WASHINGTON, March 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Burger King announced a phase-in of new, industry-leading animal welfare policies today, in what The Humane Society of the United States applauded as an historic advance for the fast-food sector. The HSUS has been talking with the fast-food giant for more than a year about improving its farm animal standards. "With its new policy changes, Burger King is signaling to agribusiness that the most inhumane factory farming practices are on the way out," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "As a result of this decision, large numbers of farm animals across the nation will be spared from much needless suffering." After extensive dialogue with The Humane Society of the United States and independent discussions with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Burger King spelled out details of its decision: * It has begun purchasing two percent of its eggs from producers that do not confine laying hens in battery cages. It will more than double the percentage of cage-free eggs it's using to five percent by the end of the year. * It has implemented a purchasing preference for cage-free eggs. Such a preference is intended to favor producers that convert away from battery-cage confinement systems. * It has started purchasing 10 percent of its pork from producers that do not confine breeding pigs in gestation crates, which are too small to allow even ordinary movement. The volume of pork purchases coming from gestation crate-free producers will double to 20 percent by the end of the year. * It has also implemented a purchasing preference for pork from producers that do not confine breeding sows in gestation crates. * It has implemented a preference for producers that use controlled atmosphere killing of chickens used for meat. This has been shown to cause significantly less suffering than the conventional method of slaughter used by most of the nation's poultry slaughterers. In the past, major restaurant chains have incorporated animal welfare considerations into their operating policies. However, this step by Burger King, the nation's No. 2 fast food chain, is the most significant yet. The HSUS urged other industry leaders to quickly follow suit and forgo their defense of abusive practices that inflict needless suffering on farm animals. "The more consumers learn about factory farming cruelties, the more they insist upon better treatment for animals," said Pacelle. "There is a long way to go before we end farm animal abuse, but today's announcement sets the country on a clear trajectory on factory farming issues." Burger King's decision is the latest in a recent string of historic advancements for farm animals in the United States. In the wake of successful HSUS-led ballot initiatives banning gestation crate confinement in Florida and Arizona, the U.S.'s and Canada's largest pig producers -- Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods -- announced in recent weeks that they are phasing out their use of gestation crates. Just last week, Wolfgang Puck announced a wide- ranging plan to improve animal welfare in his supply chain. After The HSUS launched its No Battery Eggs campaign, numerous retailers, foodservice providers, and more than 100 schools have eliminated or dramatically reduced their use of eggs from hens confined in battery cages. Facts * U.S. factory farms confine nearly 300 million hens in barren battery cages that are so small, the birds can't even spread their wings. Each bird has less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live. * Gestation crates are two-foot-wide metal cages that confine millions of breeding pigs for nearly their entire lives. The crates are so restrictive that the animals can't even turn around for months on end. The animals suffer both leg and joint problems along with psychosis from this extreme treatment. * Controlled Atmosphere Killing, a method of slaughter in which birds are deprived of oxygen, has been shown to cause significantly less suffering than the barbaric but commonplace practice of shacking birds upside down while fully conscious, paralyzing them in electrified vats of water, and dragging them over mechanical blades which cut their throats. Timeline * March 2007-Burger King announces that it has started phasing in the use of cage-free eggs, pork from producers that don't use gestation crates, and has implemented a purchasing preference for chicken meat from producers using Controlled Atmosphere Killing. * March 2007-Wolfgang Puck announces the implementation of a wide-ranging program to improve animal welfare in his supply chain, including not using foie gras, battery cage eggs, pork or veal from crated sows and calves, and expanding vegetarian options. * January 2007-Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods announce that they are phasing out their use of gestation crates to confine breeding pigs. * November 2006-In a landslide, Arizona voters pass an HSUS-led initiative banning gestation crates and veal crates in the state (effective 2013). * September 2006-In response to an HSUS-led campaign, Ben & Jerry's announces that it is phasing out the use of eggs from caged hens in its ice creams. * November 2005-In response to an HSUS-led campaign, Trader Joe's announces that its brand eggs will be exclusively cage-free. * May 2005-Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace announce that they have ended sales of eggs from caged hens. * November 2003-The Better Business Bureau rules that it is misleading to label eggs from battery-caged hens as "Animal Care Certified." * November 2002-Florida voters overwhelmingly approve an HSUS-led measure banning gestation crates in the state (effective 2008). The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization-backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty-On the web at www.HumaneSociety.org.
SOURCE The Humane Society of the United States