The U.S. Farm Bill is very close to completion. The House and Senate have each drafted versions of this five-year bill, and starting today, a committee made up of about 20 senators and representatives are meeting to iron out any differences and present a final, unified bill.
We have the opportunity to strike a major blow against animal fighting in this Farm Bill. The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill contains a provision to make it a federal crime to be a spectator at an animal fight—this language mirrors the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, a stand-alone bill with an astounding 216 House cosponsors—that’s very close to half of the entire body!
Since the Senate passed identical legislation during the last session of Congress and the current version is supported by nearly half the House, the bill seems poised for success. However, if we can get the Farm Bill conference committee to keep it in the Farm Bill, it’s a done deal: We won’t have to wait for the House to take a vote on the stand-alone bill.
It is important to note that spectators at animal fights are not there accidentally; they intentionally seek out these illegal activities at secret locations, often traveling long distances and crossing state lines for the entertainment of watching animals fight to the death and the opportunity to gamble on the barbaric event.
This summer, the Governor of New Jersey vetoed an ASPCA-backed bill to ban the use of gestation crates. Gestation crates are small cages (about 2' × 7') industrialized farms use for confining pregnant pigs.
We were very disappointed by Governor Christie’s veto, but we were also shocked. It doesn’t often happen that 91% of a state’s residents and an overwhelming majority of a state’s legislators—Democrats and Republicans alike—agree on anything. But in New Jersey, the plight of pregnant pigs gave rise to an overwhelming consensus that no animal should be confined in this intolerably cruel manner.
Thankfully, there is still an opportunity to pass the bill to ban gestation crates: State Senator Raymond Lesniak is spearheading an effort to override the governor’s veto.
The override effort has been endorsed by New Jersey’s leading animal protection groups, national groups, industry experts, and major New Jersey news outlets. Press of Atlantic City called gestation crates “the very definition of cruelty.” Banning them, in the words of the Star-Ledger, is “basic decency.” The Times of Trenton asked us to “imagine the outcry if dogs and cats were subjected to such treatment.”
The ASPCA is saddened by the loss of one of Congress’ most dedicated animal welfare advocates: Representative C.W. Bill Young (FL-13). As the longest serving Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Young led a career filled with compassionate actions for animals.
Rep. Young was well known for his dedication in the fight to stop the brutal practice of horse slaughter. In addition to his consistent support of authorizing legislation, like the SAFE Act, to ban horse slaughter, Rep. Young was also a staunch ally to horses on the House Appropriations Committee. In June of this year, Rep. Young cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill for 2014 that would prevent federal dollars from being spent on horse meat inspections, language that would keep horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States. Thanks to his leadership, the amendment was swiftly adopted into the FY 14 Agriculture Appropriations bill by the committee.
Rep. Young, a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, advocated for many animal welfare issues during his 42-years of service in Congress. A longtime leader on legislation to combat puppy mills, Rep. Young joined as an original cosponsor of the PUPS Act this Congress, legislation that would close loopholes in the existing law and improve conditions for dogs in commercial breeding establishments.
In addition to his leadership on these key efforts, Rep. Young supported many other animal welfare initiatives over the course of his career, including legislation to combat animal fighting, stop horse soring, and protect America’s wild horses.
The ASPCA is grateful to Rep. Young for his many years of compassionate service in Congress, and remembers him for standing up in defense of our nation’s animals. His memory and legacy will long be cherished.
Here’s one more example of how human health and animal welfare are inseparable: On October 7, the USDA announced that 278 people across 18 states have contracted salmonella from eating chicken from a certain West Coast poultry processor. Reports indicate that about 42% of the people infected have been hospitalized—about double the normal rate of hospitalization for Salmonella infections—because this strain of salmonella is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.
In a recent U.S. News & World Report story, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained how this life-threatening outbreak is linked to the common industry practice of feeding chickens low doses of antibiotics to compensate for the sickening conditions on factory farms:
"It's not an accident that this particular strain is resistant," he said. "I suspect it's resistant because of the overuse of antibiotics among farm animals."
Chicken live in squalor, Siegel said: "Ninety-five percent of chickens are grown in such horrific conditions that they're standing in poop and they end up infected with salmonella. If one chicken gets it, they all get it."
On top of poor living conditions on farms, most modern chickens are bred to grow so fat, so fast, that many collapse under their own weight and spend much of their lives lying in their own waste, with open sores and wounds.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Chickens deserve better, and so do we. The ASPCA is urging the chicken industry to switch to slower-growing breeds raised in better conditions. Learn more and take action at TruthAboutChicken.org.
“I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations. Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.” – Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation
Phenomenal news! Horse-welfare advocates just gained an important new ally in the fight to stop the brutal practice of horse slaughter. As reported earlier this week in TheNew York Times, Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, announced that the Nation opposes the practice of horse slaughter and has stopped all horse round-ups on the reservation.
This statement follows two important developments for horses on Navajo lands. In September, a coalition of Navajo elders and medicine people passed a resolution to oppose horse slaughter, and a Navajo Nation chapter opted to suspend round-ups in its territory for fear the horses would be sent to slaughter.
The ASPCA applauds President Shelly’s announcement, which underscores the fact that the inherently cruel practice of horse slaughter is never an acceptable end for a horse.
President Shelly’s message on behalf of the Navajo Nation confirms the building momentum for the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would forbid the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad.