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Farm Forward is a team of strategists, campaigners, and thought leaders helping guide the movement to change the way our world eats and farms. What sets us apart from other animal welfare groups is our visionary leadership that looks beyond suffering reduction to the overall institutional and cultural change that will end factory farming. Our strategy is unique. While reducing animal suffering through policy remains central to our work, we also recognize the need to combine policy with efforts to transform animal farming, and that we must change the narrative Americans tell themselves about the food they eat.
This was a big year for us. In fact, it was our biggest year yet.
Farm Forward’s Game Changing Victories in 2016
Jewish Initiative for Animals
The most robust program of Farm Forward’s “Faith in Food Initiative” is the Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA), a movement to support innovative programs to turn Jewish values of compassion for animals into action while building Jewish American communities in the process. Our most recent accomplishments include the launch of The Ark Project, our groundbreaking new curriculum for Jewish youth to connect their love for animals to Jewish values through a bar or bat mitzvah (b’nai mitzvah) project, and our unparalleled work to bring higher-welfare heritage chicken back to kosher consumers for the first time in decades. JIFA Educators have presented at national and regional conferences, coordinated Jewish humane education at 20 Jewish summer camps, created two dozen sets of educational resources, and organized 25 events nationwide that address the intersection of Jewish values, animal welfare, and ethical food choices.
Improving Poultry Welfare: Landmark Announcement to Address Genetic Health
As the first national organization to focus on poultry genetics, Farm Forward has pushed to make the return to genetically healthy birds a central aspect of Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) 5-Step® standards since GAP’s inception. Last year, these efforts led to a change effectively requiring producers at the highest Step to use heritage turkeys (turkeys with optimal genetic welfare) and refrain from caging or feed-restricting breeder turkeys, practices used universally in conventional breeding facilities. As a result of these efforts, GAP recently announced a landmark pledge to phase out the fastest-growing strains of chickens—which currently account for more than 99 percent of chicken meat sold in the U.S.—by 2024. Whole Foods Market’s pledge to follow the new standard will improve welfare for hundreds of millions of chickens. Read more here.
School Food Policy Improvements
Farm Forward promotes food choices that minimize farmed animal suffering. This year we partnered with Center for Good Food Purchasing to develop a comprehensive food policy, the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), which addresses local economies, treatment of workers, the environment, and animal welfare. We’ve taken a leading role in defining the program’s animal welfare standards and have committed to providing ongoing support to institutions that adopt GFPP so that we can help them identify and locate higher-welfare animal products. Our partnership with the Center enables us to leverage the buying power of institutions and governments to change the way America eats and farms. So far this year both San Francisco and Oakland Unified School districts adopted the program. By helping major groups like San Francisco and Oakland schools move their supply chains to higher-quality providers, we are increasing the availability of better animal products to average consumers and getting one step closer to creating a post-factory farmed food system. Read more here.
Institutional Supply Chain Transparency
As part of our broader work to help schools and businesses find alternatives to factory farmed animal products, we worked directly with The University of California (UC) system to help identify higher welfare poultry products for their schools. The result: eight of its ten schools will now purchase eggs from certified higher-welfare farms. This new contract will not only improve the lives of tens of thousands of animals, but also send a message that raising animals in higher-welfare conditions is important to consumers. Read more here.
Connecting Faith with Food Choices
Our Faith in Food Initiative is the largest national effort to promote community-specific efforts to fight factory farming from a faith-based perspective. The Faith in Food Initiative activates spiritual leaders within faith communities and works with them to help their religious institutions find their own unique ways of joining us in the fight against factory farming. For example, Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter is working with Farm Forward to do just that in the American black church. Christopher is a United Methodist pastor and rising star in Black Theology. He joins Farm Forward as one of our two inaugural Faith in Food Fellows, along with Dr. David Clough whose CreatureKind project you can read about here. Christopher’s work explores the meaning of soul food within the African American community in the age of factory farming. Read more here.
Taking a Stand With Farmers
For years, Farm Forward has worked to create a more just and sustainable food system. Unlike most other sustainable agriculture and animal welfare organizations, we forge relationships with small farmers who provide alternatives to factory farming. This year we spearheaded an outreach campaign to engage consumers in taking action to stand with farmers and against Big-Ag…and we won! Read more here.
Coalition Bands Together to Improve the Certified Organic Label
This summer, Farm Forward joined a coalition of animal, environmental, and consumer protection organizations to submit a joint comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its proposed rule to amend animal welfare requirements under the Certified Organic label. Through an outreach campaign we gathered more than 120,000 comments from our supporters who want to see a stronger organic program. The proposed rule would increase both animal welfare and uniformity and bring the Organic standards more in line with consumer expectations. Read more here.
Factory Farming is Risky Business
Everyone knows that factory farming is bad for animals, humans, and the environment. Now, with our help, a growing number of financial institutions are realizing that it’s bad for investors, too. With input from Farm Forward, a groundbreaking new report released this year calls into question the wisdom of investing in industrialized animal agriculture. Published by Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR), the report highlights the risks to investors posed by a wide array of environmental, governance, and social issues that stem from factory farming. Read more here.
Anti-Sunshine Law – The fight against Ag-gag in NC
Farm Forward joined a federal lawsuit to strike down North Carolina’s ag-gag law, which went into effect January 1, 2016, despite Governor McCrory’s veto. The law punishes whistleblowers for exposing animal abuse, human rights violations, and anything else that employers wish to hide from the public. As stated in our petition: “North Carolina’s Anti-Sunshine Law seriously hinders North Carolinians’ ability to know the truth about misconduct, mistreatment and corruption happening in virtually every industry, including nursing homes, factory farms, financial institutions, daycare centers and more. It’s an extreme law forced on citizens over a governor’s veto by lawmakers who bowed to pressure from corporate lobbyists. Our lawsuit is being brought for the sake of the health and safety of all citizens of North Carolina. We are confident the law will be found unconstitutional and that a victory in North Carolina will deter other state legislatures from repeating North Carolina’s mistake.” Read more here.
Transcending Borders to End Factory Farming
If we’re going to defeat factory farming, we can’t be content with victories only in the US, Canada, and Mexico—we must also turn back the progress of the factory farm in the world’s most populous nations, India and China, before it’s too late. India, as a fellow democracy with a developed and free media, is a natural ally. Action in India today can have an overwhelming impact precisely because India still has comparatively low rates of meat consumption and, although factory farms now dot the countryside, traditional systems of farming are still widespread. We believe our work to internationalize the movement for truly humane, sustainable, and just animal agriculture will be key to defeating the factory farm. Read more here.
Because of YOU
2016 is our biggest year yet, but only because you care. Without your support Farm Forward would not be able to impact the lives of millions of farmed animals. This year your support is more important than ever since we’re facing a new administration whose agricultural advisory committee will include outspoken opponents of animal welfare policies. We will have to work harder than ever and be more vigilant than in years past, and we can’t do this work in 2017 without your help.
Please sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive updates about our innovative outreach work and other programs. If you’d like to support our work to change the way our world eats and farms, please make a contribution today.
December 20, 2016