We seem to be looking at a turning point. Prominent food multinational Nestlé has announced that it is taking a stand on animal welfare. The news of its agreement with World Animal Protection, an animal-welfare NGO, is making headlines around the world: Nestlé has pledged to “improve the welfare of farm animals” in the farms that supply it. This is the first of this kind of agreement to be signed by a multinational. “We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain,” reads the press release issued on August 21.
Based on the agreement, many of the cruelest forms of animal abuse will be eliminated: the practices of tail docking and dehorning cattle, for example, will be banned, as well as the castration of pigs without pain relief and the use of hormones to encourage the rapid growth of poultry. Nestlé has also undertaken to bring an end to the intensive confinement of veal calves in crates that completely restrict their movement, gestation crates for swine and battery cages for egg-laying hens.
This decision comes on the heels of an investigation carried out by the group Mercy For Animals into the dairy farms that supply the Swiss multinational. The investigation highlighted shocking mistreatment perpetrated by farmers who supply one of Nestlé’s companies (DiGiorno Pizza): workers kicking, beating and even stabbing cows and calves.
These reforms could mark a real turnaround and force other multinationals to make similar commitments. For example, it is hoped that McDonald’s and Wal-Mart might follow Nestlé’s example.
“Even though we’re aware that this decision by Nestlé should probably be seen as a marketing or greenwashing strategy, nonetheless we welcome this news,” commented Piero Sardo, the president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “Most of all because it is a clear sign of how the issue of animal welfare is increasingly a concern for consumers who, with their demands, are in some ways able to influence industrial production policies.”
By Letizia Morino and Michela Marchi