The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee this week took a step forward to protect research animals by demanding the USDA address the serious allegations of animal cruelty and neglect at its research facility or forgo millions in funding. The 2016 appropriations draft bill approved by the subcommittee contains a provision to withhold $56.1 million of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that its animal welfare protocols and reporting requirements are updated.
“The rampant cruelty taking place at this taxpayer-funded USDA research facility is inexcusable,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We cannot allow suffering of the kind exposed at USMARC to continue, and the ASPCA commends the members of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee for holding the USDA accountable for farm animal treatment at all USDA research facilities.”
Withholding funds for further animal research is an important step, but more must be done. Congress must close the loopholes that allow for this type of suffering by passing the AWARE Act, bipartisan legislation that would require animal agricultural research at federal facilities like USMARC to meet Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards, and Congress and the USDA should ensure that these facilities undergo regular inspections.
You can help! Make sure your tax dollars are used appropriately and in a transparent and humane manner: Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center today to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the AWARE Act.
Last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that when certain meat is purchased by the federal government for federal cafeterias, preference is given to producers who raise animals according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) antibiotic recommendations.
Unfortunately, those FDA recommendations fail to address the deplorable animal welfare conditions that drive the overuse of antibiotics in the first place.
Nearly all land animals raised for food are kept in factory farms where crowding, filth and stress abound. To compensate, and to speed animals’ growth, companies often feed animals a steady dose of antibiotics. The chicken industry is a prime example.
The FDA recommendation that forms the basis of the White House’s new policy aims to stop companies from using antibiotics to speed animal growth. However, it does not address the common practice of routinely administering “preventative” antibiotics to compensate for poor welfare.
Reduction in on-farm antibiotics should always feature better animal welfare, and the ASPCA has a host of recommendations for achieving this on all farms, regardless of antibiotics protocols. These include things like more space, lower stress, better sanitation and, of course, treating animals with antibiotics when truly needed. Read more about how these common-sense measures can improve chicken welfare, and take action for chickens, on our Truth About Chicken site.
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.