Nestle, one of the world’s largest food manufacturers, has pledged new standards for animal welfare, standards which are to be observed by its thousands of suppliers worldwide. The policy can be traced to a hidden camera operated by Mercy For Animals filming some dairy cows in Wisconsin being abused by one of Nestle’s suppliers. As a result four employees were charged with animal cruelty and the episode eventually led to Nestle’s announcement. The new standards will force the army of suppliers to provide more space for farm animals, phase out practices such as dehorning cattle or castrating animals without pain killers and keeping egg-laying hens in cramped cages. Nestle says its move stems from its awareness that its consumers care about animal welfare and has no plans for an increase in retail prices. In fact, it said, it plans to absorb the initial costs of the policy and has retained an organization to make spot audits.
Animal welfare groups hope that given that Nestle is the world’s largest food and beverage company, the policy will reverberate throughout the food industry and force smaller firms to follow the same standards. Regardless, it seems a coming of age for animal rights.