Welcome Daisy Fruend to my plant chat this month! Daisy is the Director of Farm Animal Welfare for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In this role, she leads a variety of public education, corporate, and legislative initiatives to improve farm animals’ lives, from banning extreme confinement practices to urging the widespread adoption of comprehensive welfare standards on farms to providing shopping resources for welfare-conscious consumers. Before joining the ASPCA she worked on farms, managed restaurants, and worked in public relations. Continue reading to learn more about Daisy’s work with the ASPCA.
What is the overall mission of ASPCA when it comes to the welfare of animals in agriculture?
While the ASPCA is known widely for our long history of work with companion animals, we believe that all animals—including those raised for food—should live free from abuse and suffering. In fact, Henry Bergh founded the organization in 1866 partly in response to the horrors occurring at slaughterhouses. There are now over 9 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority in inhumane factory-like facilities. Given the scale of the industry and of the suffering, the ASPCA is working hard to direct consumers, corporations, and lawmakers toward solutions that will improve these vulnerable animals’ lives.
What kind of impact can we make on animal welfare by eating a bit more plant-based?
We believe that whatever anyone eats, they have a powerful role to play in this movement to help farm animals. One great way to have an impact is to reduce consumption of animal products. Factory farms cause so much suffering precisely because they have been designed for extreme efficiency to meet high demand for eggs, dairy and meat. By eating less of these products, we reduce demand for these inhumane systems. Even swapping in a few more plant-based meals sends a signal to the animal agriculture industry that it must address animal suffering and that the American public does not have an appetite for cruelty.
Are there any particular areas of agricultural animal welfare you are working on now?
The lack of transparency in animal agriculture is at the heart of so much cruelty. As a society, we care about animals, we do not want them to suffer, yet decisions are made in the supermarket every day that perpetuate inhumane farming practices. With no federal laws governing the treatment of animals on the farm, consumers are taking companies at their word, but the laws governing labeling allow for widespread confusion and even deception. Through public education, corporate engagement and legislative initiatives, the ASPCA is working to build a more humane and transparent food system by promoting welfare certification where farms are audited by independent inspectors. These auditors check farm conditions against publicly available standards, designed by animal welfare scientists that ban inhumane industrial practices like caging, crating and crowding, and require meaningful improvements for animals. The clear labeling of these certified products allows consumers to make informed choices- whether they choose to eat animal products or not- and adds much needed accountability to our otherwise unregulated farming system.
Tell us a little bit about the ASPCA Shop with Your Heart initiative.
Shopping with your heart means using your purchasing power to improve farm animals’ lives. That can be by increasing plant-based alternatives, switching to welfare certified products, namely Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership Steps 2+, or demanding these products wherever you shop. The initiative provides consumers with the tools they need to make more welfare-conscious choices, including lists of higher welfare brands, and ways to demand more humane products from the stores and restaurants in their community. The Shop With Your Heart movement is not about being perfect, it’s about recognizing that our food choices add up, and together we can change how farm animals live!
What sort of resources does ASPCA have for those who want to eat a more plant-based diet?
The Shop with Your Heart campaign features several resources for consumers who are interested in incorporating more plant-based alternatives into their diet, these include:
- Downloadable list of widely available plant-based alternative food brands, featuring products like non-dairy milks and mock meats: http://www.aspca.org/take-action/help-farm-animals/shop-your-heart-grocery-list-guide
- Product request card that consumers can send to their supermarkets asking for more dairy and meat alternatives: https://www.aspca.org/sites/default/files/supermarket-request-letter_062316_revised.pdf
- Shop with Your Heart shareable graphic, which showcases some great plant-based food substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg products – check it out here.
- Reasons why shopping with your heart- including plant based eating- is better for the environment: https://www.aspca.org/news/earth-day-pledge-help-planet-and-farm-animals
What is your own personal diet philosophy?
My diet philosophy lines up with Shop With Your Heart. The majority of my meals are plant-based with the occasional welfare certified, pasture-based animal product. The best way to bring down a bad system is to create a better alternative and I believe that both plant-based and pasture-based farming represent healthier, more humane and more sustainable alternatives to factory farming.