The Tipping Point: Can Walmart's New Animal Welfare Policy End Factory Farming?
AbstractUndercover investigations revealing abuse and headlines concerning deadly viruses are increasing awareness regarding how we treat farm animals intended for human consumption. Pictures on food products depicting hens and cows peacefully roaming in the grass outside a barn belie the current reality of factory farming and the suffering animals endure under this system. This policy analysis examines how animal welfare has been regulated in this country and exposes the multitude of exemptions that exist for farm animals. The federal Animal Welfare Act, Twenty-Eight Hour Law, Federal Meat Inspection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughtering Act, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act all fail to adequately regulate the treatment, care, and travel of agricultural animals. If states attempt to take matters into their own hands, they run into a host of preemption problems. Even for the regulations that do reach agricultural animals, not a single one embraces the Five Freedoms that are recommended according to the Farm Animal Welfare Council. These recommendations include that animals be free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, and distress, and that they be able to express their normal behavior. In an unprecedented move, Walmart recently announced that its suppliers will adhere to animal welfare standards embracing the Five Freedoms. However, Walmart's policy has several shortcomings, including a voluntary compliance regime and no deadline for implementation. Nevertheless Walmart's animal welfare policy is likely this country's best hope for shifting current practices away from factory farming in favor of more humane and healthy handling of agricultural animals.
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