Good News, Bad News


In my previous post, In the Beginning, I described how my fantasy of forming an Animal Welfare Committee at the Park Slope Food Coop was stymied by the silence of the co-op’s meat buyer.

As the story continues, I decided to try my luck with the Environmental Committee, given that factory farming is a primary contributor to global warming. The way I figured it, they might sponsor an animal welfare sub-committee, or short of this, advise me on forming my own committee.

A word about the co-op and committees. The co-op is governed by a six-person Board of Directors, five of whom are elected by the members; day-to-day management is handled by paid General Coordinators. In addition, the Board has established a slew of member-run committees. These include the Diversity and Equality Committee, the Genetically-Modified Food Committee, and the Disciplinary Committee (which is responsible for “the review, investigation, and disposition of all submitted complaints of member misconduct”). You will think this crazy, or beautiful, or some combination of the two, but somehow it works. In a very “co-op” sense of “works.”

Speaking of working, the head of the Environmental Committee had great news for me: They had recently met with several co-op members involved in animal welfare through the ASPCA and The Humane Society, and they were helping these folks create a proposal for the creation of an Animal-Friendly Committee. Yes!

I was also put in touch with an Environmental Committee member who had conducted preliminary research on the subject. Among other things, she pointed me to The Facts About Farm Animal Welfare Standards—a 20-page summary of a report prepared by the Farm Sanctuary about animal product labeling, industry quality assurance practices, and third-party standards as they relate to farm animal welfare.

To summarize the summary’s summary:

  • Food labeling and marketing claims are generally subjective and not verified.
  • Animal industry quality assurance guidelines codify inhumane farming systems, fail to prevent suffering and distress, and do not allow for the expression of normal animal behavior.
  • Humane certification standards disallow some cruel practices, but significant deficiencies exist in these as well. All in all, their impact on animal welfare has been minimal.

This was both exactly the kind of information I was looking for, and exactly the opposite of what I hoped to learn. Is bad news less bad when it is more or less expected? I’m not sure. In any case, I’m now waiting for co-op members to vote the “Animal-Friendly” committee into existence at a General Meeting, which should happen in the next few months. In the meantime… veggie burgers.