By Wayne Pacelle • Originally posted on HumaneSociety.org
On May 22, Walmart, one of the world’s biggest companies – and the nation’s biggest food seller by a long shot – announced it has adopted the “five freedoms” principles for farm animals, effectively renouncing the use of extreme confinement and other abusive practices in animal agriculture, and signaling an extraordinary change in agriculture in America. Precisely because it’s Walmart, this is the most definitive statement yet that the era of confining farm animals in cages will come to an end. We applaud the company for adopting a comprehensive animal welfare policy, which comes on the heels of dozens of other declarations and pledges from other major food retailers against gestation crates, battery cages, and tail docking of dairy cows.
Walmart is calling on its suppliers to, among other actions, work toward ensuring that animals: 1) are raised in ways that allow them to engage in natural behaviors, including having sufficient space and socialization with other members of their species, 2) be provided more comfortable living conditions, 3) are free from painful mutilations 4) be spared mental discomfort or distress, and 5) be given ready access to water and feed. These changes, so grounded in common sense, would nonetheless herald major improvements over how much of agribusiness currently treats animals.
With these principles in mind, Walmart singles out the confinement of hens in battery cages, sows in gestation crates, and calves in veal crates as practices that must end. Walmart is also working with its suppliers to address the welfare issues surrounding painful mutilations like tail docking, dehorning, castration, and to move to slaughter systems that don’t cause as much pain.