March 1, 2013
sucks, and here's one more reason: they are mean to animals.
Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, which is "designed
to help drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world's
leading food businesses," gave Wal-Mart the lowest possible rating for its
performance on this issue. Out of six tiers, Wal-Mart landed at the bottom
in Tier 6 because animal welfare is "not on [its] business agenda."
The report that reached this conclusion, issued on February 25th, "presents
the findings of an independent evaluation of around 70 leading food
companies on their approach to managing and reporting on farm animal welfare
issues." As "the first global measure of animal welfare standards in food
companies," its publication reflects the growing attention to animal welfare
in the food industry. Though its analysis is rigorous, the report does have
an agenda: "to help drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the
world's leading food businesses."
Tiers 1-5 sorted companies by the
following criteria: Tier 1, leadership in improving animal welfare; 2, the
issue is "integral to business strategy"; 3, attention to animal welfare is
"established" in the company but there remains work to be done; 4, "making
progress on implementation"; and 5, animal welfare is "on the business
agenda but [there is] limited evidence of implementation." Wal-Mart couldn't
satisfy a single one of these measures.
Wal-Mart's dismal showing
does not surprise animal advocacy group
Mercy for Animals (MFA). The organization's website reports that it has
"been touring the country, urging Walmart to phase out inhumane gestation
crates — a factory farm practice so egregiously cruel that pigs can't even
turn around or lie down comfortably." MFA's demands are not unreasonable:
"other major companies, such as Kroger, McDonald's, Wendy's, and Safeway,
have all committed to end their business relationships with pork suppliers
that insist on this horrible practice."
Bob Barker narrates this sad
expose of factory farms' pig abuse (warning, the footage may be disturbing):
Video courtesy of
Mercy for Animals
Click here for more information about "Walmart
Wal-Mart claims that "it
already offers ‘crate-free' pork products in many U.S. stores and
continues to work with suppliers to find ways to increase that number."
Towards this end it says it "will
continue on-going discussions with our suppliers, NGOs and food safety
experts to find ways to increase that number. We believe in offering our
customers a choice."
Paying companies to torture and brutalize
animals should not be on anyone's menu of choices.
Benchmark report was not limited to the treatment of pigs. It focused more
broadly on companies' attitudes towards animal welfare generally.
Criteria for rating companies included:
Does the company
acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue?
Does the company
publish an overarching corporate farm animal welfare policy (or equivalent)?
Does the company have a clear position on the avoidance of close
confinement and intensive systems for livestock (i.e. no sow stalls,
concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), feedlots, farrowing crates,
single penning, battery cages, tethering, veal crates, and force feeding
Does the company have a clear position on the avoidance of
routine mutilations (i.e. castration, teeth clipping, tail docking, toe
clipping, dehorning, desnooding, de-winging, disbudding, mulesing, beak
It is old news that Wal-Mart pushes out independent
stores, pays suppliers so poorly that some are forced out of business,
cheats its employees of overtime and other pay, discriminates against female
employees, and otherwise is a wretched corporate citizen. Now we can add to
the list that it is indifferent to the suffering of the animals whose
chopped-up bodies it sells. No, it's not a surprise, but it is shameful.