The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, which is “designed to help drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world’s leading food businesses,” gave Wal-Mart the lowest possible rating for its performance on this issue. Out of six tiers, Wal-Mart landed at the bottom in Tier 6 because animal welfare is “not on [its] business agenda.”
The report that reached this conclusion, issued on February 25th, “presents the findings of an independent evaluation of around 70 leading food companies on their approach to managing and reporting on farm animal welfare issues.” As “the first global measure of animal welfare standards in food companies,” its publication reflects the growing attention to animal welfare in the food industry. Though its analysis is rigorous, the report does have an agenda: “to help drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world’s leading food businesses.”
Tiers 1-5 sorted companies by the following criteria: Tier 1, leadership in improving animal welfare; 2, the issue is “integral to business strategy”; 3, attention to animal welfare is “established” in the company but there remains work to be done; 4, “making progress on implementation”; and 5, animal welfare is “on the business agenda but [there is] limited evidence of implementation.” Wal-Mart couldn’t satisfy a single one of these measures.
Wal-Mart’s dismal showing does not surprise animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals (MFA). The organization’s website reports that it has “been touring the country, urging Walmart to phase out inhumane gestation crates — a factory farm practice so egregiously cruel that pigs can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably.” MFA’s demands are not unreasonable: “other major companies, such as Kroger, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Safeway, have all committed to end their business relationships with pork suppliers that insist on this horrible practice.”
Bob Barker narrates this sad expose of factory farms’ pig abuse (warning, the footage may be disturbing):
Video courtesy of Mercy for Animals
Click here for more information about “Walmart Cruelty.”
Wal-Mart claims that “it already offers ‘crate-free’ pork products in many U.S. stores and continues to work with suppliers to find ways to increase that number.” Towards this end it says it “will continue on-going discussions with our suppliers, NGOs and food safety experts to find ways to increase that number. We believe in offering our customers a choice.”
Paying companies to torture and brutalize animals should not be on anyone’s menu of choices.
The Business Benchmark report was not limited to the treatment of pigs. It focused more broadly on companies’ attitudes towards animal welfare generally. Criteria for rating companies included:
- Does the company acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue?
- Does the company publish an overarching corporate farm animal welfare policy (or equivalent)?
- Does the company have a clear position on the avoidance of close confinement and intensive systems for livestock (i.e. no sow stalls, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), feedlots, farrowing crates, single penning, battery cages, tethering, veal crates, and force feeding systems?
- Does the company have a clear position on the avoidance of routine mutilations (i.e. castration, teeth clipping, tail docking, toe clipping, dehorning, desnooding, de-winging, disbudding, mulesing, beak trimming)?
It is old news that Wal-Mart pushes out independent stores, pays suppliers so poorly that some are forced out of business, cheats its employees of overtime and other pay, discriminates against female employees, and otherwise is a wretched corporate citizen. Now we can add to the list that it is indifferent to the suffering of the animals whose chopped-up bodies it sells. No, it’s not a surprise, but it is shameful.
Photo: code poet/flickr