Vicky Bond: How Corporate Reform is Changing the Landscape for Animals

By ap­ply­ing pres­sure to meat-pro­duc­ing com­pa­nies, it’s pos­si­ble to score huge wins for farm an­i­mal welfare. Publi­cly visi­ble protests, di­rectly con­tact­ing cor­po­ra­tions en masse, and pass­ing leg­is­la­tion are all good meth­ods, and they work even bet­ter in con­cert. In this talk from EA Global 2018: Lon­don, Vicky Bond pro­vides an overview of strate­gies to achieve cor­po­rate re­forms for an­i­mals.

A tran­script of Vicky’s talk is be­low, which CEA has lightly ed­ited for clar­ity. You can also watch this talk on YouTube, or read the tran­script at effec­tivealtru­

The Talk

To­day, I’m gonna be pre­sent­ing on how cor­po­rate re­forms is chang­ing the land­scape for an­i­mals. But be­fore I do, I’m just gonna give you a lit­tle bit of back­ground about The Hu­mane League. The Hu­mane League was founded back in 2005 in Philadelphia, started off very much as a grass­roots ac­tivists’ or­ga­ni­za­tion, just a cou­ple of peo­ple. We’ve now grown to over 80 staff.

Bond 1

We are now in other coun­tries. In Mex­ico, we have a team. We have a team here in the UK. We’ve been here in the UK for a cou­ple of years now. We’re re­cently reg­istered as a char­ity. We’re also based in Ja­pan, which is the hub for many food busi­nesses in Asia. Four or five years ago now, the Hu­mane League honed in on get­ting hens out of cages.

It was work with cor­po­rata­tions, get­ting cor­po­rate com­mit­ments, that’s been helping make change for hens. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions have been do­ing more pos­i­tive out­reach. Then we took the ap­proach that we would have dis­cus­sions with com­pa­nies, but, if those dis­cus­sions didn’t work in get­ting any kind of com­mit­ment, we would launch cam­paigns against these com­pa­nies to get them to end cages for hens by 2025. We, along with a num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as Mercy For An­i­mals, An­i­mal Equal­ity, and HSUS, to name a few in the US, have been work­ing on this. In do­ing so, we’ve got over 300 com­pa­nies in the US to com­mit to go cage-free by 2025. A similar ap­proach has been taken here in Europe. A num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing on this here, too, like Open Cages, L214, and our­selves. Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing have been work­ing a lot in the UK prior to us com­ing in 2016, and have been mak­ing progress to get com­mit­ments for cage-free.

Bond 2

Now, here in the UK, all ma­jor com­pa­nies have com­mit­ted to go cage-free. This is the bat­tery cage. This is what we’re talk­ing about. Here, in Europe, we banned this in 2012. How­ever, in other coun­tries, pretty much around the world, this is the sys­tem in which hens will spend their lives. That’s for a year and a half. They’ll be in these sys­tems. There is no more space than an iPad for them to live. They can’t spread their wings. They are only given food and wa­ter. In Europe, we banned this in 2012 and moved to the en­riched cage. Now the en­riched cage was meant to be a step up and, in some ways, there is a de­gree of im­prove­ment. The birds have small area where they can lay their eggs. You can see the or­ange flaps. That’s where they’d be able to put up, where they want to lay their eggs be­cause they pre­fer to be in a dark, en­closed space. That’s not quite what that is, but it is bet­ter than the bar­ren cage.

They want to perch up high at night to feel safe. The en­riched cage does have some perches. Un­for­tu­nately, those perches are very close to the ground of the cage. They’re on a wire cage for their en­tire lives. There’s a small scratch­ing area. Again, they can’t re­ally do dust bathing or for­ag­ing in that prop­erly. That’s why we pushed for the cage-free. Now, this is a more in­ten­sive sys­tem than what these sys­tems look like typ­i­cally. Th­ese barn sys­tems do provide more for the hens. They’re free to move around the sys­tem, move around the barn. They have lit­ter on the floor for which they can dust-bathe and for­age. They have perches, which they can perch up high at night. You can’t see here, but then in­side, there’s nest boxes. They are dark, so the hens can have a se­cluded place to lay their eggs. As we go through the welfare po­ten­tial of sys­tems, of course, free-range would be the high­est welfare po­ten­tial, al­low­ing birds out­side to for­age even more nat­u­rally and to have nat­u­ral light, et cetera.

Bond 3

Through these ap­proaches, we’ve been work­ing with other or­ga­ni­za­tions to get ma­jor com­pa­nies to make com­mit­ments. That in­cludes Com­pass, which is ma­jor food ser­vice com­pany. Peo­ple like Kel­logg’s and man­u­fac­tur­ers, all the ma­jor fast food chains, and also the su­per­mar­kets. Thees com­mit­ments aren’t just in one coun­try. Th­ese com­mit­ments span both Europe and, in some case, globally. How do we know this ap­proach is work­ing? Well, this is Chad Gre­gory. Chad is pres­i­dent of UEP, United Egg Pro­duc­ers.

Bond 4

He helpfully told us that, “They’re the ones that are driv­ing this. There is no ques­tion about it. Chaos, mar­ket dis­rup­tion, and just com­plete lack of con­trol.” There we are. We can also look at the figures. What we’re see­ing is, if you look back in 2010, be­fore this cor­po­rate cam­paign­ing hap­pened, the num­bers are re­ally stag­nant, go­ing up very lit­tle ev­ery year. In 2010, we had 4.4%. Now, we look to 2017, and we’re at 15.6% of hens in cage-free sys­tems.

Bond 5

Ac­tu­ally, USDA re­port­ing this month on month, we’re ac­tu­ally up to 17.9% last month. So we’re ac­tu­ally be­gin­ning to see change hap­pen­ing right now in real time. Here, this is the UK.

Bond 6

There’s been a lag pe­riod for a while be­tween 2012 and 2016, where there re­ally hasn’t been a huge amount of change in get­ting hens out cages. Come 2016, we started get­ting the rest of those ma­jor com­pa­nies to com­mit. We worked very much on get­ting Noble Foods, the largest egg pro­ducer in the UK, one of the largest in Europe, to com­mit to go cage-free as well. We now see free-range is mov­ing up and the en­riched cage is mov­ing down. Be­fore that, it had been pretty plateaued for a while. We talk about num­bers. Hens suffer in very huge num­bers. They also suffer for a pro­longed pe­riod.

Th­ese birds will go into cages for all their lives, and they’ll be slaugh­tered at around 70 to 90 weeks of age. The suffer­ing would be pro­longed even if there weren’t vast num­bers. But yet, the num­bers are pretty large; 38 mil­lion in the UK, 320 mil­lion when we talk about the US, and nearly 400 mil­lion in Europe, and ac­tu­ally wor­ld­wide, 7.6 billion.

Bond 7

The num­bers are big, and the longevity of suffer­ing is long. We have the Open Wing Alli­ance. We need to tackle this 7.6 billion hens. We need to get them out of cages. The ma­jor­ity of which are in those cages. The Hu­mane League ini­ti­ated the Open Wing Alli­ance. We brought to­gether mem­bers from around the globe to come to­gether and unify a front to get hens out of cages. We share cam­paign strate­gies, and tac­tics as or­ga­ni­za­tions. We share re­sources around the world. We have 59 or­ga­ni­za­tions in 57 coun­tries now. You can see here the black, in­di­cat­ing where we are.

Bond 8

Month on month, new or­ga­ni­za­tions are join­ing. We give grants to these or­ga­ni­za­tions in ar­eas where they might not oth­er­wise get mon­e­tary sup­port. This al­lows ac­tivists on the ground to be­gin work in their coun­tries, where there just hasn’t been the mon­e­tary sup­port to al­low them to do cor­po­rate cam­paign­ing or any real farm an­i­mal cam­paign­ing. We also know that the in­dus­try is pay­ing at­ten­tion. In New Zealand, this is from the Weekly Times.

Bond 9

In New Zealand, they banned the bar­ren bat­tery cage and re­quired the en­riched cage, as we did here in Europe. But the in­dus­try said, “Don’t bother. Let’s learn from what’s hap­pened in Europe. Th­ese Euro­pean pro­duc­ers are now hav­ing to go into cage-free already. They’ve only just changed, con­verted to en­riched cages. Really, the global shift is hap­pen­ing. It’s come to New Zealand. It will come, and we might as well go cage-free.”

South Africa has also put out in the in­dus­try mag­a­z­ine: “The cage-free rev­olu­tion is mov­ing rapidly through the world. South Afri­can egg in­dus­try should make sure they’re pre­pared to ac­com­mo­date that change.” As this has been go­ing on wor­ld­wide now, or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing on cage-free in coun­tries like the United States, and here in Europe, the United King­dom and Swe­den, for in­stance.

We’re ac­tu­ally shift­ing now to look at chick­ens raised for meat, or broiler chick­ens, as they’re known by the in­dus­try. The num­bers of these an­i­mals is vast. One billion in the UK. We’re the sec­ond largest pro­ducer here, only sec­ond to Poland; 8.5 billion in Europe, around about the same amount in the US, and over 65 billion wor­ld­wide.

Bond 10

Th­ese birds ac­count for nearly 95% of all land an­i­mals be­ing pro­duced for food. While the de­gree of time that they’re on this planet, which is six to seven weeks, is pretty short, the num­bers are vast.

Bond 11

Stan­dard, in­ten­sive chicken rear­ing very much looks like this. It’s a bar­ren barn. The chick­ens are on lit­ter. When they’re younger, they have a bit more space be­cause they’re smaller, but there’s tens of thou­sands of birds in one sin­gle shed. They start like this. As they grow, they have a lot less space. They’re in this un­til they’re slaugh­tered at six to seven weeks. In that time, they’ll suffer from con­di­tions like painful leg health prob­lems, metabolic dis­eases. Be­cause their legs are painful, they don’t want to move around so much. They sit down on the lit­ter a lot. This can lead to blisters from the am­mo­nia on the lit­ter that they’re in for the whole time. In fact, their growth is such that they grow six times faster than they would have back in the 1950s. They’ve been ge­net­i­cally reared so that they pro­duce a much larger breast mus­cle.

It be­comes very ev­i­dent when you look at them, that the in­dus­trial breeds of broiler chick­ens are much worse off. The stature of the birds has changed. No longer stand­ing re­ally up­right, but ac­tu­ally hav­ing to widen their stance to ac­com­mo­date the larger breast. This change in stature means that the birds tilt for­ward. It changes how the cen­ter of grav­ity is, and it makes it harder for them to walk. Their ac­tual skele­ton is un­der a lot of pres­sure. It has to grow so rapidly.

Bond 12

Here’s a re­search pro­ject that’s go­ing on over in the US at Pur­due, which shows the lethargy these birds suffer. The red birds, which are a welfare breed, are mov­ing around. There’s lots of ac­tivity. But then, if you look at the white birds, the ma­jor­ity are sit­ting down. If they’re not sit­ting down, they’re at the food or the wa­ter.

Of course, these birds grow so quickly that they need to be eat­ing con­tin­u­ously. When they’re not eat­ing, all they’re do­ing is rest­ing. Now, these birds still have the same men­tal ca­pac­i­ties as the other birds. It’s just, un­for­tu­nately, they’re trapped in their own bod­ies and un­able to be­have how they would choose. At six to seven weeks of age, they will be taken to the slaugh­ter­house. Now, typ­i­cally, that’s a wa­ter­bath sys­tem. This means the birds are hung up­side down by their legs. They will go through a tank of wa­ter that has an elec­tric cur­rent, that will run from the head to their feet.

Bond 13

That should give them an elec­tric shock to make them un­con­scious be­fore their throats are cut. How­ever, un­for­tu­nately, the sys­tem was made for speed and not ac­tu­ally for welfare. We’re talk­ing about 140 to 180 birds go­ing through this pro­cess ev­ery minute. This sys­tem of­ten doesn’t ac­tu­ally give these birds an ap­pro­pri­ate elec­tric shock to make them un­con­scious. In fact, many of them are con­scious when they get to hav­ing their neck cut. For those that have their neck cut poorly as well, they may make it through to the scald­ing tank.

This is to re­move the feathers. But if they’re still al­ive, they will ob­vi­ously ex­pe­rience the scald­ing tank fully con­scious or part con­scious. That’s es­ti­mated to be around 2% to 3% in the US that suffer from that. Ac­tu­ally, the Trump ad­minis­tra­tion has also just al­lowed the speed of the line to go up even faster. There is an al­ter­na­tive, con­trol­led-at­mo­spheric stun­ning, which uses ei­ther car­bon diox­ide or in­ert gases to in­duce un­con­scious­ness, and then the birds will die and then the throats are cut. Now, this means that they don’t have to be han­dled in the same way. Where the wa­ter­bath sys­tem, they’re hung up by their legs, which is painful. The legs are weak, as we were say­ing. They don’t have a di­aphragm so ac­tu­ally their in­sides crush their lungs. By not han­dling them and keep­ing them in the crates, they don’t have to ex­pe­rience this. With con­trol­led-at­mo­spheric stun­ning, they are likely to be­come un­con­scious and then kil­led ver­sus a stun, which may ac­tu­ally just be an elec­tric shock be­fore they ex­pe­rience their neck be­ing cut.

There are a lot of things that we can do to im­prove the welfare of broilers. We came to­gether in the US and in Europe with the an­i­mal welfare spe­cial­ists from differ­ent an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions, and came and listed some crite­ria to im­prove the welfare of meat chick­ens. Th­ese in­cluded chang­ing the breed, hav­ing a higher welfare breed. So that their legs are healthier, and they don’t suffer from so many metabolic dis­eases, for in­stance. We also want to in­crease space. Th­ese birds want to move around. They need space in the shed, so we’ve low­ered the stock­ing den­sity and pro­vided en­rich­ment in the shed, so peck­ing ma­te­ri­als to keep these birds ac­tive, like straw bales. We’ve im­proved the light­ing, pro­vided nat­u­ral light here in Europe. We in­sist on con­trol­led at­mo­sphere kil­ling. This means, the birds won’t have to go through the wa­ter­bath sys­tem. We also want to make sure that com­pa­nies ac­tu­ally do this. For that rea­son, we’re ask­ing for third-party au­dit­ing and the com­pa­nies each re­port year on year or what progress they’re mak­ing to­wards this.

Bond 14

Now, over in the US, they’ve been do­ing this for a year or so now. In do­ing so, they’ve got many ma­jor com­pa­nies, over 95 now, to com­mit to this stan­dard. They’re com­mit­ted, by 2024, to im­prove the welfare of their chick­ens in their sup­ply chain. Here, in Europe, we’re just be­gin­ning with this over in the UK and France, for in­stance, and Ger­many. In do­ing so, we’ve got Elior Group, Nes­tle. They’re known to com­mit to mak­ing to the Euro­pean chicken com­mit­ment, and that’s ex­pand­ing over the whole of Europe. Some of these other ones are UK brands that I’m sure you rec­og­nize. Now, the most re­cent tar­get for us, as an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions, is McDon­alds. McDon­alds is the world’s largest restau­rant chain by rev­enue.

They serve 70 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery day. So we know that this is a brand that peo­ple rec­og­nize. It’s a brand that needs to change. In the US, there’s a coal­i­tion of or­ga­ni­za­tions; An­i­mal Equal­ity, HSUS, Com­pas­sion Over Killing, Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing, us, and An­i­mal Equal­ity have come to­gether. We have launched a cam­paign over there. Here in the UK, you can see here, we’ve started cam­paign­ing as well. That in­cludes protests, in­cludes hand­ing in pe­ti­tions, get­ting peo­ple in the streets to be en­gaged with the is­sue, and also do­ing protests out­side of restau­rants. In the US, they’ve also got ad­ver­tis­ing in Times Square.

Now, vol­un­teers do take to the streets. We also have an­other way of try­ing to get the at­ten­tion of these com­pa­nies. That’s through their so­cial me­dia and ac­tu­ally mak­ing con­tact with the com­pa­nies them­selves.

Bond 15

We have some­thing called a Fast Ac­tion Net­work. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions have some­thing similar that you can join. You’ll get emails ask­ing you to take a cou­ple of min­utes of your time to ac­tion against the com­pa­nies. If you would like to join up, you can just go to the web­site. You can find the Fast Ac­tion Net­work. But re­ally, this works by hav­ing a high vol­ume of peo­ple con­tact­ing the com­pa­nies. It re­ally en­gages the com­pa­nies and keeps re­mind­ing them that they need to be work­ing on this. Of course, they worry about their brand, so it’s im­por­tant that we make sure we’re heard.

Now, while get­ting these welfare stan­dards through in­sti­tu­tion change is mak­ing a big im­pact, we also know that re­plac­ing an­i­mal prod­ucts with plant-based or maybe cul­tured meat one day is the fu­ture, where we can be sure an­i­mals don’t suffer, would be great. In re­al­ity, it makes sense for com­pa­nies as well. There are far fewer is­sues with plant-based prod­ucts when you think about an­tibiotic prob­lems, or green­house gases, or car­bon foot­print, for in­stance. With these cage-free com­mit­ments, as an ex­am­ple, com­pa­nies are ac­tu­ally see­ing how difficult it is for them to go down the sup­ply chains, and try and find out, is the com­pany ac­tu­ally us­ing a cage-free egg. What they’re do­ing is, in­stead, they’re switch­ing up. How can we take this out com­pletely and re­place it with some­thing plant-based?

It’s much sim­pler for them. We know that this is work­ing, and that the plant-based prod­ucts are much higher welfare. They’re also gonna be helping re­duce suffer­ing year on year. It’s not just these com­mit­ments from com­pa­nies that we’re gonna be work­ing on. We re­ally need to fol­low through and make sure these com­mit­ments come into fruition. But there’s also an­other way we can do that, and that’s through leg­is­la­tion.

Bond 16

In the US, they’ve been work­ing on state leg­is­la­tion. They have Prop 2. They have Prop 12 in Cal­ifor­nia, which will be voted on just a few days from now. That one ends cages for hens, for pigs, et cetera. Not just on what’s hap­pen­ing in coun­try, so the pro­duc­tion, but also im­ports com­ing in the state, also im­ports com­ing into the state.

Cal­ifor­nia makes up 10% of the pop­u­la­tion, so it’s not a small thing. It will im­pact the whole in­dus­try. Over here in Europe, we have some­thing called the Euro­pean Ci­ti­zen Ini­ti­a­tive that’s be­ing run by Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing. In fact, they’ve got or­ga­ni­za­tions in all the Euro­pean coun­tries to work on this and col­lect sig­na­tures to end cages for hens, ducks, quails, rab­bits, pigs, calves. That work is gonna take a year of gain­ing a mil­lion sig­na­tures, but should then be pushed through to the Euro­pean Par­li­a­ment. Really, this ap­proach is bring­ing to­gether both cor­po­rate cam­paign­ing, the plant-based al­ter­na­tives, and also fi­nally, leg­is­la­tion pro­hibit­ing these sys­tems com­pletely.

We’re re­ally now be­gin to see the land­scape for farmed an­i­mals chang­ing. We’re already see­ing the change for cages, hens com­ing out of cages. We’re already be­gin­ning to be able to push through leg­is­la­tion. Now, we’ll be able to say we are ac­tu­ally be­gin­ning to see the re­duc­tion of suffer­ing of billions of an­i­mals ev­ery year.


Ques­tion: To what ex­tent are com­pa­nies mak­ing changes be­cause they feel pub­lic press is re­ally push­ing them, ver­sus leg­is­la­tion in their coun­try chang­ing?

Vicky: Yeah, so there are com­pa­nies that are savvy and re­al­ize that ac­tu­ally this makes sense and that we can be the first. We can shout about it, and we can use it in our fa­vor to say that we care about welfare. But many com­pa­nies, un­for­tu­nately, that’s not the case. When it comes to it, that’s why we have to launch these cam­paigns. High­light what com­pa­nies are do­ing, the cru­elty that’s in their sup­ply chain, and they don’t want to be as­so­ci­ated with that. It’s a mix­ture of both. There are some com­pa­nies that can see it, and there are the com­pa­nies, the ma­jor­ity, un­for­tu­nately, where they need to have some kind of pub­lic pres­sure, and some kind of aware­ness be­fore they’ll make the change.

Ques­tion: You said that for some com­pa­nies, switch­ing to plant-based ac­tu­ally is go­ing cost sav­ing in the long term. Do you have any idea how long it takes for them to use some al­ter­na­tive to chicken prod­ucts prof­itably?

Vicky: I don’t know. There’s com­pa­nies look­ing to re­place, tak­ing out a pro­por­tion of like 20 or 30% and re­place it with plant-based, so that they can re­duce the amount of meat that they’re us­ing. With the eggs, it’s prob­a­bly proven quicker for them to do it. Some su­per­mar­kets will have 2,000 or 3,000 ranges with in­gre­di­ents that in­clude eggs. That’s an in­cred­ible amount of lines to be go­ing through. For them, it’s eas­ier if they can just say to these com­pa­nies, “Ac­tu­ally, I want you to re­place it with this,” but I don’t have any strict timelines and what that will look like, un­for­tu­nately.

Ques­tion: What makes that cor­po­rate cam­paign more likely to suc­ceed? Are there some ba­sic prin­ci­ples across coun­tries? Does that re­ally de­pends on where you are?

Vicky: That’s a re­ally great ques­tion. It does de­pend where you are. In Amer­ica, leg­is­la­tion is such that you can do quite a lot that you couldn’t do here in Europe. You can do more things that maybe the pub­lic doesn’t see but you can cam­paign al­most in­ter­nally to the com­pa­nies. Yes, here in Europe and within coun­tries in gen­eral, it de­pends. We found, for in­stance, that in the UK it’s been re­ally effec­tive for us to make them see us day in, day out out­side their head­quar­ters. There’s a fi­nance man­ager or what­ever that’s feel­ing bad be­cause they’re in­volved with this com­pany that is ac­tu­ally en­abling cru­elty. They prob­a­bly haven’t thought about it to that ex­tent be­fore. But you’re stand­ing out­side their head­quar­ters and say­ing, “This is the head­quar­ters of cru­elty,” which is what we did for Noble Foods. That both­ers them. They be­gin to think about it. Every coun­try has a differ­ent ap­proach based on what’s effec­tive for them, but cer­tainly, get­ting out there and do­ing kind of silent protest, be­ing no­ticed by the com­pa­nies day in, day out makes a big differ­ence.

Ques­tion: You fo­cused on chick­ens’ welfare in your pre­sen­ta­tion. Can you speak a lit­tle bit more about similar cam­paigns for other farmed an­i­mals? I’d be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in fish, if there’s a cam­paign in that.

Vicky: Sadly, there isn’t re­ally. There’s World Fish-Free Day, I think it’s called, or some­thing like that. That’s hap­pen­ing in March next year. That will be a big thing. I think most or­ga­ni­za­tions will talk about that. But I know that Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing are be­gin­ning to start cam­paign­ing on the hu­mane slaugh­ter of fish. That will be up and com­ing so that’s re­ally ex­cit­ing and that’ll be ex­pand­ing in Europe prob­a­bly to start with.

Ques­tion: As a fi­nal ques­tion, if some­one wants to go into cor­po­rate cam­paign­ing, what’s a good way for them to get in­volved?

Vicky: Oh, great. Well, just put your­self out there as an ac­tivist, start­ing to vol­un­teer, learn­ing the tac­tics that we use is re­ally helpful; be­cause then you can also go to the com­pa­nies and say you were in­volved in those tac­tics, and they’ll know ex­actly what’s gonna hap­pen. Also, if you’ve got sales back­ground or that kind of thing, that kind of at­ti­tude can work re­ally well in go­ing and talk­ing to cor­po­ra­tions.

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