Center for the Environment and Welfare
The Center for the Environment and Welfare is one of a string of Berman and Company-created websites and entities that defend the status quo of intensive confinement of farm animals and other agribusiness cruelties. Berman and Company is a public relations firm that operates astroturf groups for a variety of paying clients.
Like the other Berman front groups, CEW’s misleading attacks are intended to bog down and distract the nation’s animal protection organizations from their mission of helping animals. CEW is a new cover, but it’s the same playbook the Berman agency has always used.
These campaigns allow the Berman agency’s clients to evade scrutiny of their troubling practices and business models. These practices include confining pregnant pigs in crates so small they can’t turn around or housing egg-laying hens crammed tightly together in stacked cages. These forms of extreme confinement are banned in many states and countries and condemned by leading independent animal welfare experts.
In 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld California’s Proposition 12, a law setting higher welfare standards of care for certain farm animal products sold in California. Astroturfing groups like CEW are presumably working for industry laggards seeking to stop the spread of higher animal welfare standards as they take hold in states across the country and in the business models of leading food and foodservice companies. But they’re losing that fight—in state after state, boardroom after boardroom, court after court, and most importantly, in the marketplace of ideas and consumer choice.
CEW’s executive director is Jack Hubbard, a partner at Berman, which describes its services as helping to “change the debate.” CEW casts itself as a “think tank,” but it’s really a disinformation spin shop that specializes in aggressive communications and deceptions that distort debates over animal welfare and other topics on behalf of its client base.
Hubbard left Berman and Company and its astroturfing offshoots to embed himself within an animal organization in 2016. Then he returned to Berman and Company in early 2023, where he leverages his six years of employment at American Humane to offer Berman clients the benefit of “his first-hand experience in the animal welfare space to navigate today’s complex issues.”
The appeal of Hubbard’s experience at American Humane may be attractive to some potential clients because that organization manages lax certification schemes for the treatment of farm animals, captive animals in display and entertainment, and the pet industry that give the impression of its having fallen victim to industry capture. The low standards of American Humane’s certification program on farm animal welfare have been discussed in a 2017 New York Times article. American Humane has also been criticized for weak animal welfare standards in its “No Animals Were Harmed” program.
Hubbard’s leadership role at a public relations agency whose mission is to attack groups like the HSUS that are making significant strides to help animals indicates where his loyalties lie: with agribusiness giants whose goals are always to maximize profit, even if billions of animals have to suffer. Hubbard has no credibility as a thought leader in animal protection, and CEW’s depictions of the HSUS are not just laughable but unrecognizable to those familiar with the organization’s consistent record of achievement for animals.
Marketplace is moving away from cruel confinement
Significant trends in the marketplace make it clear that the companies and interests funding CEW’s attack campaigns are wasting their money on astroturfers like Hubbard and the other operatives at Berman and Company. Many of the nation’s leading retailers, restaurateurs and food companies are phasing out or have ended the sale of products that come from animals raised in cruel and unnatural conditions. Nearly a dozen states have set higher standards for the treatment of animals raised for food. And millions of consumers are voting with their dollars, purchasing higher welfare products at supermarkets, restaurants and other venues.
Some of the most encouraging progress has come in the campaign to speed the adoption of cage-free egg production, which now accounts for 40% of the American market:
- Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreens only sell cage-free eggs.
- Egg sales at Costco stores are nearly 100% cage-free.
- Target became the first major grocery retailer to announce a “glide path” (annual goals to assist producers with forecasting supply and meeting demand) for achieving 100% cage-free eggs globally by 2025.
- Giant Eagle switched its private label eggs and egg ingredients in many of its private label products to cage-free.
- Arby’s and the Cheesecake Factory only use cage-free eggs, while McDonald’s and Burger King are on track to reach the 100% cage-free mark soon.
- Denny’s and IHOP have exceeded their benchmark (roughly 25%) on paths to be 100% cage-free by the end of 2025.
- Compass Group US, Sodexo and Aramark—the three largest food service companies—have achieved ~100% cage-free on their egg sourcing for accounts in the United States.
- Unilever, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Conagra and Nestle have reached 100% cage-free or are on track to do so by mid-2024.
- Dollar Tree made its first cage-free egg update in seven years—and it includes specific next steps the company will take toward its goal of reaching 100% cage-free by 2025.
Many leading food companies, restaurateurs and food service operations have also made significant progress in ending the use of gestation crates to confine pregnant mother pigs:
- McDonald’s reports that 91% of pork it sells in the U.S. “comes from suppliers that have phased out the use of gestation stalls (small, enclosed pens) for housing confirmed pregnant sows.”
- General Mills reports that “48% of the pork cuts we buy in the U.S. came via supply chains in which pregnant sows do not experience prolonged use of gestation crates.”
- Aramark states that 74% of the pork served by the company in the U.S. in fiscal year 2022 was from pigs housed in groups, up from 55% in 2021.
- Wendy’s met its decade-long target to completely transition its supply chain for pork in North America to open pen/group housing for pregnant sows in 2022.
- Panera Bread only sells pork from “sows provided with group housing once pregnancy is confirmed.”
- Chipotle states: “gestation crates are never used for pregnant pigs” in its supply chain.
- Shake Shack has committed to only purchasing products from producers that never use gestation crates.
- Noodles & Company only sells pork from sows raised in group housing systems.
- Cheesecake Factory reported that by “the end of 2022 almost 80% of our pork is now sourced gestation crate-free.”
In July 2023, New Jersey became the 15th state to ban at least one form of cruel farm animal confinement when it banned the use of crates to house pigs during their pregnancies and calves raised for veal. The future of agriculture is cage and crate-free, despite the desperate efforts of CEW and Berman and Company.