The numbers are astonishing.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, more than 60 billion land animals are raised for meat each year around the world.
To put the farm animal population into perspective, consider this: In the time it takes to watch a 60-minute television show, 5.8 million chickens are slaughtered for meat. That’s more than 97,000 animals per minute.
Each of these animals in agriculture—chickens, pigs, cattle, turkeys, lambs, and others—has the capacity to experience pain and pleasure, fear and excitement. Each one can suffer.
By choosing to support higher welfare farmers and ranchers, we can collectively make a significant difference in the lives of billions of animals.
In just the last five years, farm animal welfare has become ingrained in the global landscape:
- In 2006, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank issues its Animal Welfare in Livestock Operations Good Practice Note and explains: “Animal welfare is gaining increased recognition as an important element of commercial livestock operations around the world….Higher animal welfare standards are also increasingly seen to be a prerequisite to enhancing business efficiency and profitability, satisfying international markets, and meeting consumer expectations….”
- In 2007, world-renowned celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announces his operations will no longer serve products from intensive confinement systems—eggs from laying hens in battery cages, pork from producers who confine breeding sows in gestation crates, and veal from crated calves.
- In 2008, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization convenes an Open Forum on Capacity Building to Implement Good Animal Welfare Practices and publishes a report from the Expert Meeting. The Executive Summary discusses “the growing concern about animal welfare…[which] is coming to be recognized as highly relevant to success in international development….”
- Also in 2008, the World Organisation for Animal Health holds the 2nd Global Conference on Animal Welfare in Cairo, Egypt, with participants from around the world.
- In 2009, the International Dairy Federation holds its annual World Dairy Summit and includes a full day’s agenda on “Animal Health and Animal Welfare.”
- In 2010, McDonald’s-Europe completes its phase-out of the use of eggs from caged laying hens in all its restaurants throughout the European Union.
- Also in 2010, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries, issues its ISO 26000 guidelines—internationally accepted standards on social responsibility for public and private sectors in developed and developing countries, and those in transition—and includes animal welfare in its criteria.
- In 2011, Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading natural and organic food retailer, adopts Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.
We don’t need to work for a multi-lateral institution or be a world-famous chef or be part of the leadership of an international corporation to make a difference.
Each one of us, in our daily lives and in our own homes, can improve the lives of animals simply by choosing to support those farmers and ranchers who have a commitment to providing higher welfare to the animals they raise.