Guest blog by Daisy Freund, Senior Manager of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Campaign
A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the “right to farm” was passed in Missouri last week by the narrowest of margins. Amendment 1 squeaked by with a 0.2% lead; a mere 2,528 votes out of almost one million cast. While the amendment may have seemed harmless to many voters, those who opposed it, including the ASPCA, worry that it could shield a disturbingly broad range of agricultural industries and practices. Those benefiting from the amendment include factory farms and the state’s notorious puppy mill industry, considered by some to be a form of agriculture. It was incredibly heartening to see so many Missouri voters reject this deceptive measure in the face of such powerful and well-funded proponents of Amendment 1.The coalition formed in opposition– farmers, advocacy groups, businesses – is impressive and will continue to grow.
Many Missouri family farmers were wary of this amendment, for good reason. One farmer in Boone County explained why her commitment to running a sustainable, welfare-minded farm was also her reason for opposing a “right to farm.” In many cases, her farming methods conflict with nearby industrial farms’ practices, such as when her neighbors recently sprayed chemicals that drifted onto her chemical-free fields. In her words, “the rights of all farmers cannot be simultaneously guaranteed.”
The ASPCA appreciates this country’s hardworking, responsible farmers who use more humane practices, but irresponsible farming impacts lives—both animal and human. As Americans become increasingly interested in where their food is coming from, they’re learning that industrial-scale farms often achieve “efficiency” and cheaper products at the expense of animal welfare, food safety, worker safety and the environment. Society is demanding better.
But Big Ag is busy inventing ways to skirt the rules, creating “ag-ceptions.” In an effort to avoid the scandals that stem from undercover investigations, states with big farming industries are introducing ag-gag legislation that aim to criminalize on-farm whistleblowing. The movement to block these bills has been very successful, thanks to a strong coalition of civil liberties, animal welfare, labor, farming and environmental protection groups who believe in more transparency in the food system—not less. Just four states have passed ag-gag laws in the last three years, despite nearly half of all states introducing bills.
It’s exciting that Americans are demanding accountability on issues like animal welfare and food safety, but disappointing that much of the food industry stubbornly refuses to listen. “Right to farm” laws are another attempt to discourage scrutiny, but we deserve to take a close look at the agricultural industry when their decisions directly impact consumer safety, animal welfare, and our environment. The ASPCA will continue to stand up for animals—in Missouri and across the country—because there are no ag-ceptions to the rule that animals should live free from abuse and suffering.
Chicken Scratch is an ASPCA Blog feature that highlights interesting news about farm animals and farm animal welfare.
We made ourselves heard! The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has listened to the American public and dropped language from a new poultry slaughter inspection rule that would have increased slaughter line speeds. We sure are relieved, but line speeds are still moving way too fast. The ASPCA was quoted in TheNew York Times, explaining: “It’s not a victory for consumers, workers or animals. [The USDA] maintained the status quo of line speeds that already move too fast.” Thanks to all our supporters who spoke up on behalf of chickens and turkeys!
Something to squawk about…a new trend in “farm to counter”? The New York Times highlights a growing segment of fast-food chains that are shunning factory farming and investing in more sustainable and humane food sources.
In a disappointing ruling, a court decided the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have to hold hearings on the safety of routine antibiotic use on factory farms. The FDA should listen to its own advice from the 1970s that routinely administering certain antibiotics has “not been shown to be safe.” We’re glad to see three U.S. senators (Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand) are continuing to push the FDA to take the issue seriously.
We always knew pork lobbyists were aggressive, but this is taking it to the next level. A South Carolina pork lobbyist was recently arrested trying to enter the U.S. Capitol with a gun. The president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council might be walking on eggshells as he’s now facing a potential felony charge.
Kudos to Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of one of the most popular show on daytime television, for exposing his audience to the truth about modern chicken farming! On Tuesday’s episode of Dr. Oz, titled “Inside the Chicken Industry: Is Something Foul?”, Christopher Leonard, an investigative reporter and author of The Meat Racket, discussed his disturbing research into how chicken is produced in this country.
As Leonard explained, with 95% of Americans eating chicken regularly, the demand for the meat is high and the industry has found a way to grow chickens “twice as fast, on half as much feed.” Leonard recalled his first visit to an industrial chicken facility, a “giant warehouse with 75,000 birds on the ground, the air thick with ammonia.”
The ASPCA recently launched our Truth About Chicken campaign to improve the welfare of chickens raised for meat. To learn more and urge the industry to adopt slower-growing chickens raised in better conditions, visit TruthAboutChicken.org.
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It can be hard to cut through the clever marketing and buzzwords on food packaging and get down to the truth. For example, most shoppers assume that an “organic” label on meat, eggs or dairy means that the farm animals used lived in a nice setting, with access to the outdoors and fresh air throughout the day. But that’s not required by the USDA, which sets the organic standards, so it’s not necessarily true.
Unfortunately, loopholes and unclear definitions are common when it comes to labels and claims on animal-derived products. On the other hand, there are animal welfare labeling programs that set and enforce meaningful standards for farm animals—some through independent, third-party auditors. The ASPCA’s new online and downloadable label guide separates fact from fiction so you can make educated choices and vote with your wallet for better farm animal welfare.
As many of you know, the ASPCA has been fighting through our Truth About Chicken campaign to improve the lives of chickens raised for meat. We want to make sure that you’ve seen CNN®’s report airing new footage released by the animal advocacy group Compassion Over Killing® (COK) from their recent investigation* on a chicken factory farm that supplies Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation®—the second-largest chicken producer in the world. Below is an excerpt from COK’s footage:
This rare look inside an industrial chicken farm reveals common living conditions for chickens raised for meat. Tens of thousands of chickens are kept in lightless sheds and bred for growth rates that cause lameness and open sores, injuries which could pose potential food safety risks by acting as gateways to infection. Some chickens are shown with ammonia burns as a result of lying in their own waste. Other birds are too lame or deformed to walk. This investigation also exposed the suffering of sick and dying chickens who were thrown across the sheds and buried alive in pits under the carcasses of other chickens.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The ASPCA’s Truth About Chicken campaign is calling on the chicken industry to significantly improve the lives of these animals and potentially reduce the incidence of foodborne illness for consumers by raising slower-growing chickens in better living conditions. To learn more and take action to help chickens, visit TruthAboutChicken.org today.
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*The ASPCA provided grant funding for this investigation as part of our commitment to improving the lives of chickens raised for meat and in line with our belief that transparency on industrial farms will result in a shift toward more humane practices.