Today, Walmart announced a commitment to improving farmed animal welfare across its global food supply chain with one of the most comprehensive animal welfare policies of its kind. The change in policy comes after six hidden-camera videos taken by animal welfare group Mercy For Animals (MFA) at Walmart pork suppliers across the country exposed extreme animal abuse.
“Our customers want to know more about how their food is grown and raised, and where it comes from. As the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart is committed to using our strengths to drive transparency and improvement across the supply chain,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and SVP of Walmart sustainability. “We have listened to our customers, and are asking our suppliers to engage in improved reporting standards and transparency measures regarding the treatment of farm animals.”
Citing the "five freedoms" — a set of ethical imperatives for farmed animal welfare — the world’s largest retailer has committed to ending some of the cruelest forms of institutionalized animal abuse in its entire supply chain, including the intensive confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates, baby calves in veal crates, and egg-laying hens in battery cages. Walmart announced it is also working to end the needless mutilations of animals without painkillers, such as castration, tail docking and dehorning, and is moving toward more humane slaughter methods.
"This is a historic and landmark day for the protection of farmed animals in America. The announcement that Walmart is committed to doing away with many of the cruelest factory farming practices in its supply chain, including the intensive confinement of pigs and other animals, signals an important new era and direction for the company,” said Nathan Runkle, President of MFA. “We are heartened that Walmart not only took notice, but also took action, after egregious cruelty was exposed in its pork supply chain.”
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Upon uncovering the abuse, MFA led a fierce campaign against Walmart, including more than 150 protests at stores across the country; full-page newspaper ads; mobile billboards circling the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas; 640,000 petition signatures on Change.org; and support from celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, Ryan Gosling, Sia, Pamela Anderson and Emily Deschanel.
Runkle says MFA is urging Walmart to “add greater teeth” to its announcement by making the new guidelines a requirement rather than a recommendation, and to set aggressive timelines for its suppliers to meet its expectations.
“While there is still work to be done, Walmart's announcement is one of the most sweeping animal welfare policies ever adopted by a major food company,” Runkle said. “We hope that the rest of the food industry will follow Walmart's lead in prohibiting the cruel confinement of animals in cages barely larger than their bodies, mutilations without painkillers, and other inhumane practices.
Great Lakes Cheese, Nestlé and Kraft Foods have also recently enacted sweeping improvements to their farm animal welfare policies in their supply chains, after MFA released similar undercover video of abuse, mistreatment and mutilation at various supplier facilities in the past three years.
Speaking of impactful changes, Walmart also recently reported that its portfolio-wide cooling water management strategy has delivered 660 million gallons and over $4 million in cost savings since 2008, according to a case study published on Environmental Defense Fund’s EDF+Business blog.
The case study includes a step-by-step process other companies can follow to implement their own water-saving strategies. The study builds on the EDF and AT&T partnership, which led to the development of a water efficiency toolkit that has been downloaded by more than 1,000 organizations. AT&T also teamed up with HydroPoint, a provider of smart water management solutions, to help their customers remotely monitor and manage their irrigation systems, which resulted in 15 billion gallons of water savings in a single year.