This afternoon, most members of the North Carolina State Legislature publicly reaffirmed their commitment to catering to the interests of deep-pocketed factory farmers when they raced to pass H.B. 405, the dangerous ag-gag bill, for a second time. Although they succeeded by just eight votes in the House and a slender margin of four in the Senate, there is now no stopping this overreaching, wildly unpopular bill from becoming state law.
Today’s override vote in the House of Representatives was pre-scheduled—however, the subsequent “special session” vote in the Senate was unexpected and a complete adulteration of the political process; it was a move by state senators to dodge the same flood of citizen outcry that their colleagues in the House have withstood since Governor McCrory vetoed the bill on Friday and it became clear that an override campaign was imminent. Governor McCrory and North Carolina legislators received tens of thousands of calls and letters from constituents opposing this bill and the top five newspapers in the state all editorialized against H.B. 405, which will punish whistleblowers for exposing illegal or unethical activities at factory farms, puppy mills, nursing homes, daycares or any other businesses.
Although the tide of public opinion had little impact on the majority of the state’s governing body, we would like to extend a special thanks to Rep. Harrison, Rep. Carney, Rep. Martin and Senator Stein, all of whom spoke out against this bill—and of course, our thanks go out to Governor McCrory for his common sense in vetoing H.B. 405 last week. We are deeply grateful to all of our national coalition partners, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the AARP, the Wounded Warrior Project, North Carolina AFL-CIO, the N.C. Council for Women, the Domestic Violence Commission, the Parkinson Association of the Carolinas, and the many companion animal shelters and citizens across the state who stood with us in advocating against this insidious legislation.
Today’s events make it clear that we must remain ever-vigilant in the battle to protect the welfare of the most vulnerable among us by defeating ag-gag legislation—and we hope you will support our efforts.
Yesterday, Foster Farms—one of the country’s largest chicken producers—announced that it is aiming to remove from its chicken flocks all antibiotics that are also used in humans (barring exceptional cases). This follows similar announcements by other companies like Tyson, Perdue and McDonald’s.
While chickens sometimes need antibiotics to overcome illness, the chicken industry relies far too heavily on antibiotics as a crutch to compensate for the crowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions that, sadly, are standard on today’s chicken farms. You can learn more about this, and take action, through our Truth About Chicken campaign.
Some companies are removing all antibiotics, some just those used on humans, and some only those used for certain purposes. But while each case differs, the overall principle remains the same: Removing antibiotics without improving underlying conditions is like taking off a bandage and leaving a wound exposed. As chicken companies reduce or remove antibiotics, they must improve the animal welfare problems that often lead to antibiotics use in the first place.
Luckily, the ASPCA has a set of recommendations to improve the welfare of all chickens, no matter the antibiotics policy. These include common-sense practices like offering more space, better sanitation, enrichment, more natural lighting, and healthier genetics. Learn more and take action here.
After a shocking New York Times exposé on the USDA’s U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) unearthed extreme cruelty to animals and an atmosphere devoid of compassion and oversight, the ASPCA has been pressing for congressional reforms.
Our efforts received a huge boost recently from a respected elder statesman. Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), a key architect of federal protections for animals in institutional research, spoke out in favor of the AWARE Act (H.R. 746/S. 388). This legislation, which was introduced in direct response to the USMARC scandal, would require USMARC and similar facilities to comply with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA, which sets minimum standards for other kinds of animal research, currently contains an exemption for “agricultural” research. The AWARE Act would close this gaping loophole for federally run facilities.
Among his many achievements during 35 years in Congress, Senator Dole introduced the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act. A key provision of that legislation, enacted in 1985, mandates that research facilities establish internal animal welfare oversight committees to review research using animals and make suggestions to reduce the number of animals used, to improve welfare for those used, and to avoid duplication. In the USMARC case, the USDA’s own investigation revealed that the facility’s oversight committee was inactive and severely negligent in its duties.
Senator Dole voiced his support for reform at USMARC by writing letters to the two current U.S. senators from Kansas, Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both of whom chair committees with jurisdiction over USMARC funding.
The news just broke that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has vetoed H.B. 405, a dangerous ag-gag bill that would have prevented whistleblowers from exposing animal cruelty and food safety issues on factory farms. This bill was so far-reaching that it also threatened to prevent nurses from revealing elder abuse in hospitals or nursing homes, teachers from exposing child abuse at day cares, and workers from documenting workplace discrimination or mistreatment.
“H.B. 405 was an insidious attempt to silence whistleblowers and keep North Carolina residents in the dark about horrific animal abuse on industrial farms, but Governor McCrory sent a powerful message by vetoing this dangerous bill,” says Chloe Waterman, Senior Manager of State Legislative Strategy for the ASPCA. “Ag-gag has no place in North Carolina, and the ASPCA thanks Governor McCrory for standing up for the 74 percent of North Carolinians that support undercover investigations and the responsible farmers and businesses whose reputations would have been tarnished by this deplorable measure.”
Despite strong public opposition and the release of an undercover video that showed shocking cruelty at a North Carolina chicken slaughterhouse, state lawmakers voted in favor of this bill. Recognizing the dangers of a food system without transparency, North Carolina residents quickly appealed to the Governor for a veto alongside a broad coalition of dozens of interest groups and farmers who voiced their opposition to the bill. In addition, newspapers from around the state editorialized against the bill and celebrities including Martha Stewart, Kesha, Nikki Reed, Eric McCormack, Amy Acker, Katherine Schwarzenegger and Andie MacDowell also called for a veto on social media.
“North Carolina is one of the leading producers of poultry and pork in the U.S., so their animal products could end up on anyone’s dinner plate,” says Daisy Freund, Senior Manager of Farm Animal Welfare for the ASPCA. “Ag-gag bills affect everyone, no matter where they live. Those concerned with animal abuse on factory farms and food safety issues need to remain vigilant in letting their state legislators know that they do not support the passage of dangerous ag-gag bills.”
If you live in North Carolina, please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center now to thank your governor for vetoing this bill and to urge your state legislators to let the veto stand.
When the company that sells roughly 25 percent of all groceries in this country makes a commitment to better farm animal welfare, it is a groundbreaking moment, and it sends ripples through the entire agriculture industry. That’s why it’s exciting that Wal-Mart has announced a broad new policy around the treatment of farm animals in their supply chain.
Integrating a commitment to the common-sense Five Freedoms, Wal-Mart calls for its suppliers to “find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns” around three specific issues: 1) the use of cages and crates that currently confine egg-laying hens, mother sows and calves; 2) painful and often unnecessary mutilations like tail docking, dehorning and castration; and 3) the slaughter of animals before they have been rendered unconscious.
This is a significant step by one of the most influential entities in the food industry, and should send a strong signal to companies that for both ethical or business reasons, ignoring farm animal suffering is no longer an option. In fact, Wal-Mart said its own research showed 77 percent of its shoppers would increase their trust in a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock. We commend Wal-Mart for taking steps to meet the public’s expectation that farm animals live decent lives. There is no more room on the supermarket shelf for farm animal suffering.
As the move to a more humane marketplace continues to gain momentum, we look forward to similar commitments from companies addressing the welfare of broiler chickens, who comprise 90 percent of the animals raised for food in this country.