According to news reports, Smithfield’s new ownership is primarily intended to export pork products to China, which is prohibited from sending its pork and beef to the U.S due to food safety concerns for both humans and companion animals. Increasingly, American consumers are concerned with the conditions in which their food is produced. Smithfield is one of many companies phasing out gestation crates, horrendous metal-barred cages that keep breeding sows in spaces so tight they cannot even turn around. It had pledged to remove these archaic cages from its international operations by 2022, and we are encouraged to hear the company state that it plans to keep this commitment.
What You Can Do
What can consumers do when faced with difficult issues surrounding food safety and the welfare of animals? Animal health and consumer safety can be encouraged through expanded education. If meat is part of your diet, there are several product-labeling programs that require higher standards of care for farm animals. They include:
Similarly, the government is increasingly responding to consumer demand for more transparency around the conditions in which our food is produced. Just last week, the US Department of Agriculture approved mandatory country-of-origin labeling on steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat that will indicate where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. This is a huge step in the right direction and will help consumers make informed choices when shopping for their families.
Just in time for summer, here’s some great news to bark about! California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) wants to see more dog parks in the Golden State—and last week, his bill to make it easier for local governments to create these havens for their four-legged residents passed the Assembly unanimously.
Gatto's bill, A.B. 265, would help cities and counties by limiting dog park-related liabilities; it would also protect local governments from lawsuits by people claiming that they were unaware of the potential dangers of such parks. Since California already has a similar law limiting liability for skate parks, the concept is not unfamiliar to state legislators.
"Dog parks help build safer and stronger communities by providing a public space for neighbors to interact while training and socializing their dogs," said Assemblyman Gatto. "We should not allow liability concerns to be a major barrier to creating these valuable spaces." Added A.B. 265's co-author, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): "This bill would have made my life significantly easier when I was on the San Diego City Council and trying to site a dog park."
We think that this bill, which aims to enrich communities and make life more pleasant for dogs and responsible pet parents, is a breath of fresh air! If you think so too, please take a few seconds to thank Assemblyman Gatto for his efforts by tweeting him a nice thank-you message (@mikegatto).
Military dogs aren’t the only animal heroes finally getting their due—the New York State Legislature has just passed a bill making it a felony to intentionally kill a police animal! The bill (A.2596/S.1079), which protects both police dogs and horses, passed unanimously and is headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.
This legislation was brought to the forefront after a March incident in New York’s Herkimer County: While pursuing an at-large gunman, Ape, an FBI police dog, was shot and killed by the suspect. Ape had been on the job for less than one month.
“Police dogs are on the front lines detecting dangers, apprehending criminals, and rescuing victims every day,” says Bill Ketzer, Senior Director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Northeast Region. “The loss of a police animal is a loss to the entire community, and we applaud New York legislators for passing this bill.”
A.2596/S.1079 was a priority bill at New York Voices for Animals Day, an ASPCA-sponsored animal advocacy event held in Albany earlier this month. Citizen advocates lobbied their state lawmakers in person to support the bill’s passage, and we think the results speak for themselves!
Inspired by this big win in New York? Share it with your friends with the hashtag #PoliceDogs.
The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act requires that many animals be quickly rendered unconscious before slaughter, and USDA policy requires that any plant violating this law be suspended or, at minimum, receive a warning. Despite this, the Inspector General reported that more than 25% of the time, inspectors failed to take appropriate action—in many cases electing to do nothing in response to astonishing cruelty.
The Inspector General witnessed pigs regain consciousness after being stunned, reported a captive bolt gun misfiring and becoming lodged in the skull of a still-conscious pig, and detailed a case of a downed pig being lifted and dropped by a forklift onto a concrete floor.
Take Action Please tell the USDA that Americans won’t stand for negligence in the face of cruelty. Using the text below, please email Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at [email protected] to thank him for empowering the Inspector General to uncover these violations and encourage the USDA to act on this report to prioritize measurable, effective improvements in the handling of livestock.
Here is some sample email text, but feel free to edit in your own words:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
The ASPCA recently alerted me to the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) appalling findings about inhumane pig handling at U.S. slaughter plants. Thank you for empowering the OIG to carefully and critically evaluate such an important area of the USDA’s mandate.
I am stunned by the accounts of cruelty depicted in the report, and concerned by the continual failure of USDA inspectors to punish wrongdoers. The USDA must ensure that its employees understand requirements for proper slaughter. The agency must commit sufficient resources to enforcing animal handling laws and put an end to institutional tolerance for cruelty once and for all.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Thanks for your help, animal advocates! Please share this post with your friends on Twitter using the hashtag #TakeAction.
The Maryland Legislature passed three great bills for animals this year, and we are thrilled to report that Governor Martin O’Malley has now signed all of them into state law! The new laws establish a statewide spay/neuter fund; close a loophole in Maryland’s animal fighting law by adding a prohibition on “baiting”; and prohibit the sale and possession of shark fins.
Maryland will soon have one of the most robustly funded statewide spay/neuter programs in the country. As outlined in the Spring 2013 issue of our members’ magazine ASPCA Action, the new program will be funded by a small surcharge on commercial pet food brands registered in the state, and is expected to generate approximately $1 million annually by 2016. This small fee on pet food will have almost no effect on pet parents, but a huge, positive impact on efforts to manage pet overpopulation in Maryland.
“This innovative spay/neuter program is one of the most important victories for animals in many years,” says Ann Church, ASPCA Vice President of State Affairs. “This legislation should be used as a model for other states to adopt similar provisions, and we applaud the many local animal shelters and humane groups who worked together to make this new program a reality.”
Inspired by this big win in Maryland? Visit our Advocacy Center to find out you can take action for animals in your state, and share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #TakeAction.