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July 24, 2013

Traveling for Farm Animals

Humane Society International

  • Elissa with some of her "constituents" in Brazil. HSI

Elissa Lane is deputy director of HSI's Farm Animals department. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, part of her job is to travel across Latin America speaking to stakeholders of all kinds about improving the welfare of animals raised for food in the region.

In Latin America, HSI's Farm Animals runs on-the-ground campaigns in Mexico, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Our goal is to get rid of some of the cruelest practices in industrialized animal agriculture. Specifically, we’re working to get pigs out of gestation crates and egg-laying hens out of battery cages.

Speaking with companies in Peru

I was really excited to head to Lima, Peru in April for the annual shareholder meeting of Arcos Dorados, one of several multinational companies we're working with. Arcos Dorados is the largest McDonalds franchisee in the world, and owns and runs all the McDonalds in 20 Latin American countries. In May 2012, McDonald’s announced a gestation crate-free policy for its U.S. supply chain.

At the meeting, I spoke about welfare issues with gestation crates and about more humane alternatives that already exist in the region, and urged the company to adopt a crate-free policy for Latin America as well.

Presenting at conferences in Brazil

At the end of May, I was off to my favorite country—Brazil. Every time I go back, I can see that more and more progress is being made. There is much more coverage on farm animal issues by the media, a growing number of local animal protection organizations are expanding their work to include farm animals, and more and more producers and food retailers are realizing that improved animal welfare is better for business.

On this trip, I was accompanied by HSI's Dr. Sara Shields, who spoke about the global trend towards improved animal welfare at the annual International Applied Ethology conference in Florianopolis. I also met some of the graduate students in animal welfare to whom HSI had provided scholarships to present at the conference and gave a presentation myself at an International Farm Animal Welfare Workshop that HSI co-sponsored in São Pedro.

Reaching the media in Mexico

My last stop was Mexico, where we brought together journalists from Mexico City and Xalapa to try to increase media attention to the issue of intensive confinement in the future. Many had no idea that animals are typically kept in small cages and crates, nor awareness of the other environmental and public health issues involved with factory farming, so it was really exciting to see them so engaged in learning more. To date, several have already published stories about the workshop and HSI’s campaign in Mexico.

Trips such as these support HSI's strategy of improving farm animal welfare through influencing corporate and public policy and doing education and media outreach. We’ll continue working with food retailers, government officials, producers, journalists and local organizations throughout the region towards more humane treatment of animals raised for food.

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