This Animal Loving Veterinarian Became an Activist to Reduce Abuse on Factory Farms - s11 ep55

The Humane League’s Vicky Bond Leads an International to End Suffering of Animals Raised for Human Food

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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?

Vicky: I believe my relentlessness or tenacity, determination, whatever you want to say that is, has been a real driver in my life–always.

“The Humane League works to end the abuse of animals raised for food,” says the nonprofit’s president, Vicky Bond. “We're working to end cages for laying hens worldwide through our work with the Open Wing Alliance.”

Always an animal lover, Vicky trained as a veterinarian. She shares her experience:

While training to be a vet, I witnessed factory farms for the first time. I got to see how these animals suffered day in and day out in these systems. As a veterinarian, you would go on a farm and treat the individual animal. 

You may give bulk antibiotics for the animals, but you weren't treating the fundamental issue: these systems are wrong. Animals should not be in them, and being in them causes them a lot of suffering. 

So, while doing my veterinary degree, I went and did a master's of environment, development and policy and learned about the impact of policy work of that institutional change that you can make and how much you can scale up impact.

So, when I left that school–I did work as a vet for a while–but I also got involved in more activist-led things, in policy change and ended up being able to work what I do now, which is to create change for farm animals on a large scale, impacting hundreds of millions of animals versus what I could have done as a veterinarian, which would have probably been much smaller on the individual level of animals.

The work is staggering. In the US alone, producers are raising about 1.5 billion chickens, including broiler and laying hens. About 9 billion are raised annually in this country alone–broiler chickens are slaughtered after just six weeks.

Vicky describes what she’s seen firsthand:

I've been on these on these farms. You walk into a very large shed, and all you can hear is the clanging noises of the birds' beaks and feet on the metal because that's their entire life. They spend their life in this metal cage, four or five of them–not even enough space to spread their wings. They will be fed, given water, and that's all they get. They never get to see sunlight. They never get to spread their wings. They often end up pecking at each other through sheer boredom. They end up with broken bones. All in the name of cheap eggs.

“When we talk about the world, we're talking about over 70 billion land animals raised and slaughtered every year for food,” Vicky says. It's not sustainable. The cruelty is not sustainable. The food system itself–we need to move to more plant-based options to remove some of the eggs, dairy, and meats from our diets so that we can have a sustainable food system.”

She is emphatic that animal suffering needn’t be a part of our food supply. “It is perfectly plausible for us to have farming systems that are higher welfare and that move away from these intensive practices that see animals stacked on top of each other, beak to beak,” she says.

“We want a day when animals aren't abused for food,” Vicky continues. “We want to see that through incremental change, like ending cages, like ending farrowing crates, which is where mama pigs are put while they're pregnant–and they can't even turn around.”

The Humane League is making progress. “We started this work over a decade ago now,” she says. “At the time in the US, 5 percent of birds were cage-free here for laying hens; we're now at 14 percent. So, we're seeing an impact of 130-plus million birds every year.”

Throughout her career, she has used and strengthened her tenacity, making it a superpower.

AI Episode Summary

1. The Humane League, led by President Vicky Bond, aims to end the abuse of animals raised for food, predominantly by working with food companies to improve farm animal welfare in their supply chains.

2. They also focus on policy and legislative changes, advocate for individual diet changes, and aim to end the use of battery cages for laying hens through collaborative global efforts with the Open Wing Alliance.

3. The Humane League engages in peaceful protests to raise public awareness and hold companies accountable for farm animal welfare, especially in regard to ending the confinement of laying hens in cages.

4. Vicky Bond described the poor conditions of caged hens, emphasizing the lack of space and natural behaviors, highlighting the broken bones and the lack of access to sunlight, which leads to suffering—all for the production of cheap eggs.

5. Vicky argues for a sustainable food system that doesn't include farm animal cruelty, stating that higher welfare farming systems are possible and that we should shift towards plant-based options to maintain sustainability.

6. Incremental changes advocated by The Humane League have led to significant welfare improvements, citing that the percentage of cage-free hens has increased from 5 to 14 percent in the US, thereby affecting the lives of over 130 million birds annually.

7. Vicky Bond transitioned from veterinary practice to animal welfare advocacy after witnessing the suffering of animals on factory farms, realizing she could have a broader impact on animal welfare through policy change and activism rather than individual veterinary care.

8. Actions that individuals can take to support the Humane League include volunteering, taking digital action through Fast Action Network, raising awareness on social media, donating, and making informed purchase decisions based on welfare-conscious product labeling.

9. Vicky encourages a gradual approach to changing dietary habits towards plant-based options, acknowledging that swift changes can be difficult and recommending gradual steps like "Meatless Mondays" or substituting one meal a day with a plant-based alternative.

10. Finally, Vicky shared her superpower of tenacity, recounting her refusal to back down against industry leaders, such as a rabbit farm donor, ultimately influencing him to consider cage-free options, highlighting the importance of staying persistent to achieve goals.

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How to Develop Tenacity As a Superpower

Vicky shared a story that illustrates her tenacity:

A number of years ago now, I was working on rabbit farming. So rabbit farming–we don't hear of it that much, but it's the second most farmed species in Europe. 

I was working across Europe. I was at a conference and trying to push to end cages for rabbits as well because they're predominantly in battery cages in Europe. 

We're at the conference, and I didn't know at the time, but he was the largest owner of all the systems, basically, in Austria, Germany and other places. After the conference, he came up to me and said, “Well, it's nice to meet you, but what would you know about rabbit farming? This is unrealistic, and I can show you why it's good to keep them in cages.”

In that moment, I just didn't stand for it. I was very much like, “Well, the science is this. I disagree strongly on this. I've got systems. I've seen systems that work that are not in cages. It is doable. This is very much a profit-driven mentality.”

He was pretty upset and left. 

Then, the next day, he came up to me and was like, “I was thinking about what you said. I do think we should potentially–this does sound like this might be the future for rabbit farming. I want to understand more. Here's my card. Can we have a conversation?”

So, in those moments, I've come up against industry leaders. It's not shrinking down. But actually, standing tall, I think, has paid off.

The tenacity paid off! Vicky offers some advice for strengthening yours:

Think that mistakes are good. We're going to make mistakes, but learning from them is the important bit. So, if you have a clear goal, don't give up. You will get there. The path might be wandering and might not appear exactly how you hoped it would, but you will get there if you stay the course of time. So, stay strong, stay relentless. You can make it.

By following Vicky’s advice and example, you can strengthen your tenacity. With practice and patience, you can make it a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

Remember, however, that research into success suggests that building on your own superpowers is more important than creating new ones or overcoming weaknesses. You do you!

Guest Profile

Vicky Bond (she/her):

President, The Humane League, The Humane League

About The Humane League: The Humane League is a global nonprofit that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food. We work to influence the world's largest food companies to improve the treatment of animals by adopting higher welfare practices for the animals raised for food in their supply chain, which includes a current focus on accelerating the food industry's momentum and legislation toward production of cage-free eggs. 

Website: www.thehumaneleague.org

X/Twitter Handle: @thehumaneleague

Company Facebook Page: facebook.com/thehumaneleague

Other URL: FastActionNetwork.com; EndCages.com; InspireBrandsBetrayal.com; DupedbyDunkin.com; SonicsSecrets.com

Biographical Information: Vicky Bond is a doctor of veterinary science, animal welfare scientist, and president of The Humane League, a global animal protection nonprofit that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food.

Bond trained as a veterinary surgeon and practiced as a veterinarian with the primary goal of helping animals. When she witnessed firsthand the horrors that take place on factory farms, she realized that if she really wanted to help animals, she had to work to end factory farming. From there, Bond worked internationally in research and food business departments for several animal protection organizations. She worked closely with food corporations, including restaurants, retailers, food service companies, producers, and suppliers, as well as in slaughterhouses, to better understand and improve their supply chains and business structures to improve the lives of animals raised for food. 

X/Twitter Handle: @vickybond_thl

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/vicky-bond-b9107936/

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