OWA Global Summit 2023

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The Open Wing Alliance (OWA) hosted its first in-person Global Summit since the covid-19 pandemic! This year the OWA Global Summit was hosted in Prague, Czech Republic; the summit saw 124 passionate activists from 44 countries and 52 organizations come together for the first time in four years under the theme; ‘Reconnect as a Global Force for Chickens’.

Initiated by The Humane League, OWA brings 90+ member organizations together to create a unified front in our goal to end the abuse of chickens globally. We shared campaign strategies, tactics, resources, successes and challenges worldwide on our quest toward our shared objective. Our first step towards achieving this ambitious goal is eliminating ending cages worldwide, and we’re working towards achieving that vision, one cage-free policy at a time. Egg-laying hens are being kept in cruel battery cages, ours is to free them and put a stop to battery cages by 2030 earliest.

The first day of the summit was packed with sessions on various topics to tackle the cage-free issue; the first one was on the art of collaboration, which highlighted the chance of success when working together. Hannah Surowinski and Aaron Ross explored the philosophy of collaboration, ways to navigate the tricky waters and shared best practices for maintaining and working in coalitions. This session was topped off with a fun collaboration activity, drawing a ‘Game of Thrones’ style chicken, (blindfolded!). The year was also reviewed per region, with each region having a representative sharing some of the progress and challenges for their respective regions.

Why these specific welfare issues, and not others? Mia Fernyhough and Liam Hodgson facilitated this session on why has the OWA chosen to focus on hen welfare issues for broilers and cage-free eggs. In this session the focus was on exploring the welfare problems from hatch to slaughter, and seeking to understand why OWA targets some but not all of the concerns in meat and egg production. Before we called an end to Day 1, Aaron Ross presented on policy and pragmatism. The theme of this presentation was mainly on corporate policy work; the need for policies to be both aggressive and pragmatic enough that they become realized and they impact the animals we are working hard to help. The lesson here was on the delicacy of the task of balancing ambition with practicality that is required when it comes to optimizing policies.

On Day 2 of the summit the order of the day was strategy, every session and discussion was centered around strategy. The first session was facilitated by Ellie Ponders and Jennie Hunter on how to think like a strategist. There were workshops on how to think about strategy in various scenarios by regional representatives. They shared how they have approached the different strategies in their own work; ranging from strategies for when the public and corporations do not understand the cage-free issue; when progress has slowed; and when you do not have a large network of supporters to take actions.

Attendees were treated to a special Q&A session with the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Agriculture to share their work on their involvement in the successful ban on cages in Czechia. This was very informative and encouraging as it highlighted the power of what can be achieved when the government, community and animal welfare advocates can achieve when working together for the greater good of chickens. To finish off the day we looked at accountability and roadmaps; Mercy for Animals shared some of the challenges they have faced and solutions they had to come up with.

On the third and final day of the summit; participants took a more central role in the activities of the day. The sessions were designed in a way that allowed more engagement for the participants, in different groups and workshops. These were called lighting presentations and participants had a choice to attend a club of their choice. One that seemed to be related to the work we do was the one on the campaign to ban cages for laying hens in Slovakia; organizational relationship focused on value generation and; utilizing research and law to push for corporate accountability and transparency in South Africa. Anima International’s Corporate Campaign Manager, Monika Kowalska shared a presentation titled Mindset Shift - How Otwarte Klakti went from Good Cop to Bad Cop. During this presentation, Monika also shared their values and why she believed they should be introduced to OWA.

OWA Global Summit 2023 was a success, and it rejuvenated the group to keep on going toward the goal of a cage-free world.

By Zwelisha Shobede