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August 19, 2013
Tyson Shareowners Call for Humane Treatment of Animals
    by Robert Kropp

Green Century Capital Management is co-filer of a resolution requesting that meat processing company report on risks associated with the use of gestation crates for pigs.

According to the US Humane Society, gestation crates are used by meat processing companies to confine breeding pigs in such a way as to nearly immobilize them while they endure repeated impregnations. “These individual cages are approximately two feet wide,” the Humane Society reports, “So small the animals can't even turn around or take more than a step forward or backward.”

Yet cost-effective alternatives to gestation crates exist, and an Iowa State University comparison of crates and the more humane group method housing found that the latter resulted in a reduced cost per weaned pig. It is for this reason as well as corporate reputation that many food companies and meat processors are phasing out the use of gestation crates.

Apparently—and despite a 2012 investigation that recorded graphic examples of animal cruelty at one of its suppliers—Tyson Foods is one of a dwindling number of meat processors that cling to the use of gestation crates, despite evidence of cost savings and surveys indicating that the vast majority of Americans want gestation crates banned. Nine states have outlawed their use.

In response to Tyson’s intransigence on the issue, three shareowners—the Humane Society, Green Century Capital Management, and the United Methodist Church Benefit Board—have submitted a resolution to be voted on by shareowners at the company’s annual general meeting in January, 2014.

The shareowners want Tyson to report to them on the financial and reputational risks associated with the use of gestation crates. “Rising concerns over these cages have rapidly shifted the marketplace, with dozens of top global food brands—including Tyson customers—demanding change,” the resolution states. “Tyson’s failure to disclose the risks associated with the indefinite inclusion of gestation crates in its supply chain is of concern to shareholders.”

“With virtually every leading pork buyer in the nation having publicly committed to eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains, investors are extremely concerned about the implications of Tyson’s refusal to meet its buyers’ needs,” Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President at Green Century, said. “Tyson may be at risk of losing its market if it continues to ignore the changed economic landscape. Investors expect the company to act ethically and demand that it act sensibly.”


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