Why corporate campaigning?September 21st, 2018
Kiwis are a nation of animal lovers who oppose blatant animal cruelty. We all share a vision where New Zealand is free from cruel cages. But how to get there? For the last few years, SAFE has been engaging in corporate campaigns. We’ve particularly focused on developing policies with New Zealand retailers, hospitality brands, and manufacturers to move away from buying or selling cage-eggs.
We all know factory farming is an especially cruel practice where animals suffer immensely in unnatural, cramped and miserable conditions. Hens farmed for their eggs are trapped in huge sheds in metal cages, crammed together on sloping wire floors, unable to open their wings, stand upright, dust bathe or move freely. These hens have little more floorspace than the size of a magazine to live their entire lives. When scientific survey company Horizon polls the public, it finds the majority of Kiwis passionately oppose keeping hens in cages.
But when people are distracted by the pressures of daily life, and confused by green-washed marketing designed to trick them into not understanding what they’re buying, it’s easy to observe a gap between belief and behavior. In a crowded supermarket aisle or while rushing to get takeaways, we can simply forget to act in line with our own principles.
Given this, waiting for the factory farming industry to change purely through individual consumer behaviour is a slow approach. The public support is certainly there, but the individual follow-through comes and goes.
We can observe this in other causes and social justice movements. Campaigning for individuals to decline a plastic straw in their takeaway drink is a great start, but while manufacturers continue to produce millions of straws each week, it’s like asking people to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. But campaigns to stop brands providing plastic straws and plastic bags has proven a faster, more effective, and more targeted way to achieve mass change.
Widespread public awareness and concern on any given issue is an essential foundation to any successful corporate change campaign. Directing the focus of change-making onto the powerful bulk buyers, producers or supporters of an industry (plastic bags or cage eggs) is more resource-efficient and delivers faster results than slow-burn, individual change on its own. To achieve change on a mass scale for animals, we cannot only focus on each shopper’s trolley – we need to also make top-down change.
Thankfully, we aren’t ‘bush bashing’ our way through this campaign, guessing where the path might lead and wondering if it will work. We are following an established roadmap, travelled by many nations and campaigners before us. We can look to their results to show us what’s ahead. Their victories and lessons learned can inform our campaigns to be even more effective.
In 2000 in Germany, the vast majority of hens were trapped in cages – a whopping 86.5%. After corporate campaigning efforts to move businesses away from purchasing these cage eggs, most hens are no longer relegated to life locked in a cage. In 2017, only 9.5% of hens remained in cages. At the same time, egg-free products and egg alternatives are now shooting up in popularity, as public consciousness grows.
This mass egg industry infrastructure and supply switchover didn’t happen accidentally. It is the direct result of skilled campaigners who harnessed peoples’ concern for hens, and directed that care and focus onto brands who are answerable to the public though their corporate responsibility. Policies from industry giants to stop supporting cage-eggs were the catalyst to scupper the cruel factory farming industry.
In 2016, SAFE joined the Open Wing Alliance, a coalition of over 50 international animal protection organisations. Initiated by The Humane League, OWA members joined forces in the global revolution to free egg-laying hens from cages through corporate change campaigns.
Following focussed corporate campaign efforts in the last 18 months, caring New Zealanders have turned the tide irrevocably on cage eggs. By 2027, no supermarkets will sell whole cage eggs. Many other retail, fast food, restaurant, café, foodservice, hotel and manufacture brands are following suit, adopting policies to stop supporting cruel cage eggs. The writing is on the wall for the archaic cage egg industry. Retailers and businesses are now realising the move to cage-free is inevitable.
SAFE will continue to advocate for Kiwis to take action through making kind choices for animals on an individual level, while also advocating for lifting the baseline of treatment for all animals trapped in the system. The egg industry choosing to confine hens in battery and colony cages is one of the most extreme methods of legalised animal cruelty still around today. We’re working hard to help hens and their chicks across all types of farming systems and getting rid of cages is a vital step in the journey towards a future where ALL animals are valued as individuals.