In a landmark announcement last week, McDonald’s Corporation committed to using only cage-free eggs in all of its U.S. and Canada store locations within the next 10 years. Given the purchasing power of McDonald’s, this is huge news for animals.
Battery cages—archaic wire cages in which egg-laying hens are forced to live so closely packed together they can barely move—are still standard in the egg industry. Hens suffer injuries, disease and the repression of their natural behaviors in these conditions. Some states and companies have turned away from this cruel practice, but this move by McDonald’s, which purchases billions of eggs annually, is a giant leap toward our goal of eliminating battery cages for good.
The McDonald’s announcement coincides with efforts by the ASPCA and other groups to pass a historic ballot measure in Massachusetts to ban the sale of products from farms using battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates (severe and cruel forms of confinement that barely allow egg-laying hens, veal calves or pregnant pigs to move or engage in normal behaviors). A large and exciting effort is underway right now to gather enough signatures in Massachusetts to get this measure on the November 2016 ballot. Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts, you can help! Please visit the campaign website to learn more.
September is National Chicken Month, making it the ideal time to issue a special challenge to consumers: Change Your Chicken! This 30-day challenge encourages shoppers to avoid the worst factory-farmed chicken products and instead choose those bearing meaningful animal welfare certifications.
Most chickens raised in the U.S. come from factory farms and live in deplorable conditions. They’re crammed together by the tens of thousands on top of their own waste, never seeing sunlight, and are bred to balloon up to crippling weights. The industry isn’t motivated to make improvements because business is booming—that’s where you, as a consumer, come in. Vote with your wallet and tell Big Chicken that it’s time for a change.
Here are some ways to participate in this important challenge:
Whether or not you buy chicken, we can all agree that these birds deserve better lives and that consumers should be making informed choices, so spread the word to friends and family. Together we can change chickens’ lives.
In a pivotal decision, a federal judge in Idaho has ruled that an ag-gag law violates the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, striking this terrible law from the books. This is the first time a court has ruled on the constitutionality of an ag-gag law, and the ASPCA is hopeful that this decision will mark the beginning of the end of these dangerous laws.
The Idaho statute, which passed in 2014 despite outcry from both humane and food industry voices, criminalizes undercover investigations into animal welfare, food safety, or worker safety at industrial farms. Under the law, workers, investigators or good Samaritans could be convicted for documenting and exposing animal abuse or dangerous public health risks.
Exposés on farms are a critical animal-protection tool, forming the basis of animal cruelty prosecutions and spurring reforms to ensure the safety of our food supply. In the past few years, in an effort to protect their bottom line from the consumer awareness these investigations provoke, the animal agriculture industry has been driving the introduction of ag-gag/anti-whistleblower bills in state legislatures across the country. A broad coalition of groups spanning animal welfare, workers’ rights, food safety, sustainable farming and environmental interests has worked together to block over 30 bills. Despite this collaborative work and broad public opposition to these bills, laws have passed in five states.
It is a great victory for farm animals, their advocates and whistleblowers across the country that the dangerous Idaho law has been deemed unconstitutional. The ASPCA applauds this decision and hopes it sends a clear message to the animal agriculture industry that hiding abuses and punishing whistleblowers is no way to conduct business in this country.
Sign the Open the Barns pledge to be an advocate against ag-gag in your state, and spread the word about these dangerous bills to your friends and family.
Last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that when certain meat is purchased by the federal government for federal cafeterias, preference is given to producers who raise animals according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) antibiotic recommendations.
Unfortunately, those FDA recommendations fail to address the deplorable animal welfare conditions that drive the overuse of antibiotics in the first place.
Nearly all land animals raised for food are kept in factory farms where crowding, filth and stress abound. To compensate, and to speed animals’ growth, companies often feed animals a steady dose of antibiotics. The chicken industry is a prime example.
The FDA recommendation that forms the basis of the White House’s new policy aims to stop companies from using antibiotics to speed animal growth. However, it does not address the common practice of routinely administering “preventative” antibiotics to compensate for poor welfare.
Reduction in on-farm antibiotics should always feature better animal welfare, and the ASPCA has a host of recommendations for achieving this on all farms, regardless of antibiotics protocols. These include things like more space, lower stress, better sanitation and, of course, treating animals with antibiotics when truly needed. Read more about how these common-sense measures can improve chicken welfare, and take action for chickens, on our Truth About Chicken site.
Yesterday, Foster Farms—one of the country’s largest chicken producers—announced that it is aiming to remove from its chicken flocks all antibiotics that are also used in humans (barring exceptional cases). This follows similar announcements by other companies like Tyson, Perdue and McDonald’s.
While chickens sometimes need antibiotics to overcome illness, the chicken industry relies far too heavily on antibiotics as a crutch to compensate for the crowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions that, sadly, are standard on today’s chicken farms. You can learn more about this, and take action, through our Truth About Chicken campaign.
Some companies are removing all antibiotics, some just those used on humans, and some only those used for certain purposes. But while each case differs, the overall principle remains the same: Removing antibiotics without improving underlying conditions is like taking off a bandage and leaving a wound exposed. As chicken companies reduce or remove antibiotics, they must improve the animal welfare problems that often lead to antibiotics use in the first place.
Luckily, the ASPCA has a set of recommendations to improve the welfare of all chickens, no matter the antibiotics policy. These include common-sense practices like offering more space, better sanitation, enrichment, more natural lighting, and healthier genetics. Learn more and take action here.