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Roy Graber, staff reporter for WATTAgNet, combines his Midwestern farming background with his knowledge of economics and agriculture policy to offer a deeper look at the poultry and pig industries.
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Contradictory comments from animal rights activists

Animal rights window broken
When a window gets broken at a school, students might give conflicting accounts concerning how it happened. A similar thing is taking place among the animal rights community concerning why so many companies are adopting pledges for cage-free eggs and slower-growing broilers. | The Guitar Mann, Bigstock

While some say purchase pledges are being made because companies want to do the right thing, others say it is because they are responding to pressure

August 18, 2017

Nobody likes to admit to being a nag or a bully. But if doing so will impress certain people, they just might 'fess up.

So it’s no wonder that when asked about why companies such as restaurant chains or supermarkets have adopted policies that call for cage-free eggs, slower-growing broilers or crate-free pork, animal rights activists typically give the credit to the companies adopting the policy.

But when these activists are in each other’s presence, the story changes.

Thanks to a report on the recent Animal Rights National Conference that was just released by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, people in animal agriculture got a glimpse of what was said at a conference where people who oppose the profession were present in droves.

Why are purchase pledges really being made?

The whole matter of why are so many companies adopting pledges concerning its supply of animal proteins seems reminiscent of adolescence to me: Someone throws a rock at a school window and breaks it. “Oh, no. I don’t know how that happened,” a teenager says to adults. But get that teenager in front of his peers during locker room changeout after gym class, and that same person tells his buddies in a boastful manner: “I was the one who broke that window.”

The youngster doesn’t want to be looked down upon by teachers or the principal for doing something improper, but at the same time when he wants to impress peers and he wants them to think he’s a rebel, his story changes. So which story is true?

Could this be the same scenario?

In this case, the broken window is a restrictive purchase pledge on behalf of a restaurant chain or foodservice company.

Recently, when discussing how foodservice companies were the first ones to commit to broiler welfare programs that call for standards set by the Global Animal Partnership or Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) with Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), he downplayed any influence his organization or like-minded ones might have.

“I think it’s more to do with the foodservice industry collectively being on the forefront of issues of animal welfare more so than us focusing on a particular sector,” Balk said.

Others in the animal rights community have said similar things.

Yet, according to the Alliance’s account of the meeting, the Humane League’s Jon Camp, stated that food companies “don’t make policies due to altruism, they do it because of the pressure.”

A Humane League member also reportedly bragged that the group “basically harassed” one sandwich chain with a campaign.

Granted, HSUS and Humane League are different organizations, but the differences in the statements did jump out at me.

Responses

To be fair, I reached out via email to Balk for a response.

He responded by stating: "Most companies are made up of good people and we’ve enjoyed partnerships for years with them on collaborating on creating their animal welfare policies. It’s through these partnerships that we’re able to advance animal welfare in such a positive, thoughtful way. We have dozens upon dozens upon dozens of joint press releases with companies further demonstrating our partnerships with them."

He added that those "partnerships" were formed simply by HSUS reaching out to the companies, which he said were open to hearing about animal welfare issues.

Balk also wrote, "certainly no one from HSUS would say such a thing," referring to policies being made as a response to pressure and about harassing a business.

But apparently people from Humane League did, and I would welcome feedback from anyone representing the Humane League regarding the comments from people affiliated with it.

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