WAP report finds that most pork sellers are using sow stalls despite welfare commitments

World Animal Protection's "Quit stalling" report shows that many companies across the global supply chain are failing on their commitments to end sow confinement.
calendar icon 1 October 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

World Animal Protection, a global animal welfare non-profit organisation, released its first-ever Quit stalling report, which found companies, ranging from quick-service restaurants to hotel conglomerates, are mostly failing on their commitments to end sow confinement.

Between 2012 and 2015, numerous pork-selling companies (such as Campbell’s, Kraft Heinz, Arby’s, and Costco) garnered praise and press attention from advocates and consumers for setting goals to end the use of gestation crates for pregnant pigs and provide only gestation-crate-free pork, typically with target dates for implementation. A gestation crate, also known as a “sow stall,” is a metal enclosure in which a farmed sow used for breeding may be kept for the majority of her pregnancy.

However, today, an estimated 3 out of 4 sows continue to spend most of their lives confined to gestation crates with little space to move, let alone turn around.

Several well-known brands, such as Marriott, Burger King, and Einstein Noah Bagels, set deadlines for achieving their gestation crate-free pork goals that have since passed, with little attention to acknowledging missed milestones. Many others, such as Wendy’s, Target, Quiznos, and Dine Brands (Applebee’s and IHOP), have deadlines that are fast approaching, but updates on their progress towards meeting their commitments, or on their work to move their suppliers forward, has not been forthcoming.

Of the 56 companies included in the Quit Stalling report, it is especially concerning that nearly one-third (30 percent) of companies no longer maintain language in their published animal welfare policies or responsibility reports affirming their commitment to crate-free pork. An additional 25 percent rely on vague language that does not require all of their suppliers to comply.

Only 16 companies (29 percent) are currently reporting publicly that they are making progress towards or have achieved full implementation of their commitments.

“The majority of companies, many that have provided the food on our dinner plates, are at risk of misleading their customers, who believe that they are genuinely working towards meeting their animal welfare goals,” says Cameron Harsh, Farming Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection US. “It is critical that they continue to be held accountable by advocates and customers for their past promises.”

While most companies may not be following through with their commitments, some are keeping their promises.

The Cheesecake Factory deserves praise for its level of transparency. The company openly acknowledged the complexity of this issue as it works towards its goal of “no use (zero days) of gestation crates/stalls.” Additionally, Hilton Hotels and Compass Group, following engagement with World Animal Protection in 2020, provided public updates on the status of their lapsed commitments for this report and reaffirmed that sourcing only gestation-crate free remains a priority.

“We applaud and support companies that have remained steadfast and transparent in their commitments to improve animal welfare in their supply chains amid challenges,” says Harsh. “We appreciate those willing to acknowledge missing their original timeframe, better understand the issue, and work alongside World Animal Protection to affirm their goal to fully eliminate gestation crates.”

The Quit stalling report assigns a colour code of Green, Yellow, Orange, Pink, or Red to companies based on their having a meaningful, public-facing policy to require suppliers to phase out gestation crates and the availability of public information regarding their progress. In certain cases, clearer language is needed still to ensure that companies commended for making progress are working to fully eliminate rather than reduce crates.

The pork industry in Canada, which exports pork to the US, recently extended its deadline to phase out gestation crates nationwide by five years to 2029, indicating a similar failure by companies to uphold welfare commitments. Major producers in China, Australia and Europe have successfully ended the practice, but the industry in North America continues to let consumers down with what seem to be false promises to improve.

All of the companies included in the Quit stalling report will be required to source gestation crate-free pork for their operations in California and Massachusetts when state laws go into effect in 2022. Failing to work with their suppliers to eliminate gestation crates puts the companies at risk of legal action and a missed sales opportunity, given that the two states represent 17 percent of the size of the United States economy.

Click here to read the full World Animal Protection report. To take further action, sign the Raise Pigs Right petition here.

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