This article originally appeared on The Daily Pitchfork.
Kudos to Village Voice writer Sara Ventiera for a thorough update on Starbucks' plans to implement a new set of animal welfare standards.
Ventiera notes that while the company has earned its share of flack in recent years, its animal welfare move could assuage concerns from its "skeptical consumers." Her point reminds readers that animal welfare standards matter deeply to conscientious consumers - a fact that media coverage of animal issues too often overlooks.
Articles on animal welfare have an obligation to record, without whitewash or understatement, the conditions under which animals suffer. Ventiera gets this. Rather than mention generic "welfare improvements," and leaving it at that, she specifies exactly what's at stake:
"Starbucks plans to phase out gestation crates, egg-laying hen cages, fast-growing chickens, growth hormones, and irresponsible use of antibiotics; the new policy also addresses dehorning, tail-docking, and castration, with and without anesthesia." Later in the piece she adds that, "Starbucks will be a pioneer if it takes on the issues of fast-growing chickens and dehorning, tail-docking, and humane castration." Very detailed. And very true.
Rarely do farm animals have the nature of their living conditions adequately described by media that seem to be overly protective of agribusiness interests. Again Ventiera - granted, writing for the Voice - bucks the norm. She writes,
"Battery-caged hens live out their lives packed into stacked crates in a space the size of an iPad. Their beaks are seared to prevent pecking (in a natural environment, chickens use their beaks to explore and pick bugs), they can't scratch their feet (another exploratory trait), they can't nest (hens have a stronger drive to nest than eat), they can't perch (which is how they normally sleep and escape more aggressive birds), they can't stretch their wings (they flap to cleanse themselves and remove pests), and they sit around in their own defecation for years on end."
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