When the company that sells roughly 25 percent of all groceries in this country makes a commitment to better farm animal welfare, it is a groundbreaking moment, and it sends ripples through the entire agriculture industry. That’s why it’s exciting that Wal-Mart has announced a broad new policy around the treatment of farm animals in their supply chain.
Integrating a commitment to the common-sense Five Freedoms, Wal-Mart calls for its suppliers to “find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns” around three specific issues: 1) the use of cages and crates that currently confine egg-laying hens, mother sows and calves; 2) painful and often unnecessary mutilations like tail docking, dehorning and castration; and 3) the slaughter of animals before they have been rendered unconscious.
This is a significant step by one of the most influential entities in the food industry, and should send a strong signal to companies that for both ethical or business reasons, ignoring farm animal suffering is no longer an option. In fact, Wal-Mart said its own research showed 77 percent of its shoppers would increase their trust in a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock. We commend Wal-Mart for taking steps to meet the public’s expectation that farm animals live decent lives. There is no more room on the supermarket shelf for farm animal suffering.
As the move to a more humane marketplace continues to gain momentum, we look forward to similar commitments from companies addressing the welfare of broiler chickens, who comprise 90 percent of the animals raised for food in this country.