Animal welfare on the rise

Yet it is still very underexposed in many companies. Why is this?

Society is changing, consumers no longer accept animal suffering and civil society organisations are responding to this. They bring abuses to light through the media and lobby the government. As a result, politics and government are moving with the times. It looks like consumers are becoming increasingly powerful. The government is governing and the business community is increasingly assuming political responsibility.

CSR and animal welfare

HACCP, for example, made companies increasingly responsible for food safety. And now, due to the rise of civil society organisations, a political responsibility has been added in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), focusing on people, planet and profit. Companies that take this seriously demonstrate that they are more innovative, have more committed employees, retain talented staff more easily and for longer periods of time, have more loyal customers and, in many cases, are also more profitable. In other words, successful companies. The Ministry of Economic Affairs conducts an annual survey into the CSR transparency of companies. The food sector comes out of this survey with an average score. Many companies still leave too much responsibility with their customers. 

CSR and animal welfare

But CSR alone is not enough, because animal welfare is not included as standard. Many companies still only focus on people and the environment. This is shown by Monique Janssen in her dissertation at Erasmus University 'Animal Business, Corporate responsibility towards animals'. Janssens describes in this thesis that the involvement of companies for animals differs strongly per company. She assessed the websites for this, among other things. Janssens believes that all companies have an impact on animals, not just livestock farmers or meat sellers. As an example, she gives the hiring of a caterer, a company outing to the zoo and the impact of shipping on marine mammals. Here, too, she feels, animal welfare must be considered from within the CSR programme. Janssens believes that society's view of animals is changing rapidly.

Animal cruelty no longer tolerated

Animal cruelty is absolutely no longer tolerated. A recent incident is the footage from the Gosschalk slaughterhouse. Here, animals were maltreated with electric current pricks. People reacted shocked and angry. The media were full of it. How can this still happen today? And what about camera surveillance? It turned out that there were 'dead spots' whereby the abuses were not filmed. Slaughterhouse Gosschalk is allowed to reopen after a long time. The improvement plan with extra cameras is approved, but the NVWA will carry out increased supervision. 

We live in a time when abuses come to light more quickly because a film is made quickly nowadays. Consumers react to this, and nowadays so do politicians and the government.

The abuses at the Gosschalk slaughterhouse, for example, were fodder for the Party for the Animals. Promptly, a motion was tabled by that party for a ban on the use of flotation devices that could cause pain or stress. A majority in the Lower House voted in favour of this. And now Minister Schouten of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Fisheries (LNV) is in a quandary. Because the European rules do not prohibit the current pricker. European regulations are leading and at the national level, member states are allowed to make additions.

But Minister Schouten has decided to enter into talks with the sector to possibly phase out the use of current prickers.

Animal abuse is something of all times. Sea bass and dorado in overcrowded cages or tanks in the sea with poor water quality, poultry with serious catching injuries or slaughter animals that are beaten and kicked. Civil society organisations often take action for what the government fails to do.

Lobby animal welfare in Europe

Animal welfare has also become an increasingly important issue in Europe. Partly as a result of lobbying by civil society organisations, the European Commission is now investigating the possibility of setting a European standard for animal welfare that would be compulsory on the label. Consumers have indicated that they want to be better informed.

So animal welfare is on the rise, partly due to actions and lobbying by civil society organisations. How can you best respond to this as a company?

Animal welfare in CSR policy

To start with, it is important to draw up a CSR policy for your company that includes animal welfare. And be innovative in doing so. This will attract more talent, get your employees more involved and make the company more profitable. Companies can do this individually, but they can also do it collectively in an alliance. Together you are stronger.

In her thesis, Monique Janssens indicates that leadership, cooperation and communication are important elements in promoting animal welfare. In companies that do relatively well, she sees that the CSR manager shows leadership and knows how to bring parties together around animal welfare. Janssens believes that if the issue is also well communicated within the company or partnership and to society at large, Janssens believes the company has already taken a big step forward.

Published in Vismagazine and Vleesmagazine, September 2021

Yvon Bemelman