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Nestle vows to improve animal welfare after dairy cow abuse

Nestle Headquarters In Vevey SwitzerlandNestle Headquarters In Vevey Switzerland
The Nestle logo is displayed on the company's headquarters in Switzerland.Photograph by Harold Cunningham—Getty Images

Your chocolate milk may be getting a little bit more humane.

Following an investigation into its dairy farms by the group Mercy for Animals (MFA), Nestle has announced big changes to its supplier policies. Nestle is working with World Animal Protection to implement what it calls the “highest possible standards” for animal welfare.

According to Mercy For Animals investigations director Matt Rice, the initial investigation in Wisconsin uncovered a farm worker kicking, beating and even stabbing cows at a farm that provided dairy for DiGiorno Pizza, a Nestle company. That investigation led to arrests, and to Nestle meeting with the MFA representatives.

Rice said this “may be the single largest corporate animal welfare policy change in history.”

“They’re doing away with some of the cruelest forms of institutional animal abuse in the factory farming industry,” he said, citing practices such as the use of cages so small that animals can’t turn around, and “painful mutilation” of animals without anesthesia.

Nestle announced it has hired independent auditor SGS to check that these new standards are being followed at the farms it works with. Nestle also noted that it will work with suppliers to fix any violations, and that farms that refuse to improve “will no longer supply Nestle.”

Rice thinks that, given Nestle’s prominent role in the food industry, this could mark a sea change for other food manufacturers.

“Nestle’s announcement signifies a new era in corporate responsibility,” he said. It’s never been clearer that the days are numbered for factory farms.”

He specifically mentioned McDonald’s (MCD) and Wal-Mart (WMT) as corporations he hopes follow Nestle’s lead.