OWA Global Summit to end cages 2021

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How partners from across the world met and worked towards a single goal.

The Open Wing Alliance (OWA) hosts a Global  Summit each year for partners within the world to meet and connect. At this summit, we come together and share the successes and challenges from the year and discuss the Yum! Brand campaigns launched during the summit. The cage-free movement has grown at different speeds throughout the world. Safcei has worked in this space since 2016 and attends the summit every year. The Global Summit this year was primarily led by partners who shared their experiences during the pandemic.

In this post, I will share some takeaways from the summit and the work of Safcei in this space.

Initiated by The Humane League, OWA brings 80+ member organisations together to create a unified front in our goal to end the abuse of chickens worldwide. We share campaign strategies, tactics, and resources worldwide in the march toward our shared objective. Our first step toward achieving this ambitious goal is eliminating battery cages from our world, and we’re working towards achieving that vision, one cage-free policy at a time. In cases where the cage-free campaign is essentially complete in certain countries, OWA has started creating resources and giving grants to support movements that improve the lives of chickens raised for meat.

On the first day of the summit, I did a presentation on Adapting To The Pandemic: 3 Perspectives that I will highlight below.

Like much of the world,  we were and continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The dramatic change in our lives called for a review of our ambitious 2020 goals. These goals initially aimed to engage more corporate targets through face-to-face meetings and get volunteers involved in public protests, learning events and campaigning. All of this needed to change to match the circumstances of the time. 2020 was an incredibly trying year for everyone in South Africa. The national lockdown enforced social distancing and quarantine for those, not in the essential services field. Unable to meet corporates and launch campaigns, we turned our attention inwards and focused on building a stronger foundation for the project. This took the form of in-depth research into potential corporate targets, online meetings with retailers, and broadening communication networks with strategic partners and community stakeholders.

To do justice to the work we had done in 2020, we need to layout the context in which the team worked during this time.  March signalled the 2020’ arrival’ of Covid-19 in South Africa, the nation went into a 21-day lockdown from the 27th of  March to the 1st of May. All non-essential workers were ordered to remain at home and limit interactions with people outside their households. In the history of our democracy, this type of State of Emergency has never been put in place; people were worried, and so were we — how will we continue to work for the freedom of layer hens when we are trapped?

Safcei closed its offices during this time and moved to remote working, which held its own challenges and meant that this project, which depends on meeting with corporate targets, had to adapt to online interactions.

During this time, the already fragile South African economy was under significant strain due to the tight restrictions imposed. The tourism and hospitality sectors were hit the hardest, especially in  Cape Town, where hotels, restaurants, and event venues rely on foreign tourism.

We decided it would be reproachable for us as a faith-based organisation to target these groups within this context.

Beyond internal research for corporate engagement, we commissioned desk research on layer hen welfare, the South African food systems and zoonotic diseases. All research was conducted by Sonia Mountford from EATegrity.

The desk research on hen welfare evaluates hen welfare in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, and South Africa.

Research into the link between factory farming and zoonotic diseases has also been completed and brings to light the dire consequences of industrial farming systems for all.

Despite our setbacks in meeting in person, we could continue our retailer engagement online.  We continued to engage the South African Sustainable Retailer Forum (SRF), a group of South Africa’s four leading retailers, namely Spar, Food Lover’s Market, Pick n Pay and Woolworths. We met with Shoprite/Checkers separately as they are not part of this group. Shoprite/Checkers is a leading retailer within Africa, while Pick n Pay is widely spread. The smaller Food Lovers Market and Spar have stores throughout South Africa (urban and rural areas).

These retailers are hugely influential in the region with the following store’s numbers: — Shoprite/Checkers has +/- 2 352 stores within the Continent — Pick n Pay has +/- 1 628 stores in Southern Africa. — Food Lover’s Market +/- 130 stores within the Continent. — Spar has +/- 884 in South Africa.

A series of briefings with in-depth information about layer-hens were produced and shared with the retailers to introduce the cage-free movement and the necessity for a change from cage to cage-free procurement. With the completion of the group meetings, we began one-on-one sessions with each retailer. To date, we have met with all the retailers and started planning for an extensive campaign.

Part of the adoption of online meetings included meetings with partners both in and out of the country. The faster and more accessible online meeting platforms allowed us to meetings with partners more frequently and further afield. Despite the struggles many of us had with adapting to a Zoom-based world, this was an excellent opportunity to meet with many of our continental partners and engage with larger organisations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In-country Safcei convened a meeting between the significant welfare NGO’s within South Africa, including Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations, Credence Institute and Human Society International. Thanks to the online space, I also enjoyed engaging with Camilla Rosette from Animal Equality Brazil through the mentorship program. I greatly appreciated the connections to Animal Equality and lessons from Brazil.

SAFCEI shared campaigns widely via social media and encouraged all Earthkeepers to act in any way they could. This included retweeting comments, liking targeted posts and signing petitions.

To keep up with our work, become an Earthkeeper and stay up to date with all our work.  Find the signup link here.

By Georgina Blumears, Cage-Free Eggs Campaign Coordinator.