By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
We were nervous and excited as we gathered outside the Supreme Court of the United States on the morning of a day we won't ever forget, Oct. 11, 2022. The court was about to hear arguments about Proposition 12, a landmark law passed by California voters in 2018 to improve the treatment of pigs, calves and chickens raised for food and now being challenged by the pork industry. We had worked hard to pass the law.
As the hearing got underway, our apprehension gave way to pride. For over two hours, Proposition 12 was treated with sobriety and deep analysis. Not once was there a dismissal of the moral concern for animals, a win in itself. The ruling will likely come out sometime in the spring of 2023. In the meantime, we will continue to do the things that produced the massive vote for the Proposition 12 ballot measure in the first place: pressing for a higher standard of welfare for animals, helping to shape a future in which there isn’t a single pig, chicken or calf confined in a cage.
Even as the Supreme Court case loomed, we were fighting on other fronts for animals raised for food, in the U.S. and around the world. After a hard-fought campaign, Arizona became the tenth state to ban the sale and production of eggs from caged hens. We led this effort, a legislative campaign which guarantees that over 7 million egg-laying hens per year will never know the pain and suffering of being confined in a tiny cage.
At the federal level we pushed to move the needle, as well. The omnibus spending package for the federal government includes language urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund cage- and crate-free conversions, and permanently requires inspections of USDA-operated laboratories to ensure compliance with Animal Welfare Act standards.
Taking our efforts to the global arena, HSI joined partners at the United Nations’ annual conference on climate change (also known as COP27) to urge world leaders to take meaningful action to address the massive impact of animal agriculture on the climate. We presented our institutional plant-based partnership program in Latin America as a successful model of how governments can not only reduce climate emissions, but also give millions of schoolchildren access to more healthy, sustainable and plant-rich food. Importantly, HSI’s work with institutions to replace animal products with plant-based meals one day a week has resulted in saving nearly 500,000 animals annually. Scaling this 20% reduction to a global level to help countries increase their progress toward reaching climate goals would save millions more.
HSI also organized an international conference on pig welfare with the World Organization for Animal Health Collaborating Center for Chile, Uruguay and Mexico. The two-day hybrid event, which attracted more than 200 people from 19 countries, was a resounding success.
Here are some of the other ways we worked to make the world a more humane place for farmed animals in 2022.
Committing to improving conditions for animals on farms
One of the ways we shape a better world for pigs, chickens and calves is to secure commitments from corporations to change the treatment of animals in their supply chains. In the U.S., in 2022, our work produced these outcomes:
- Target became the first major grocery retailer to announce a “glide path” for achieving 100% cage-free eggs globally by 2025. We also pushed the company to update its animal welfare policy for pork. As of September 2022, 100% of its Good & Gather brand pork—which represents the majority of fresh pork requires periods of group housing for mother pigs, which substantially reduces the time these animals spend in isolated gestation crates.
- Sodexo—the second-largest food service company in the U.S.—agreed to shift to 100% group housing for mother pigs by 2024. Sodexo also committed that 42% of all its menu offerings at its U.S. university accounts will be fully plant-based by 2025.
- Rite-Aid announced it's no longer waiting until its 2025 deadline for reaching 100% cage-free eggs. The company will, instead, complete the transition by the end of 2022.
- The Cheesecake Factory accelerated its cage-free egg pledge: Instead of going 100% cage-free by 2025, the restaurant chain will instead reach that goal this year. The company also changed its pork commitment to mandate Proposition 12 standards be followed nationwide in its supply chain. Now The Cheesecake Factory will reach 75% Proposition 12-compliant pork nationally this year.
- General Mills made major progress shifting away from gestation crates. By the end of next year, nearly 100% of its pork will come from supply chains using group housing for mother pigs.
- Conagra Brands announced a plan to reach 100% gestation crate-free pork.
- CVS and Walgreens accelerated their cage-free transitions, both companies announcing that instead of reaching 100% cage-free in 2025, they’ll reach it by the end of this year.
- Denny's developed a plan for reaching 100% gestation crate-free pork.
- McDonald’s reached 75% cage-free eggs this year, on track to get to 100% cage-free by 2025.
- Fresh Ideas, a company serving academic institutions and other clients in nine states, made a historic announcement: by July 1, 2025, half of all its menu offerings—across all its accounts—will be plant-based. This was a pioneering first in the foodservice world.
- Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service provider, announced that 44% of its residential dining offerings at more than 250 colleges and universities will be plant-based by 2025.
- ISS Guckenheimer, a major food service company, adopted a history-making pledge, promising to make 55% of its menu options plant-based by 2025. This is the strongest commitment to date from any foodservice management company.
- Elior North America, over the next three years, will offer plant-based meals for half of their new menu concepts.
Internationally, too, we saw great progress toward a more humane future via HSI’s work to secure commitments from corporations, which included 35 new commitments from retailers, restaurants, hotels and producers to get rid of cages or crates for hens or sows. These include:
- 16 new commitments in Brazil, Canada, South Africa and Viet Nam to require that mother sows no longer be confined to crates so small they cannot take more than a step, and
- 19 commitments from national and multinational companies—food retailers, manufacturer and restaurants in Canada, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam—to adopt policies that end the confinement of hens to cages so small they are unable to spread their wings, walk or nest. This includes a global commitment from RIU Hotels and Resorts as well as the South Africa-based Spur Corp., one of Africa’s largest restaurant franchisors, with over 600 outlets across South Africa. These changes will improve the lives of the thousands of hens who lay the 18 million eggs the corporation serves annually.
HSI worked with some of the biggest multinational companies (including one of the largest baked goods manufacturers in the world) to begin implementing cage-free hen and crate-free pig commitments, and 12 companies, including restaurant chains in Brazil and retailers in Canada, Mexico, South Africa and Viet Nam, completed implementation of cage-free hen housing policies or instituted group housing policy for mother pigs. HSI worked with some of the biggest multinational companies (including one of the largest baked goods manufacturers in the world) to begin implementing cage-free hen and crate-free pig commitments.
HSI’s engagement with institutions such as universities, municipalities, schools, hotels and food service companies in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and the UK has resulted in commitments that once implemented will replace an estimated 15 million animal-based meals every year with plant-based meals as they reduce their procurement of animal products by at least 20%. By our estimates, these institutions will save nearly 500,000 animals every year.
- HSI planned and executed over 50 virtual or in-person plant-based culinary trainings for 930 chefs and cooks around the world. Our teams also held more than 21 virtual or in-person educational sessions on plant-based cooking, eating and nutrition, reaching more than 2,300 people working in schools including food service professionals, nutritionists, teachers, school coordinators, school directors and other employees.
- One standout achievement was our work in Brazil this year, where our teams secured and implemented commitments from four municipalities to transition 20% of all public-school meals to plant-based food—changing approximately 13.6 million meals and saving more than 400,000 animals.
Changing the lives of millions of animals requires sincere engagement with those who finance producers. That’s why HSI seeks to educate financial institutions on the implications of investing in antiquated production systems, like cages and crates. As a result, some of the biggest financial institutions have taken steps to effectively incentivize higher welfare and cage- and crate-free production in their lending and investing practices. Further, two ratings organizations added farm animal welfare to their environmental, social and governance considerations (ESGs).
Even a year’s worth of great achievements in protecting animals raised for food leaves a lot of animal suffering untouched, because of the scale of the cruelties involved. In recent years, however, we’ve seen steady growth in public awareness, greater corporate social responsibility engagement with our concerns in the U.S. and elsewhere, groundbreaking legislative achievements, and increased advocacy from animal protection societies across the globe.
The people working to create a world in which these animals are treated with dignity are some of the most devoted advocates and supporters, which never ceases to inspire. With this devotion, we are confident that the world is bound to become a better place for pigs, chickens, calves and other animals suffering in the agricultural sector. Thank you for being a part of this movement for change.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.