Walmart moves to improve animal welfare conditions in supply chain

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 22, 2015 -- Walmart, the biggest U.S. grocery retailer, today announced new farm animal welfare policies, joining a long list of food companies taking steps to improve the conditions of the cattle, hogs and poultry in its supply chain.

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Among other things, Walmart said that it expects its suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind. In addition, it said it supports as an “aspiration” the so-called Five Freedoms of animal welfare, which have been adopted by groups including the World Organization for Animal Health and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They include freedom from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain injury or disease; freedom to express normal behavior (by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind): and freedom from fear and distress.

The company said it also will ask its suppliers to make sure animals have sufficient space, specifically citing concerns about gestations crates, hen battery cages and veal crates, and to address concerns about certain commonly used but painful procedures in livestock rearing such as tail docking, de-horning and castration. It also is asking suppliers to provide annual animal welfare reports.

“We believe that farm animals in our supply chain should be treated humanely throughout their lives and that the welfare of farm animals should be considered in selection of all production systems, practices and technologies,” the company said in its announcement. “Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. are committed to continuous improvement in the welfare of farm animals in our supply chain.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, welcomed Walmart's announcement.

“Walmart's animal welfare announcement is a game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending,” Pacelle said in a statement. “Battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates -- along with other long-standing practices that immobilize animal -- have a short shelf life in our food system. We're looking forward to continuing our work with Walmart and hope to see them put implementation timelines in place. And we're optimistic about helping other food companies strengthen their policies to create a more humane society for all.”

In the past several years, dozens of companies have announced changes in their policies to improve conditions for animals in their supply chains. They include Starbucks, Panera, Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Cargill, McDonald's, Denny's, Jack in the Box, Hormel and Kraft Foods.

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