The U.S. Congress just released the brand new funding bill for FY2014 – a massive bill involving more than a trillion tax dollars – and we are thrilled to announce that horse slaughter will not be coming back to United States soil.
The ASPCA worked day and night to ensure that tax dollars would not be spent on inspections that enable the slaughter of horses for human consumption. We worked closely with other animal welfare organizations, consumer safety groups, as well as thousands of citizens representing the 80% of Americans that oppose horse slaughter, and Congress has listened. The message from Capitol Hill is loud and clear on this issue: Our horses deserve better and this dangerous industry must not be tolerated. Horse slaughter has no business here.
Advocates fought hard when the Agriculture Appropriations bill was being considered at committee level, winning votes in both the House and Senate that amended the bills to prohibit funding for horse slaughter inspections. And tonight, we finally know that this horse slaughter funding limitation is intact! Congress is not expected to make any changes to the bill text at this stage of the game, so the writing is on the wall for any efforts to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. Both chambers are expected to pass the bill, and the president is expected to sign it into law, later this week.
Now is the time for Congress to take the final step in protecting America’s horses from this nightmarish industry, by passing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1094 / S. 541) to prevent both the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in this country, and their export for that purpose abroad.
Way to go, Governor Cuomo! With the stroke of a pen, New York State’s chief executive has just enacted a measure to allow local governments in New York State to regulate commercial dog breeders and pet stores.
The new law, championed by Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), will enable New York’s cities, towns and counties to decide for themselves what is tolerable within their borders. The ability to legislate animal care-related standards beyond the state’s minimal requirements could lead to a crackdown on cruel and unscrupulous pet dealers throughout New York.
“The puppy mill industry wanted to keep the state law unchanged because it allowed maximum profit and minimum accountability,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “With this law, we’ll be able to keep a closer eye on these operations, stop inhumane practices, and undoubtedly save many lives. For New Yorkers and animal lovers—and animals themselves—this is a huge and important win.”
Brad Shear, Executive Director of Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, says: “I first want to thank the governor for signing the third animal protection law of the year and making New York State safer for animals. For far too long, humane societies and animal shelters have had to pay the price for disreputable breeders. When puppy mills are uncovered and brought to justice, those dogs end up with our organizations—the folks in each community who believe in treating animals humanely and with dignity. We feed them, care for them, nurse them back to health and adopt them out. We also carry the financial burden. This bill will give our local governments the power to stop puppy mills and the irresponsible pet shops who sell these animals.”
Libby Post, Executive Director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation, also deeply thanks the governor for signing this bill: “Governor Cuomo's signature on this bill couldn’t come soon enough. We just saw a horrible puppy mill incident in Montgomery County where a Border Collie breeder was finally brought to justice for not providing adequate shelter and care for his dogs—including puppies—as the polar vortex bore down on the Capital Region with sub-zero temperatures and considerable snow. The New York State Animal Protection Federation will now work with localities throughout the state to help them put mechanisms in place to stop puppy mills before more atrocities happen.”
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It’s been a big week for pigs! Two major U.S. pork producers announced that they are taking steps to root out one of the cruelest factory farming practices: The use of gestation crates, devices that confine pregnant mother pigs for most of their lives in spaces so small they cannot turn around.
On Tuesday, Smithfield Foods announced it is recommending that all of its contract farmers convert from gestation crates to group housing systems for pregnant sows by 2022. The company offered the incentive of a contract extension to these growers upon completion of the conversion. Smithfield had already committed to phasing gestation crates out of 100% of its company-owned facilities by 2017.
Yesterday another major pork producer, Tyson Foods, sent a letter to its suppliers outlining the company’s new stance that mother pigs should be able to “stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs.” Since gestation crates prevent even that degree of movement, this means that future Tyson sow barns will hopefully feature alternative housing systems. The letter also encouraged an end to the practice of killing sick or injured piglets through blunt force trauma and urged the use of pain relief during castration and tail-docking, which factory farms currently perform without using anesthesia. Finally, it urged producers to install cameras in their facilities to improve accountability for the proper handling of animals.
Unfortunately, neither company is requiring these changes from its suppliers. Still, these are important steps in the right direction and send a strong message to consumers, pork producers and the public that immobilizing farm animals is not only inhumane, but also unnecessary. These important announcements leave no doubt that change is possible, and that’s something we can all celebrate!
Guest blog by Ann Church, ASPCA Vice President of State Affairs
With state legislatures gathering in state capitals around the country to start their 2014 legislative sessions, the ASPCA is looking forward to another year of productive lawmaking for animals. Last year we helped secure 86 state-level legislative victories, increasing protections for millions of animals and stopping abuse before it could begin. Our New Year’s resolution is to replicate this success—and we need your help to make that happen!
We have an ambitious agenda for 2014: We want to help pass the first state law in the nation banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in retail pet shops; strengthen cruelty laws; enhance publicly funded spay/neuter; and eliminate the horrors of dog fighting and cockfighting, Greyhound racing, horse slaughter for human consumption and fox penning (to name just a few of our goals). There will also be bad bills that we’ll need to defeat. Defeating ag-gag bills in 11 states kept us busy in 2013, and unfortunately 2014 is already shaping up to be similarly challenging.
Your state delegates/representatives and state senators will cast their votes on legislation based on what you, their constituents, want. The states have a great deal of authority to act on direct care of animals, and some issues can only be addressed at the state level. It is up to you to let them know that you care deeply about how animals are protected.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to get more involved in the legislative process and ensure that animals have the legal protections they deserve:
Look up who represents you. Post their contact information on your fridge so you can easily call them to express your support for bills to protect animals or opposition to legislation that would roll back protections for animals.
Participate in a lobby day at your state capitol or a training session on citizen advocacy. Once you’ve joined the Advocacy Brigade (see above), watch your inbox for the ASPCA’s invitations to events in your area!
The fate of your state’s animals will be decided through the legislative process. We’ve made it our New Year’s resolution to protect them by passing strong state laws, and we hope that you will join us. Resolve to get involved, and be the voice these animals need in state capitols across the country.
Suppose I told you that, behind the closed doors of a nearby animal farm, something terrible was going on with the animals: vicious abuse and neglect, atrocious conditions, disease and agonizing death.
You would probably want to expose it, protect the animals and punish the offenders. So would I. But instead of seeing more laws dedicated to curbing such abuse, we’re seeing a rash of state laws designed to keep it secret.
Some of these whistleblower suppression laws—coined “ag-gag” by food writer Mark Bittman—aggressively criminalize first-hand documenting and/or reporting of the day-to-day activities of industrial farms, while doing nothing to contain the abuse. Other approaches are designed to seem animal-friendly, but actually hinder investigators and whistleblowers by requiring reporting of witnessed abuse within such a short and arbitrary period of time that adequate documentation of a pattern of abuse is impossible.
Whatever their approach, these laws audaciously and outrageously hide reckless cruelty and incredible suffering.
The first ag-gag bill of 2014 has already been introduced—right on the heels of a previous one’s defeat—and will be heard in the Corrections and Criminal Law committee on Tuesday at the Indiana State House. If passed, S.B. 101 could make felons out of whistleblowers exposing unethical or illegal activities on industrial farms. A coalition [PDF] of civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, animal welfare, legal, workers’ rights, journalism and First Amendment organizations is calling on the Indiana legislature to reject the bill.
In 2012, ag-gag bills became law in Missouri, Iowa and Utah—joining Montana, North Dakota and Kansas. This “goes against everything this country has stood for since its inception,” wrote one local journalist about an ag-gag bill introduced in Pennsylvania. But the good news is that, of 15 ag-gag bills introduced in 11 states in 2013, none passed.
This pattern of failure should tell you something about the fatal flaws the laws have in common.
Veteran journalist Bill Moyers spoke about ag-gag laws in 2013, pointing out another surprising commonality among these bills in terms of how they were drafted, why, and by whom.
Factory farm owners will tell you they’re meeting a critical consumer need and treating their animals humanely (if so, why do they need protection from truth-tellers?). But if we’ve learned anything about factory farms, it’s that we can’t leave the safety of those animals to chance:
In 2011, Mercy for Animals released a video shot inside a North Carolina turkey factory farm owned by Butterball. The video shows frightened turkeys being violently kicked, thrown hard against the side of a truck and dragged across the floor. The video also shows birds with bloody open wounds, broken bones and diseased eyes.
Another Mercy for Animals investigation in Texas revealed the depraved abuse of calves at a cattle company in the Texas panhandle.
In case after case, whistleblowers are the only things standing between farm animals and violent abuse—and in some cases, between you and contaminated food. Similarly shocking journalistic exposés led directly to the passage of the federal Meat Inspection Act, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the eventual formation of the federal Food and Drug Administration.
“Videotaping at factory farms wouldn’t be necessary if the industry were properly regulated. But it isn’t,” writes Bittman in his New York Times column. “The biggest problem of all is that we’ve created a system in which standard factory-farming practices are inhumane… If you’re raising and killing 10 billion animals every year, some abuse is pretty much guaranteed.”