Leah Garces is the executive director of Compassion in World Farming’s USA branch. She spoke with ACE Research Associate Ashwin Acharya on July 26, 2017. This is a summary of their conversation.
What are some of Compassion in World Farming USA’s successes?
In July 2016 Compassion in World Farming USA (CIWF USA) secured the first animal care policy from Perdue (the fourth largest poultry company in the U.S.). This indicated a shift in Purdue’s engagement with CIWF USA, which had originally put out a whistleblower video about their practices in December of 2014. Perdue started engaging with CIWF USA about a year later, ultimately leading to the July policy commitment. This affects 680 million animals in itself, but led to a “domino effect” of corporate commitments.1
The second greatest success in Garces’ view was when Compass Group agreed to implement CIWF USA’s broiler policy by 2024 and to be certified by Global Animal Partnership (GAP), which in turn affected around 60 million animals. Compass’s agreement sparked a chain reaction within the food service sector—by the end of the year the entire sector had agreed to the policy.
CIWF USA’s broiler policy requires (1) a change in breed of chicken, (2) more space for the chickens, (3) a better environment for the chickens with changed lighting and enrichments, and (4) controlled atmosphere stunning.
The third greatest success was when Subway agreed to the same broiler policy about one month ago. Others—Chipotle, Noodles, Shake Shack, Jack in the Box—had already agreed to this, but Subway is the largest fast food service company in the USA, with thousands more locations than McDonalds. CIWF USA estimates a few hundred million animals are affected by Subway’s policies, though this is only an estimate based on number of stores—they have not been able to obtain exact numbers.
As a result, “a giant” within the producer sector, the food service sector, and the restaurant sector each agreed to the changes. Because of this, CIWF USA is currently surpassing their corporate engagement goals.
What are some of CIWF USA’s strengths?
Garces sees CIWF USA’s role as being to “steward” or “shepherd” companies through policy changes, trying to maintain a “partnership” approach with the companies rather than the aggressive approach of other groups. She sees this aggressive approach as being really useful to keep the pressure on, but CIWF USA sits down to negotiate with the companies more, and is comfortable sitting down with them to do so. She sees this as important since many companies lack the expertise or resources to deal with these issues. While others in the movement see the bad things companies are doing, CIWF tries to see the good that they could be doing, and help them do it.
They do also occasionally campaign against companies when they have refused to engage and are doing the wrong thing, as they did with Perdue and are currently doing with Moe’s. But Garces sees CIWF USA as extremely fair and reasonable. Garces thinks companies appreciate this solutions-oriented but firm approach.
What are some of CIWF USA’s weaknesses?
Garces notes that CIWF USA has to be wary of becoming too “comfortable” in their relationships with the companies that they work with. They need to remember they’re there for the animals and to be able to call companies out when it would be best for the animals. She sees CIWF USA as being good at managing and mitigating that risk.
Before CIWF USA’s recent expansion, a funder was concerned that Garces seemed to be carrying out most of the work, which raised concerns about whether such work could be accomplished by others as CIWF USA grew. Garces has been pleased that others have taken on some of these tasks as the organization has grown and says she has remained conscious of this process and has tried to be mindful of letting go of certain responsibilities.
What are some of CIWF USA’s goals?
Garces sees the goals of CIWF USA as changing each year. They clearly set out which companies they wish to engage in broiler policies each year; their current goal is to get commitments from the entire restaurant sector before the end of the year. Then they will move onto grocers.
Because of their relationship with CIWF International, their internal dashboard for checking progress against objectives is renewed on April 1st (to align with U.K. tax years). CIWF USA’s annual target this year was to secure policies that affect 120 million birds. They achieved that in the first quarter of the British tax year alone between Boston Market and Subway, partly because the target was set before they secured the commitment from Compass Group, and so Garces thinks that CIWF USA needs to re-evaluate this target to make it more ambitious. They have also set a goal of getting commitments on 10% of the market (900 million birds per year) over 5 years—but Garces thinks that this too will be surpassed.
They also want to ensure that some companies are certified by GAP, rather than simply broadly aligned with GAP values. Boston Market and Compass have already agreed to this. This would mean that the companies are fully audited by GAP, a third-party animal welfare assurance scheme. The GAP program is similar to Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved; they’re certifications which require in-depth animal welfare analysis and which the companies must pay for. Other companies which have aligned their policies with GAP’s requirements (the 4 parts of CIWF USA’s broiler commitments listed above) will still need third-party auditing to prove it, but this does not have to be done by GAP. GAP is a more in-depth, higher welfare standard than others and goes into more detail than some auditors would.
CIWF USA is launching “EggTrack,” the first report of which will be publicized in September. This will track companies against their cage-free commitments. They had set a goal for July 31st of having 25% of companies engaging with them on their egg policies and seeing how close they are to achieving them. They have already surpassed this target, having engaged with 33% (25 out of 75) of the target companies about their progress.
CIWF International’s “Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare” aims to get companies to report on their animal welfare policies. CIWF USA aimed to engage with 13 companies by July 31st (about 50% of the participating companies which are U.S.-based), and are not currently meeting this target (having engaged 8 so far), although this was because CIWF USA saw EggTrack as more successful and shifted efforts towards this.
Therefore the top two goals are currently to get the restaurant sector to make broiler commitments and to track companies on their egg commitments and put pressure on them to continue to meet their commitments.
CIWF USA meets as a team in October to set their own goals, then meets quarterly to review their goals and progress. Garces believes strongly in each person being able to own their own work. The overarching goal is simply to improve the lives of farmed animals and work towards the end of factory farming in a quantifiable way, and everyone should be working on that. The “market sensitization team” has the goal of creating a market in which the corporate engagement team can be more successful in securing policies. Within those parameters, the teams are largely responsible for coming up with their own goals. Garces thinks people appreciate being responsible for their own goals and outcomes. The board approves the goals annually; they ask questions but rarely change the goals.
Can you tell us about CIWF USA’s changes since 2014?
As well as being in a different strategic position (since all the egg commitments are new) CIWF USA’s team has grown since the previous ACE review in 2014. They are now up to seven full-time employees and one consultant, largely due to funding from the Open Philanthropy Project. In that period, they have very firmly shifted from testing the waters for legislative support towards corporate engagement. Only a small amount of money, around $5,000, is now spent by CIWF USA to support legislative efforts and other efforts outside corporate engagement.2 Throughout this time, CIWF USA has focused on broiler chickens because of the number of animals that this affects. Egg policies were seen as a “foot in the door” towards improving corporate broiler policies. While the first phase was to secure commitments from companies, CIWF USA is turning towards its second phase—which is tracking and holding companies to their commitments, including providing them with any tools or insights that they need in order to do this (be it pressure, guidelines, or workshops).
How does CIWF USA measure their outcomes?
CIWF USA keeps close track of the companies whose policies they affect and the number of animals that they purchase. This is done through calculations based off the pounds of meat that they purchase (based off breast meat weight), aiming to calculate how many animals are affected.
Garces notes that these calculations are not always precise, but they think breast meat is a good indicator of how many animals are affected, although companies may also use other types of meat. Where companies don’t disclose this information, they make calculations based on the number of restaurant locations or other indicators (as with Subway), and they try to go into detail on those numbers.
Garces notes that working with ACE in 2014 opened CIWF USA’s eyes to calculating impact, even though they were already focusing on broiler chickens and policies that they believed would have the greatest impact. Since then they have hired an “operational enabler,” whose work consists in large part of collecting data and monitoring impact, by comparing CIWF USA’s progress to its targets. They have also fed this back to the international CIWF headquarters, noting that this shapes the work that CIWF USA does. Garces notes that some calculations to achieve maximum effectiveness are only possible with sufficient funding to free up the necessary time; for example, CIWF USA now has a spreadsheet where they try to calculate hours of suffering per egg or per chicken, which was only possible with the additional funding given by the Open Philanthropy Project (which enabled them to hire staff with time for this project).
By thinking from an effective altruism perspective, and considering the idea of number of hours of suffering, CIWF USA has significantly shifted their own thinking in the last year or so. As noted above, they now have a spreadsheet where they try to calculate hours of suffering per egg or per chicken. Garces notes that there have been lots of difficulties in these calculations—and they’ve tried a lot of things—but she argues that even rough calculations are better than no calculations.
Garces notes that the hours of suffering calculations are really about incremental steps, but these aren’t the end goal. When thinking about the broader long-term picture, you can’t calculate how to get there from just incremental change. CIWF’s long term goals are for the food industry to be primarily plant-based, with any sourcing of animals coming from the highest welfare regenerative farms. Garces has been thinking about CIWF’s long-term goals and methods and notes her suspicion that their calculations about hours of suffering and the most effective incremental improvements do not necessarily speak to what seeds need to be planted to lead to the long-term change they’re aiming for.
Can you tell us about CIWF USA’s program modification and adaptation?
CIWF USA seems to shift their programs in the light of their evaluations of them. CIWF USA shifted their efforts from securing better legislation towards corporate engagement after seeing how high-impact these efforts have been. They used to run a program called Pastured Poultry Week to encourage farm-to-table restaurants to switch from factory farmed chickens to “pastured poultry” chicken. Through doing a survey to calculate how many animals were impacted, they decided that this intervention took too much effort and money compared to the impact CIWF USA could have by focusing on larger companies. They decided that a smaller welfare improvement for a much larger number of animals was preferable.
In a more specific example, CIWF redirected their efforts away from their Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare and towards their EggTrack program once they saw that companies were more willing to engage on singular issues and commitments they had already made.
Some more minor projects and goals have been dropped when they do not appear to have been needed to accomplish larger goals—as with some research projects. For example, at one stage, CIWF USA needed to understand the broiler market better and wanted to hire an agricultural economist to examine their suspicion that more chicken was being produced than was being used. Garces created a proposal and interviewed someone for the role, but after progress was made in the wider campaigns that suggested that the issue was not the roadblock that they had expected, CIWF USA decided that the project did not need funding.
After considering things through the lens of effective altruism, CIWF USA has changed their “ask” to companies by removing their strict maximum growth rate of 50g per day for broiler chickens; they believe that concrete welfare outcomes are more important because a faster growth rate might actually lead to fewer days of life and suffering for each animal. They are now asking specifically for better welfare outcomes, rather than slower growth rates. Garces is not sure whether the final outcome will be different, because she expects that it will be the slower-growth breeds that have better welfare outcomes, but it is a shift in their thinking. It also made the negotiations with corporations a bit more complicated, because instead of asking for the concrete 50g per day limit, they have been asking companies to wait for the outcomes of a study at the University of Guelph, which will determine a list of breeds that have acceptable welfare outcomes. It’s uncomfortable to be working on commitments while they wait for the study outcomes, but they are hoping this will lead to better outcomes for the birds.
Can you tell us about CIWF USA’s funding?
CIWF USA’s budget is currently $647,000 but Garces is aiming for $1 million. This extra money could primarily be used for two goals.
Firstly, Garces believes that this money would be needed to increase staff numbers in order to follow up with companies on their commitments, since this is likely to be more in-depth work than the initial securing of commitments. She would especially like to hire someone to follow up on commitments that companies have already made regarding other species, especially with regard to sow stalls. 60 companies have made commitments to stop using gestation crates for pigs, but only 30 of those commitments have specific timelines, and some companies have begun to renege on their commitments. CIWF USA needs resources to stop that, and to go back and fix some early mistakes on corporate commitments where not much follow-up was done.
Secondly, CIWF USA is also seeking to expand their work into Latin America, which further funding could help with. They are currently doing a piece of research in Brazil, Mexico, and three other countries. Garces feels that this is important to consolidate successes in the U.S., because of the trading relationships these countries have with American companies. For example, Mexico receives one-quarter of U.S. chicken leg exports. Garces therefore hopes that Mexican companies will make broiler sourcing commitments similar to those that CIWF has pushed for in the U.S., since they represent a nontrivial fraction of demand for U.S. broilers. She also notes that although Brazil is one of the largest chicken producers in the world, no one is doing work on improving broiler welfare there. CIWF USA has been told that they would be welcomed there. Similarly, no one is working towards broiler welfare in Mexico at present.
CIWF USA was, before last year, receiving funding from the U.K. headquarters—but from that point on they raised the funds to support themselves, primarily through their December appeal. They exceeded their fundraising target for that appeal by about $30,000, which was used to engage their supporters beyond the major donors, especially online.
Garces hopes that the Open Philanthropy Project will re-invest the same amount again, but thinks that if this does not happen it will change CIWF USA’s funding situation significantly. She would also like to receive funding from the U.K. headquarters to hire a staff member dedicated to fundraising for CIWF USA. Without this—or fantastic reviews by ACE—she expects the budget to remain similar to its current total of $647,000.
Can you tell us about CIWF USA’s collaboration with other animal advocacy groups?
CIWF USA collaborated with 7 other organizations to agree on a joint “ask” to companies for broiler chickens. This collaboration was public and made clear to the companies, after the companies noted that they were hearing different nuances of the “asks” from different groups. Garces sees this united “ask” as vital for the success that CIWF USA has had.
Garces notes that these other organizations have very different tactics and roles (for example, CIWF USA don’t do investigations, while others do). Garces sees CIWF USA’s role to primarily be that of the “good cop” in corporate engagement. They’re the ones who negotiate with companies, and the ones who delve into whether companies are really adhering to their commitments. However, even if they don’t use the same tactics as other organizations, they’re aligned in terms of their goals—and that alignment makes it easier to secure commitments from companies.
Garces says that the different organizations don’t have to talk about it, but all know which sector to target, which companies are the low-hanging fruit, and when and how to go after them—due to their organizational expertise and experience with corporate campaigns or outreach.
Garces serves on the board of Encompass, a non-profit that attempts to increase diversity in the animal advocacy movement, and is chair of the board of GAP.
What is CIWF USA’s workplace culture like?
Each staff member has $2,000 annually to invest as they choose in their own professional development and staff needs. The use of this money varies; some use this for workshops and training, others for trips on which they feel they will learn something.
CIWF USA has begun surveying staff about staff morale and work climate. This was to follow Google’s work culture, which Garces sees as a good example of giving staff appropriate levels of autonomy and responsibility. One recent survey was based directly off Google Rules and its results are due to be reviewed. The survey includes “upward feedback” and also feedback directly on work culture. The decision to take inspiration from Google came out of discussions about management tools with leaders in two other organizations, who viewed Google as having one of the most effective work cultures. Google has also been awarded several times for being a good workplace.
Garces doesn’t think CIWF USA has any specific current efforts or policies to encourage or protect diversity within their team. She believes that the animal advocacy movement generally is not particularly diverse in terms of including people of color.
Garces is on the board of a new organization called Encompass, the purpose of which is to increase diversity within the animal advocacy movement. She hopes that this involvement will give her some new ideas about how to encourage diversity in the future.
Garces notes that CIWF USA currently has more women, including in leadership positions, than is typical for the movement. She believes that half of the staff are raising children, and that CIWF USA has a very good maternity policy and support for families and a balanced worklife. She sees this as unusual among animal advocacy groups and suggests that this may have affected their tactics—including creating videos aimed at families, parents, or children, such as a “Wonder Woman” parody to target Moe’s. (The video featured three mothers acting as Wonder Woman, fighting for better food for their children.) However, in terms of people of color, she doesn’t think they’re doing as well. She notes that she herself is half-Colombian, and one other staff member is Costa Rican, and that this Hispanic background might influence CIWF USA’s perspective. Garces further believes that CIWF USA being based in Atlanta means that they have a slightly different, Southern, perspective, which in turn means that their interviews and videos include more people of color than is usual for animal advocacy groups.
CIWF (HQ) has a general policy book, which covers procedures including those for dealing with workplace harassment. Garces says that CIWF USA has not had any issues to date where those policies have been tested. She says that they are working on creating a U.S. handbook based on the global policy book, which will include “U.S.-specific processes.”
This number had risen to about $15,000 as of September 2017, when CIWF USA was given the opportunity to comment on this summary, largely due to their support for a recent California ballot initiative.