ANALYSIS - Global food processing giant Nestlé has launched a new set of guidelines for animal welfare for its producers.
The guidelines that were drawn up with guidance from World Animal Protection, together with in-put from Mercy for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, are based on the international five freedoms for animal welfare.
1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
2. Freedom from fear and distress
3. Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
4. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior
The Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare has been added to Nestlé’s supplier guide and it spells out the company’s commitment to improving animal welfare across its global supply chains.
In the guidelines on the supplier code Nestlé says: “We share consumer, civil society organization, government and investor concerns about the care, health and welfare of farm animals used in food production”.
The company adds that it also recognises the link between animal welfare and the health of animals raised for food.
And it says it believes that “robust farm animal health and welfare standards can have both a direct and an indirect impact on food quality and safety”.
Nestlé sees other benefits in promoting a strong animal welfare policy as it believes that it can help in the development of farming and the socio-economic fabric of local communities.
A spokesman for Nestlé said: “We have added the commitment to our Nestle Supplier Guide and have begun to communicate this change across our global supply chain.
“We know this will take time and effort, but we will hold ourselves accountable by reporting on our progress regularly as part of our annual Nestle on Society: Creating Shared Value Report.
“We understand the complexities of a global food system that needs to adapt to feed a changing world. And we are committed to engaging with suppliers, farmers, industry associations, governments, NGOs and scientists to adapt our commitments and practices to achieve our goal of improving farm animal welfare in our supply chains.”
She added: “We will work with a third party assessor SGS to help identify where we need to work with our suppliers to establish action plans.
“We will apply the overall approach of: ‘Remove the worst, promote the best, improve the rest,’ and we will stop doing business with those who refuse to change.
“We will assess progress regularly and report out. World Animal Protection will also help ensure that we are meeting our commitment.
“As we incorporate new practices into their business we will work closely with our suppliers to provide education and support.
“It’s a journey and we are always evaluating where we need to do more working with a wide variety of stakeholders from our consumers to NGOs to government to our suppliers.”
The company first of all intends to engage with its supply chain partners to establish traceability of the animal-derived materials which it sources.
It will undertake a monitoring programme to understand the current status of farm animal welfare practices to develop a programme and establish a baseline for continuous improvement.
The company said it will support and implement actions to promote animal health and welfare, and eliminate practices which contravene the “Five Freedoms,” and tackle the root causes of those practices.
In particular, Nestlé will initially focus on:
– For cattle: dehorning; tail docking; disbudding and castration without anesthetic and analgesia; veal crates; permanent tethering
– For pigs: gestation crates; tail docking; surgical castration
– For poultry and eggs: cage systems, particularly barren battery cages; fast-growing practices
– For animal production systems in general: the first focus is the responsible use of antibiotics, in line with OIE’s guidance, and the phasing out of the use of growth promoters
Nestlé’s action has already brought praise from the Humane Society International.
N.G. Jayasimha, director of HSI India said: “We thank Nestle for taking a stand against inhumane factory farming practices.
“Cruelly confining animals in cages for their entire lives, castrating or removing their tails or horns without painkiller and breeding them in a way that compromises their welfare is simply unacceptable.”