Having words with Paul Shapiro

Having words with Paul Shapiro

Paul Shapiro’s career as an animal welfare advocate grew from a love of the dogs he had growing up and video footage he saw showing the abysmal living conditions of U.S. farm animals. “I would never want for my dog to be treated like that,” he said. “Why would I not feel similar horror to any animal being treated like that? Just because I have a personal connection to my dogs doesn’t mean that they are more deserving of being free from pain and suffering than pigs or chickens.”

Today, Shapiro is senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Factory Farming Campaign. In January, HSUS purchased shares in Steak ’n Shake Co. and Jack in the Box Inc. in an attempt to influence their purchasing decisions with regard to chicken, eggs and pork. The lobbying group holds a stake in 38 food-related companies.

What are you working on now?

We’ve been waging a campaign to help the retail and egg industries move away from the use of what are known as battery cages, in which egg-laying hens are confined. There are multiple birds per cage, and the stocking density is typically about 67 square inches per bird, which is smaller than a sheet of paper.

How do you help a company phase out battery cages?

We explain the benefits of cage-free in terms of animal welfare and food safety, because caged environments tend to have higher rates of salmonella than do cage-free environments. We point them in the direction of how they can phase out battery cages from their supply chain, and of course we will help them in terms of praising their decision. Companies that are improving the welfare of animals in their supply chain deserve to be applauded for doing it.

Has the campaign had much success?

We’ve worked with a number of companies to implement cage-free egg policies. For example, Wolfgang Puck in all of his restaurants, catering and prepared foods only uses cage-free eggs. Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., Quiznos and others are now using cage-free eggs in their U.S. operations. Compass Group has converted all 91 million of its shell eggs to cage-free and is working to convert its liquid eggs as well.

FAST FACTS

HOMETOWN: Washington, D.C.EDUCATION: George Washington UniversityHOBBIES: weightliftingBIRTH DATE: July 3, 1979

In a recent interview, the United Egg Producers said science showed laying hens only needed 67 inches of space for their welfare. Could you respond to that?

We need to base our opinions on sound science, not just sound bites. They’re talking about an Australian study that was never published in a peer-reviewed journal because it did not even look at the chickens, but just at one factor, corticosterone levels in eggs, which is a widely discredited way of trying to determine the welfare of animals.

The science is clear that confining animals in tiny barren cages for their entire lives is detrimental to their welfare. A large analysis was done by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. They commissioned a 2.5-year study a with some of the most prestigious experts in the field, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, and they unanimously concluded that we need to phase out battery cages for laying hens and move to cage-free systems.

What is next for you?

We’re not only working on corporate policies, we’re also working on public policies. For example in 2008 after a campaign that we staged, California became the first state in the country to ban cages for laying hens. In 2009, Michigan adopted a similar measure. We’re working on a similar campaign in Ohio, which we hope will be on the November 2010 ballot.— [email protected] [3]