From 2015-17, advocates secured pledges from over 300 US food companies to eliminate battery cages for the more than 240M egg-laying hens in their supply chains, mostly by 2025. (Advocates also secured another 800+ pledges from non-US food companies — the subject of a future newsletter.) This was a big win for the farm animal movement. Fewer than 50 full-time advocates pushed the $9B US egg industry to commit to eliminate its core business practice — confining hens in tiny cages — at a cost to the industry of $7B-$9.5B. A 2016 Washington Post front-page story declared a “victory for the animal welfare movement”, noting that even egg producers think a “cage-free future is a fait accompli.” In an excellent new post, Rethink Priorities’ Saulius Šimčikas assesses the cost-effectiveness of these campaigns and the global cage-free ones that followed them. He finds that, even accounting for the millions spent on investigations and other advocacy that only indirectly supported the campaigns, they affected 12 to 160 years of animal life per dollar spent. But that only applies if companies follow through on their pledges. And, two years on, there are worrying signs that some may not. Marriott and Burger King postponed their 2015 and 2017 pledges, while Disney and Hilton only partially fulfilled their’s. Some egg producers have halted cage-free conversion plans, citing weak demand. A new survey finds the largest US egg producers think most hens will still be caged in 2025.
Bollard, L., (2019). Will Companies Make Good on Cage-Free Pledges. Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter, 9 July https://www.openphilanthropy.org/farm-animal-welfare-newsletter-archive. Open Philanthropy, San Francisco, USA.