Mahi Klosterhalfen: Germany’s Animal Advocacy 2009 Year in Review


2009 has been a tremendous year for farmed animal protection efforts in the United States, as Paul Shapiro made clear in yesterday’s guest blog. It’s also been a comparably important year in Germany, so I invited my friend Mahi Klosterhalfen,Vice President of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, to tell us about the recent victories in his country. Mahi began his activist work in 2007, with a focus on Germany’s egg industry, after he listened to a podcast I did with Josh Balk about opportunities to put an end to battery cage egg production. Mahi writes:

Over the past two years, we’ve put an end to the worst cruelties associated with Germany’s egg production. Battery cages will be outlawed here next month, and the activist efforts we’ve done over the past year has ensured this ban will have great meaning. Initially, most of the egg industry believed they could skirt the upcoming ban by switching over to “colony cages” —which offer only minimal welfare improvements over battery cages. We made sure that this didn’t happen by convincing the German supermarket chains to go cage-free and by targeting the food industry: The list of food manufacturers who have pledged to go cage-free is growing on a weekly basis. It already includes all German pasta producers and many of the largest cookie and cake producers.

The key to these victories is a campaign that builds on what we have learned from Henry Spira: we have built a coalition of eleven animal protection groups—including three of the four biggest organizations in Germany. In addition to assembling this coalition, we constantly stress to companies that our campaigns offer them the opportunity to be publicly praised for meaningful action. We only launch negative campaigns as a last resort, after all efforts at negotiations have failed. And each victory we win puts added pressure on the remaining companies to follow suit.

Progress for farmed animals in Germany is being won on other fronts as well. Other animal protection organizations over here are rapidly putting an end to piglet castration. While factory farms had tried to promote useless painkillers that kicked in after the castration, public pressure has reached the point where the pork industry has begun transitioning to castration-free systems. It now looks like the practice of piglet castration will be abolished here within the next two years.

We have never seen this kind of momentum in Germany before and we’ll work hard to accelerate our progress in 2010.

I can’t begin to express what an inspiration Mahi is to me. He makes achieving huge victories for animals look easy.