Animal Welfare and Food Transition Forum highlights importance of animal welfare to ESG
On March 29, the second annual Animal Welfare and Food Transition Forum ushered in a new chapter for farmed animal welfare in Taiwan. The theme of this year’s forum is the indispensable role of animal welfare in corporate Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) performance. The forum attracted nearly 200 attendees.
The forum was opened with remarks by legislator Su Chiao-Hui, deputy minister of the Council of Agriculture Tu Wen-Jane, and a recorded greeting from Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party of Korea.
Assembly member Park, the second highest ranking member of the Democratic Party of Korea, expressed that concern for all sentient beings is a mark of the march towards a civilized society. Park used his remarks to share the achievements of the Animal Welfare Parliamentary Forum in the National Assembly – including the establishment of a new animal welfare bureau, overhauling the Animal Protection Act and setting requirements for all laying hens to be afforded at least 750cm2 of space from 2025. As he concluded his remarks, Park expressed hope that Taiwan’s leaders would take inspiration from his words and emphasized that animal welfare, environmental protection and human health are interwoven and critical to realizing a sustainable future.
Sharren Haskel, member of the Israeli Knesset and former chair of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, recounted how she steered legislation which will see Israel’s egg industry fully transition to cage-free farming by 2037. Currently, 90% of laying hens in Israel are still raised in cages in open sheds, conditions similar to Taiwan. Israel’s reform package will see farmers receive funds to upgrade poultry houses, improve facilities and lift biosecurity standards and is a forward-thinking example at a time when Taiwanese authorities are contemplating subsidies to modernize poultry houses. Haskel expressed that humans have a moral obligation to take care of animals and hopes Israel’s progressive regulations will “inspire decision-makers around the world, including in Taiwan.”
Founding partner of Kipster, Ruud Zanders, shared his journey of bringing the world’s first carbon neutral eggs from the Netherlands to the world. Zanders once took the reins of his father’s conventional cage egg business, which veered into bankruptcy after an outbreak of avian influenza. Years later, Zanders returned to farming and joined three other partners to found Kipster, crafting a new model of animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
Kipster opened its first farm in Venray, the Netherlands in 2017. Kipster’s farms use a multi-story aviary system, balancing the needs of land use and the needs of animal-friendly farming. The farms feature a sun-drenched indoor garden fitted with a glass ceiling, protecting hens from inclement weather while allowing sunlight to enter, while hens are free to explore wintergardens enclosed in nets to reduce the risk of avian influenza. While male chicks in the egg industry are typically killed on the day they hatch, Kipster roosters are raised on an organic farm to 15 weeks of age.
Importantly, the feed on Kipster farms come from upcycled human food waste to reduce competition for grains that can be used to feed humans, while chicken manure is given a new life as organic fertilizer. Taiwan’s newly-minted climate laws require the promotion of low-carbon diets, locally-produced foods and food waste reduction, making Kipster’s business model an apt exemplar.
Paul Littlefair, Head of International at the RSPCA, shared how RSCPA Assured – the world’s first animal welfare certification scheme – has spurred the transformation of the retail market in the UK. Littlefair shared that RSPCA Assured creates a virtuous cycle by empowering consumers to make choices in alignment with their values which encourages retailers to stock higher welfare products, thus incentivizing producers to adopt higher welfare practices. The RSPCA has set the ambitious goal of half of all animals farmed in the UK being reared reared in accordance with RSPCA welfare standards by 2030 while encouraging consumers to eat less, eat better. Already, more than half of all laying hens and 90% of salmon in the UK are raised to RSPCA standards.
As an executive at the first retailer in Asia to release a cage-free commitment, Marilyn Su, director of corporate sustainability at Carrefour and CEO of the Carrefour Foundation, explained how animal welfare became a central pillar of the retailer’s ESG activities and Food Transition. Su described how Carrefour combines the efforts of its commercial and non-profit arms to bring together consumers, industry, government and academics and address animal welfare, including leveraging Carrefour Impact stores. Cage-free eggs currently make up nearly 40% of egg sales in Carrefour stores in Taiwan. “While the transition is sometimes difficult, real problems are seldom solved by easy decisions” said Su, urging Taiwan to act with haste to avoid falling behind international shifts.
Wu Hung, founder and chief executive of EAST, shared that upwards of 79% of the Taiwanese public believe widespread practices – such as battery cages and fish binding – cause suffering to animals. A majority also believe the government should take stronger action to protect animal welfare and that companies should include animal welfare in their CSR efforts. The figures are the result of a survey of 1,074 respondents conducted by the National Chengchi University in July 2022.
Kelly Kok, executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute Taiwan, highlighted that the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022 passed a resolution acknowledging the role of animal welfare in achieving the SDGs and requesting the United Nations Environment Programme produce a report on the nexus between animal welfare, the environment and sustainable development.
Nicole Yu, a student at the Taipei American School, also shared her experience directing the film Better Eggs, Better Lives, which was created by a team of students and explores the cage-free transition from the perspective of animals and industry stakeholders.
The forum also showcased pioneering initiatives by Taiwanese industry leaders. Wen Yuan-Wen, deputy chief executive officer of the livestock division at Taiwan’s largest pork producer, Taisugar, shared the state-run company’s journey to eliminate sow stalls and the emotion he felt making a positive change for animals. Kung Chien-Chia, founder of BetterMilk, which sources milk from three EAST Certified farms, detailed the unique challenges of persuading farms to conform to animal welfare certification standards. Toledo, founder of The Match Kitchen Lab, shared the importance of animal welfare in communicating your values to your customers.
The forum was organized by the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), the Carrefour Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute Taiwan. The organizers noted that the Taiwanese government is yet to set a clear timeline for the phase out of battery cages in Taiwan. Drawing on the experiences of South Korea and Israel, it is clear that strong legislator support is integral to eliciting more ambitious animal welfare policies. Further, food companies should set animal welfare sourcing standards as part of their ESG initiatives to fulfil international standards, improve their competitiveness and build a more sustainable food system in Taiwan.
Forum photos: https://reurl.cc/gZnL1L
Speaker presentations: https://reurl.cc/8qLOy4
Yu-Min Chen, Deputy Chief Executive
Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
Mobile: +886 (9) 1015 0908
Phone: +886 (2) 2236 9735