The Center for a Humane Economy Shapes the Way Businesses Treat Animals
Building a humane economy, one company at a time,
across a wide range of industries
There are many pathways for improving the lives of animals but influencing corporations to embed animal protection values into their production practices, supply chains, marketing efforts, and research and development activities may be the most consequential. In the United States — the largest economy in the world, with trillions spent by business and an additional $2 trillion in economic activity generated by our federal government — there are billions of animals used, with the uses often considered routine and sometimes hidden from view for the consumer.
The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is the first organization in the field of animal protection solely focused on influencing the workings of business to forge a humane economic order. The Center works with corporations to alert them to their responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and embrace innovation.
The Center is working with companies in a collaborative and cooperative way, recognizing that purging animal cruelty from their enterprises reduces institutional risks and better aligns them with the values and expectations of their customers and other key stakeholders. We’ve rigorously benchmarked 15 industries according to animal welfare performance and use that framework to evaluate how companies are faring when it comes to humane business practices. One need only to look at the dissolution in recent years of Ringling Brothers circus (a private company using wild animals in stunts and tricks) or SeaWorld (a publicly traded one using orcas in shows) after facing controversy and concern about the companies’ uses of animals. Or, to take a more
positive frame, one can look at the increasing number of cosmetic companies marketing their products with a “No Animal Testing” promise or the fashion companies, from Armani to Gucci, that have foresworn fur and replaced their garments with alternative textiles. The companies embracing animal protection are positioning themselves more favorably in a culture where consumers are alert to animal protection.
More broadly, think of the vast numbers of animals used directly or indirectly by the enterprises of food and agriculture; research and development for cosmetics, pesticides, chemicals, drugs, and other commercial products; hunting, trapping, and other outdoor-oriented pursuits or businesses designed to exploit animals; the pet trade and wildlife trafficking; movies, television, and other forms of human entertainment; tourism and transportation; forestry and fossil fuel or mineral extraction; and others. There are changes afoot in every one of these industries on animal treatment. The Center is focused on being a catalyst for changes to benefit animals and to enhance bottom-line performance for shareholders and other key stakeholders.
As individuals and as a society, we must feed and clothe ourselves, fulfill our energy and transportation needs, enjoy family and pursue recreational experiences and ventures, and realize other quality of life metrics. To do that and to respect animals, we needn’t turn back the clock and revert to lifestyles that resemble those of 1950 or 1850 or an even earlier time. By embracing innovation, we commit ourselves to continuous improvement when it comes to animals. Indeed, no responsible business leader has the aim of hurting animals, but a wide range of uses of animals has long been convenient and accepted. In an era where we’ve had revolutions in thought in society and in the workplace, it is also time for business to come to terms with the widely accepted ethos of treating animals properly.
While animal rescue is essential to aid animals in crisis, that work, measured by the cumulative efforts of thousands of animal-care organizations, can benefit the lives of tens of millions of animals at most. But even modest changes in production practices in animal agriculture or innovations that remove animals entirely from the supply chain, can improve the lives of tens of billions of animals. Consider the idea that innovators and businesses are now starting to grow animal tissue in a laboratory — just the meat, and not a fully formed and conscious animal who always comes with bones, organs, and a brain. If growing animal tissue alone in a controlled setting can be perfected and scaled in a commercially competitive way, we can spare billions of animals a year, eliminate hundreds of billions of pounds of toxic animal effluent discharged into the environment, put more crops to work to feed people (since three-quarters of all corn and soy go to feed animals now), and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (since animal agriculture is the second largest contributor in the world to that process).
Clean meat is one radical prospective example of “creative destruction” — where innovators develop a new production or creative process that reorders the way we work and conduct our lives. Our economic history is a litany of dramatic and almost unimaginable changes that became mainstream and have upgraded human existence, from the printing press to the internal combustion engine and aviation to personal computing and the digital photograph. Looking forward to what innovation means for animals, as Mr. Pacelle writes in The Humane Economy,
“Just about every enterprise built on harming animals today is ripe for disruption. Where there is a form of commercial exploitation, there is an economy opportunity waiting for a business doing less harm or no harm at all. Factory farming, for example is the creation of human resourcefulness detached from conscience. What innovations in agriculture might come about by humane resourcefulness guided by conscience?”
Most changes-to-come in industry won’t be nearly as dramatic or disruptive as clean meat; they will involve new ways of handling or housing animals, swapping in recycled material or natural fibers as fabrics to replace kangaroo skins in athletic shoes, or other kinds of replacement innovations. All of them will be driven though by a combination of moral purpose and human creativity that are the formula for driving better outcomes for animals. These forces will cast cruelty aside, treating the long era of hurting animals as an ugly steppingstone to a new economy and new norm when it comes to our relationship with animals.
In recent years, animal protection groups have negotiated hundreds of agreements with companies to improve their procurement practices, operations, and research and development activities, including cage- or crate-free pledges for meat and eggs in the retail food sector, fur-free commitments among luxury clothing brands, and “no animal testing” protocols in the cosmetic, chemicals, and pesticide industries. The Center aims to continue that trend and see that we influence every sector that has an impact on animals.