In 2007, we witnessed the very beginnings of a revolution in the way farmed animals are treated. Thanks to a series of major announcements this year, the cruel confinement typical of factory-farming is, in several cases, on its way out.In 2007, some major store chains decided to stop selling foie gras and live lobsters! Raley's (which owns the Raley's, Bel Air, Nob Hill, and Food Source chains) announced that it would no longer sell live lobsters, following the lead of Whole Foods, which made a similar announcement concerning live lobsters and soft-shell crabs last year. And Giant Eagle and Harvey Nichols decided to bid "au revoir" to foie gras.
In January, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pig-meat producer, announced that it is phasing out gestation crates—which prevent pregnant sows from turning around—within 10 years. The announcement has already had a ripple effect in the pork industry, as Maple Leaf Foods (Canada’s leading pork producer) announced shortly afterward that it would phase out gestation crates and Cargill Foods said that it has stopped using gestation crates in half of its pig factory farms.
Additionally, earlier this year, the American Veal Association decided unanimously to phase out the chaining of calves by their necks inside solitary crates—which is currently a standard practice—by 2017. (A quarter of a century ago, Orthodox Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, an influential halachic authority in the U.S., ruled that Jews are forbidden from eating veal raised in such cruel conditions.)
After a PETA investigation documented inhumane conditions—including battery cages—at a South Carolina monastery’s egg factory farm, the abbey announced this month that it would get out of the egg business within a year and a half. Compass Group (the world’s largest food-service provider), Wolfgang Puck, Burger King, and CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) all made movement away from eggs from battery cages this year; some of those companies committed to other animal welfare improvements as well. This is great news considering that 95 percent of eggs consumed in the U.S. come from hens in battery cages.
Without a doubt, animals will continue to suffer tsa’ar ba’alei chayim (unnecessary animal suffering) when they are mass-produced for their flesh, eggs, and dairy products. For me, boycotting the meat industry is the only way to make sure I don’t contribute to this cruelty. But any step toward being less cruel to animals raised for food is a step in the right direction.
There have been some big legislative victories as well. Oregon banned gestation crates for pigs, following the lead of Arizona and Florida. And in the U.K., the city councils of York, Bolton, and Norwich voted nearly unanimously to oppose the sale of foie gras; the production of foie gras is already prohibitied in the U.K.