In 2018, federal legislation, mid-term elections and grocery stores have come a long way for animals.

California voters approved a law require larger cages for pigs and chickens; nearly 400 companies, including Hyatt and Marriotthave committed to better conditions for animals; and herbal meat substitutes have exploded in popularity, even among non-vegetarian or vegan consumers.

All the news was not good, however. The vast majority of animals raised for food are still raised on industrial farms, where 50 billion animals have lived and died last year. In the United States, the rise of plant-based meat has provoked a brutal reaction from agricultural lobbyists, who have fought to make it harder to sell soy milk, almond milk, vegetarian burgers and similar products.

2018 has raised optimism, but the promising developments took place in a dismal context. Here is a brief overview of what has happened in the area of ​​animal welfare over the last year.

The good news

There has been significant progress for animals on the legislative front and at the polls in 2018.

In the November elections, California adopted one of the most drastic reforms to animal welfare, demanding more space for caged animals. The state had already struggled to demand bigger cages, but the previous law had enough gaps so conditions did not really improve. This one controls a specific area for each animal, making it much stronger. In Florida, the overwhelming majority of voters passed Amendment 13 banning greyhound racing in that state. Greyhound racing, already banned in most states, will be phased out in Florida over the next two years.

However, such progress is irrelevant if the federal government prohibits states from imposing welfare requirements on products of animal origin sold on their territory. It seemed likely for a bit last year. Iowa Rep. Steve King (best known for the white supremacist bonds that led the Iowa GOP to denounce it) introduced a measure to repel such movements at state level.

The King Amendment, which was appended to the twice-a-decade agriculture bill that funds projects under the Ministry of Agriculture, would have prohibited any state from adopting any laws setting new standards for products of animal origin – even if such a measure had the overwhelming assent of citizens of a state. The amendment was rejected last week, which means states will continue to be able to push for better conditions for animals.

Meanwhile, the Farm Bill – federal federal legislation that President Trump promulgated last week – also contained some modest victories for the animals and animal rights groups. The law contains three main provisions relating to the welfare of animals. None of them are interested in large-scale industrial agriculture, but each of them should moderately reduce animal cruelty in certain specific areas. A provision prohibits the import, export and slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption; another expands the ban on animal fighting; and another, the Domestic and Domestic Animal Safety Act, provides support and resources for law enforcement to victims of domestic violence who are expecting their abusive partners to abuse. or kill their pets in retaliation as they leave.

Animal advocates have also won major victories in the private sector. Campaigns to impose global animal welfare standards on global societies are a powerful tool for improving living conditions on farms. These campaigns have amazing backgrounds and have sometimes won concessions in a few days.

Last year, there was 388 company campaigns won all over the world, according to the global campaign tracker ChickenWatch, most of them urging companies to commit to buying only eggs without a cage. The international hotel chain Marriott is committed to producing cage-free eggs around the worldand Royal Caribbean Cruises are committed to improving conditions for broilers. Overall, a growing set of evidence suggests that targeting suppliers is a great way to improve farm conditions.

There have also been some international successes. In India, the Delhi High Court has declared a moratorium on new battery cages in India – small cages particularly cruel cages for chickens. Larger cages are allowed. In general, industrial agriculture is gaining momentum as countries enrich themselves and more people have the means to buy meat, but a commitment to favor of human conditions from the outset can prevent some abuses. India could perhaps pave the way on this front.

Finally, a permanent end of industrial breeding will probably require superb meat substitutes. For this reason, many animal advocates work on clean meat – meat products that are cell-like cells identical to meat from animals, but which are manufactured in plant from stem cells rather than live animals. Last year, they worked closely with the US government to develop a regulatory framework for clean meat, agreeing on a USDA-FDA common jurisdictional plan that, according to activists, will ensure that clean meat is safe, regulated and freely available.

Herbal meat substitutes are also doing well. In the plant-based meat industry, sales were up more than 20 percent last year. The Beyond Meat brand, better known for the Beyond Burger, led this sales increase with an astonishing 70% growth rate. Herbal alternatives also go beyond hamburgers, sausages and nuggets – which is good news since eggs are another huge source of animal suffering. Just, a leading alternative plant-based company, is moving towards the commercial launch of Just Scramble, a compelling and delicious egg substitute.

Toni Adleberg, Director of Research at Evaluators of animal charity, told me in an email that 2018 was also a great year for animal rights research. we know more than a few years ago about the interventions that make the biggest difference for animals, but we still have a lot to learn. "More and more groups and researchers are stressing the importance of open science. We see more pre-registration plans, more interest in open access, "wrote Adleberg. Better research means that the 2019 animal work can be better targeted and better accomplished.

Bad news

Although the animals made significant and exciting progress last year, it would be an exaggeration to say that 2018 is a good year for animals. More than 50 billion terrestrial animals suffered and died on industrial farms. Until we find a way to change that, it's hard to say that every year is good for animals. C & # 39; was projected early 2018 that Americans would eat more meat during the year than ever before.

From a certain point of view, the industrial animal breeding is one of the few social problems of the present world that, instead of get betterworsens every year as we raise animals in terrible, even monstrous conditions, and we have more people to feed. Will MacAskill talk about the paradox in a recent interview with Sean Illing of Vox:

We know that people's attitudes towards non-human animals – at least in the West – have improved. People appreciate that non-human animals also deserve our moral consideration. At the same time, we inflict more and more suffering on non-human animals on industrial farms every year.

We have the best chance of reversing this trend with herbal and cell-based meat substitutes. However, even though we have seen progress on this front, in 2018, lobby groups in industrial agriculture have also reacted in this way. For example, with one-third of US households purchasing products such as soy milk and almond milk, the dairy industry has begun s' pressing regulators to make the labeling of these products illegal to soy milk and almond milk. (Just last week, the Court of Appeal of the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision of a lower court the label "almond milk" does not deceive anyone.)

The same tactic was used to combat clean meat, even though it is not yet in store, and to curb the growth of herbal meat substitutes. Missouri has advanced with a prohibition to "misrepresent" a product as "meat" unless it comes from an animal slaughtered. Unclear language could potentially apply to tofurky and vegetarian burgers, although consumers know that tofurky is not an animal product and is the first step in a battle over what it is. meat produced without slaughter. Companies such as Tofurky and non-profit organizations (including the American Civil Liberties Union) are pursuing l & # 39; state.

What to look for in 2019

Many of the trends seen in 2018 are expected to continue. In particular, the dynamics of plant-based foods shows no signs of slowing down. It is possible that the industrial livestock sector continues to put pressure on him, but it should be noted that meat giants like Tyson have invested in meat substitutesand it is conceivable that as the argument for meat and alternatives becomes worse, the industry will find that fighting it is less profitable than investing it.

Another thing to watch for is the day after the commitments of the companies without cage. Companies like Starbucks, Marriott, and General Mills have committed to transition from their egg supply to caged products, but such commitments never been honored in the past. Animal advocates will no doubt be on the lookout to find out if these companies are keeping their promises.

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