By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
May 11, 2023, stands out as historic for animal protection: On that day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision upholding California’s Proposition 12, the nation’s strongest farm animal protection law, a move that rejected the pork industry’s challenge to the law.
We led the campaign for the passage of Proposition 12, which requires that the state’s pregnant pigs, egg-laying hens and calves raised for veal be given at least enough space to stand up, turn around and extend their limbs, and access to a minimum amount of usable floor space. The law, which was approved by voters in California with 63% voting in favor, also prohibits the sale in California of pork, eggs and veal produced via extreme confinement. The victory in the Supreme Court came after months of preparation on the part of our Animal Protection Law department, and we are immensely proud of this work.
Right now, we’re waging a full-scale battle against the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, a reckless bill in the U.S. Congress that seeks to undermine Proposition 12 and other animal welfare laws like it. We’ve successfully mobilized significant bipartisan opposition in Congress, and rallied a diverse set of more than 3,000 entities, including organizations spanning a broad range of concerns, legislators, veterinarians, legal scholars and more than 2,000 farms across the country, to publicly join the fight.
And while California’s final deadline for fully enforcing Proposition 12 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, some in the pork industry continue to seek opportunities for enacting EATS or a related attack. We will be vigilant in defending Proposition 12 and other state and local animal welfare laws.
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To say the least, it has been an unforgettable year in the fight for the protection of farm animals. And our advocacy work for these animals didn’t stop at the Supreme Court. We have been at the forefront of groundbreaking initiatives aimed at improving the lives of farm animals, from board rooms to state legislatures and beyond:
- We achieved other major milestones at the federal level: In a historic development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program issued the final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards. Those standards mandate that producers adhere to specific welfare standards in their treatment of animals; gestation crates in organic pork production are prohibited, for example, and the standards also establish minimum space requirements for organically raised birds. We played a crucial role in achieving this victory, engaging in a prolonged battle, including litigation, after the withdrawal of similar standards during the previous administration.
- After a hard-fought campaign lasting over a decade, New Jersey enacted a law prohibiting the cruel confinement of mother pigs in gestation crates and calves raised for veal in veal crates. We were grateful to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and an array of local and national organizations that joined us in the campaign to secure passage of this law.
- At our urging, the discount variety store chain Dollar Tree made its first cage-free egg update in seven years; it includes specific next steps the company will take toward its goal of reaching 100% cage-free by 2025. In 100 stores, Dollar Tree is selling cage-free eggs next to cage eggs and labeling the latter as coming “from caged chickens.” Cage-free egg sales have gone up approximately 40% as a result.
- We persuaded Jack in the Box—one of the largest fast-food chains in the U.S., with more than 2,000 locations—to publish a “glidepath” (its multiyear goals) for reaching 100% group-housed pork. The company committed to reach 25% by the end of 2024, 50% by the end of 2025, and 100% by the end of 2026.
- We have also maintained communication with corporations such as Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo, Wendy’s, Marriott, Hormel, McDonald’s, Dine Brands, Conagra Brands, Norwegian Cruiselines, Starbucks and SpartanNash to ensure they continue to make progress in reaching their cage-free egg and crate-free pork targets.
We have secured historic commitments from the biggest food service companies to increase their plant-based offerings. In the U.S., 12 of the top 50 food service management companies have set public plant-based menu and meat reduction goals at our urging.
- In the U.S., Sodexo increased its plant-based campus dining menu commitment from 42% to 50% by 2025, and we continued to provide plant-based culinary training with over 50 Sodexo college and university accounts.
- HHS, LLC, a U.S.-based food service company, increased its plant-based menu commitment from 33% to 50% and added a goal to reduce animal protein purchased by 10% by 2024.
- Whitsons Culinary Group, a U.S.-based food service company, increased its plant-based menu commitment from 10% to 33% by 2025.
- By late 2023, 37% of Quest’s recipe database consists of plant-based entrees.
- Our Humane Society International colleagues trained more than 1,500 chefs, cooks and instructors around the world on plant-based cooking.
- Our team developed a master class for Sodexo Continental Europe to support its 33% plant-based meal commitment; the class trains chefs, nutritionists, buyers and marketing teams in the preparation and promotion of plant-forward, animal- and environmentally friendly food.
- In Canada, we helped create plant-forward menus at universities, such as Toronto Metropolitan University, Simon Fraser University, University of Windsor and Western University, and companies such as Molson’s, Pinterest, Mildred’s, Best Western, and Deloitte.
- In Asia, the Bangkok Marriott Marquis committed to reduce its animal product procurement by 20%, thanks to our work with the company. Sodexo Singapore implemented its plant-based menu changes in six school districts, sparing more than 150,000 animals per year. In the Indian city of Thrissur, Salsabeel Central School committed to reduce 80% of dairy products and 100% eggs and meat from their menu in the school canteen.
As we celebrate these victories, it’s essential to acknowledge that our work is far from over. As 2024 begins, we will not stop fighting for a more humane world for farm animals, one that increasingly treats them with the respect they deserve.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.