With growing public interest in how food is produced, Walmart said it expects that its suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind, the retailer said in a May 22 statement. It is asking suppliers to support the globally recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare as well as other best practices regarding animal welfare.
“Our customers and members count on Walmart and Sam’s Club to deliver affordable products in a way that is sustainable for people and for the planet,” Walmart said. “To meet those needs, we work with partners all along the supply chain to improve the sustainability of products we sell. We do this while working to offer quality products, everyday low prices and putting customers in charge of their food choices by helping provide clear, accurate information about food ingredients and production.”
Consumers now more than ever have questions about whether current practices match their values and expectations about the well being of farm animals. Animal science plays a central role in guiding these practices, but does not always provide clear direction, Walmart said. Increasingly, animal welfare decisions are being considered through a combination of science and ethics.
“We recognize that farm animals play an important role in providing nutritious meat, dairy and eggs to our customers and members,” Walmart said. “We believe that farm animals in our supply chain should be treated humanely throughout their lives and that the welfare of farm animals should be considered in selection of all production systems, practices and technologies. Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. are committed to continuous improvement in the welfare of farm animals in our supply chain.”
The Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle lauded the move.
“Walmart’s animal welfare announcement is a game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending,” Pacelle said. “Battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates—along with other long-standing practices that immobilize animals—have a short shelf life in our food system. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Walmart and hope to see them put implementation timelines in place. And we’re optimistic about helping other food companies strengthen their policies to create a more humane society for all.”
The Five Freedoms include:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst—by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
- Freedom from Discomfort—by providing the appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease—by ensuring prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behavior—by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress—by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.
Walmart will work with its suppliers to implement practices consistent with the Five Freedoms of animal welfare. Specifically, it is asking Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. fresh and frozen meat, deli, dairy and egg suppliers to:
- Report to authorities and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action in any cases of animal abuse.
- Adopt and implement the principles of the Five Freedoms in their own operations and industry producer programs, and publish a corporate policy on animal welfare.
- Find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns including, but not limited to: housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization such as sow gestation crates, hen, battery cages and veal crates; painful procedures where avoidable or without pain management (for example, tail docking, de-horning and castration); euthanasia or slaughter without rendering an animal insensible to pain; and promote transparency by providing an animal welfare report to Walmart and publicly reporting against their animal welfare policy on an annual basis.