THE BLOG
10/06/2014 04:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2014

Centerplate Says Farm Animals Deserve to Be Center of Attention

National Football League running back Ray Rice made national news when an elevator camera recorded him knocking out his then-fiancée with a vicious punch, bringing to light the scourge of domestic violence in our society and specifically in the world of professional sports. The Baltimore Ravens terminated him, and rightly so.

One other violent incident, also recorded in an elevator around the same time, featured the CEO of Centerplate, one of the nation's largest food service companies, kicking a dog. Violence toward pets is another all-too-common form of violence in our society, and one that also deserves no tolerance.

Once the incident came to light, Centerplate's board of directors took action, and let the CEO go.

I am happy to report that Centerplate will now be known for a more positive action when it comes to animal welfare.

The HSUS has been working with Centerplate to create a new animal welfare policy. And last week, Centerplate announced its commitment to eliminate gestation crate pork from within its supply chain and to switch all of its shell (whole) eggs to cage-free. This is just the latest major advance in our effort to fight intensive confinement of animals on factory farms, with dozens of companies getting on board with our call for more humane supply chains for the animal products they sell.

Last week's victory in a federal court, dismissing an attack on California's animal welfare and food safety laws by several Midwest state attorneys general and the governor of Iowa, is sure to add to that momentum, especially when it comes to our campaign to promote the welfare of laying hens. California's Prop 2 stipulates that laying hens be allowed to "stand up, lie down, turn around, and freely extend their limbs," and it takes effect January 1. So does the state's requirement that all shell eggs sold in the state must also meet that same animal welfare and housing standard. These reforms should send a clear message to retailers and producers that consumer demand for more humane products is growing every day.

Other big names in food service -- including Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo -- have already switched hundreds of millions of eggs to cage-free over the past several years, as well collaborating with us on anti-gestation crate policies and national meat reduction campaigns, including "Meatless Monday" and "Be a Flexitarian." Other major companies -- from Whole Foods Market to Burger King -- have also adopted policies to sell no eggs from caged hens.

At the same time that so many retailers are moving toward cage-free egg purchasing, many big names in egg production are converting their housing systems to cage-free as well. For them, it's an investment in the future, in a world where consumers will be less inclined over time to accept extreme confinement of any animals on factory farms. For them, why build more confinement systems, which might last two or three decades, when the landscape is so likely to change in the next few years?

By building and developing cage-free production facilities, these producers are positioning themselves for the decades ahead and beyond, and it's a credit to them and their foresight. We look forward to helping them down that path, to make it a win for producers, food retailers, consumers, and, of course, for the hens themselves.

This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.