB 4487,
a bill which would require that “Any new cage
system installed between January 1, 2012, and
July 1, 2018, must have achieved American Humane
Association approval as an enriched colony
housing system under the approval guidelines in
existence on January 1, 2011, or be capable of
modification to achieve such approval.”
In other words, the AHA name is invoked
in support of a proposal which would require only
that new egg barns must have cage shelving which,
if holding conventional battery cages, could
hold “enriched” cages instead.
The AHA began visibly fronting for the
conventional egg industry in March 2008, two
years after the industry organization United Egg
Producers was to have quit using an “Animal Care
Certified” label on egg boxes that the U.S.
Federal Trade Commission held was misleading.
The FTC ruled in response to complaints brought
by Compassion Over Killing, cofounded by Shapiro
and Miyun Park, now with GAP.
The AHA and United Egg Producers agreed,
according to a jointly issued press release,
that “an egg farmer who passes the American
Humane Certified audit, pays the fees and is a
member in good standing with the UEP Certified
Program and meets the UEP guidelines on 100% of
their egg production, can then use the UEP
Certified logo and market those eggs as UEP
Certified in addition to marketing them as
American Humane Certified, using the American
Humane Certified logo.” A charitable
interpretation of the deal would be that the AHA
partnered with United Egg Producers to gain
positioning through which to improve egg industry
standards.
In effect, though, the AHA gave cover
to United Egg Producers: instead of the industry
program being discredited, the UEP and American
Humane Certified logos began appearing side by
side, creating the impression of equivalency and
blurring whatever distinction might be made
between what the two organizations stand for.
Along the way, the AHA in September 2010
approved killing chickens by decompression.
“Decompression is unacceptable for
euthanasia,” according to the American
Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines on
Euthanasia. Introduced by the AHA to kill dogs
and cats in 1950, decompression has not been
used in the U.S. to kill shelter animals since
1985, is banned for use on dogs and cats in 24
states, and is banned for use in killing any
animals in 12 states.
The AHA, alone among recognized humane
societies, also participated in the January 2010
“Summit for the horse” in Las Vegas, convened by
ranchers whose interests include clearing horses
from the western range, resuming horse slaughter
to export meat for human consumption, and
selling wild horses to slaughter.
Current AHA chief executive Robin Ganzert
took office in August 2010 with a statement
distancing the AHA from “extreme ideas purported
by those who argue thatŠpeople have no right to
raise animals for food.” But there is no longer
distance enough between AHA positions and those
of some of the most reactionary elements in
agribusiness for ANIMAL PEOPLE to perceive the
AHA as seeking to leverage any positive change on
behalf of farm animals.

GAP & leverage

The risk of standing too close to
agribusiness to effectively leverage change was
apparent from the beginning of GAP, founded by
Whole Foods Markets empire builder John Mackey.
Aware that the role of a retail meat marketer as
incubator for GAP might compromise perceptions of
GAP, Mackey recruited an all-star cast of animal
welfare advocates to serve on the GAP board,
balanced by an almost equal number of people
associated with Whole Foods and Whole Foods
suppliers. Mackey hired Miyun Park to preside
over the public debut of the organization, and
even retired as chair of the Whole Foods board of
directors.
None of this, however, quelled
criticisms that the GAP five-step accreditation
system serves the interests of agribusiness by
setting the standards for accreditation at the
lowest steps so low that almost any producer
meeting the requirements of the industry
certification systems can gain the GAP
imprimatur. Once admitted to the GAP program at
Step One or Step Two, no mechanism requires
producers to make improvements to rise to the
levels of animal welfare required by HFAC’s
Certified Humane and AWI’s Animal Welfare
Approved labeling programs.
In theory, GAP enables consumers to vote
for higher animal welfare by paying higher prices
for animal products certified at the higher
steps. In practice-with the notoriously pricey
Whole Foods chain offering a possible
exception-consumers tend to buy whatever costs
least within the range of comparable products,
and that would include products labeled “humane.”
This suggests that producers who enter the GAP
program at Step One or Step Two may find the most
incentive to stay where they are.
GAP is still in an early phase, and in
response to criticism to the original set of
standards has promised a major revision at an
unspecified date. A February 1, 2011 relaunch
of the GAP web site meanwhile cited participation
by 1,191 animal producers, more than participate
in any of the other non-industry programs. GAP’s
own statistics demonstrated that their
participating producers are clustered
overwhelmingly at the lower end of the GAP
standards. 81% of the meat chicken producers and
85% of the pig producers are at GAP steps one and
two. Including beef cattle producers, 72% of
all GAP-certified producers are at the lowest
steps-and these appear to be those who raise the
most animals.
If GAP is to become meaningful for farm
animal welfare, it needs to demonstrate that it
stands apart enough from agribusiness to leverage
real improvement. Just slapping a seal of
approval on practices that differ little from the
agribusiness status quo does not meet the test of
moving the earth.

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