April 9, 2014
Food Companies Respond to Consumer Demand and Investors' Concerns through Animal Welfare Policies
Food companies around the globe are understanding that better treatment of animals is good for business, as consumers oppose animal cruelty and are increasingly opting for higher welfare products. During a presentation at the VII Encuentro Latinoamericano de las Empresas Socialmente Responsables (VII Latin American Conference for Socially Responsible Companies), organized by el Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía (Cemefi), Humane Society International’s Deputy Director of Farm Animals, Elissa Lane, discussed how animal welfare has become a prominent corporate social responsibility issue in Latin America and throughout the world.
“The more consumers learn about animal abuse in the factory farming industry, the greater the calls for reform,” said Lane. “Investors also care about animal welfare. Images of animal cruelty can damage brand reputation and hurt a company financially.”
Lane highlighted a 2008 Citigroup report that warned against a number of potential headline risks that could “tarnish the image of restaurant companies, including concerns over animal cruelty…” She also mentioned the International Finance Corporation’s warning that “in the case of animal welfare, failure to keep pace with changing consumer expectations and market opportunities could put companies and their investors at a competitive disadvantage.”
Lane explained how dozens of companies in the food industry are improving animal welfare in their supply chains by committing to no longer purchasing eggs and pork from producers that confine the animals in controversial cages.
“Battery cages and gestation crates are becoming a thing of the past. Companies are using their purchasing power to create historic change in the way animals are treated in food production, while also responding to consumer and investor concerns,” said Lane.
Lane concluded by discussing how HSI will continue to work with food companies in Latin America and around the word to adopt cage-free corporate-social responsibility policies. She explained that these tangible corporate initiatives are creating a more humane production system, one that is more in harmony with consumer values and the way they believe animals should be treated.
- Tens of millions of egg-laying hens are confined for their whole lives in “battery cages,” so small that they cannot even fully stretch their wings.
- In the pig industry, most breeding sows are confined day and night for up to four years in “gestation crates,” which are barely larger than the animals’ bodies and prevent them from even turning around. Veterinarians, producers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists and consumers have criticized these cages for being inherently cruel.
- Major pig producers have committed to phasing out the use of gestation crates, including Smithfield Foods (co-owner of Granjas Carroll de México), the largest pig producer in the world and in Mexico, which has committed to being 100 percent crate-free globally by 2022.
- The European Union banned conventional battery cages for egg-laying hens and the continuous confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates in 2012.
- Numerous U.S. states have banned these practices, and Canada also recently announced restrictions on gestation crates.
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