As we mentioned earlier today, the House Agriculture Committee moved forward with a new Farm Bill last night. Although the ASPCA is thrilled that the bill includes a provision to make it a crime to attend animal fights, we’re very disappointed that a last-minute amendment proposed by Rep. Steve King of Iowa also passed committee. This amendment would have far-reaching consequences for state laws that protect animals.
The King Amendment would gut existing state laws to protect animals as well as undermine states’ ability to pass their own laws regarding any “agricultural product”—including animals. Because of the broad nature of the federal definition of agricultural products, this amendment could potentially undercut state laws and regulations on a whole host of animal welfare issues, including not only farm animal welfare, but also issues from puppy mills to horse slaughter. This amendment violates states’ rights and is a solution in search of a problem.
“This is a federal law that seriously inhibits a state’s ability to protect animals,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Government Relations department. “For example, in California, where a state initiative will require eggs to be cage-free in a few years, the King Amendment would block this type of voter-approved legislation and permit eggs to be transported to California from other states with fewer protections in place.”
Though we’re dismayed by this addition to the Farm Bill, we’ll continue to fight efforts to undermine animal welfare legislation on the state level. Please stay tuned to the blog for the latest news about the farm bill, and join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to learn how you can take action for animals in your state.
This morning, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed his state’s dangerous anti-whistleblower/“ag-gag” bill, Senate Bill 1248/House Bill 1191. This is a major victory for animal welfare and consumer safety—if signed into law, this legislation would have thwarted investigations of agricultural enterprises and protected animal abusers instead of working to prevent such mistreatment.
Governor Haslam’s veto comes just days after Tennessee’s Attorney General declared the legislation “constitutionally suspect under the First Amendment on three grounds” and noted that it could violate a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Animal abusers in Tennessee have good reason to want to keep their cruel and illegal actions out of sight. While most states exempt farm animals from their animal cruelty statues entirely, last year Tennessee passed a bill, spearheaded by the ASPCA, to make extreme acts of cruelty to livestock subject to felony-level penalties.
Investigations on farms have been extremely successful in documenting the inhumane treatment of animals, uncovering crucial health and welfare information and spurring many groundbreaking reforms. If Tennessee’s ag-gag bill had become law, the cruelty revealed by these types of investigations—such as the gruesome beating and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses disclosed last year—would remain hidden from the public.
We thank Governor Haslam for listening to the citizens of Tennessee and preventing this harmful and unnecessary bill from becoming law. We also applaud and thank our Tennessee Advocates, local humane organizations, and groups representing other interests (including civil liberties, journalism, religion, food safety and the environment) put at risk by this bill for their support in fighting it!
Where does your state stand on anti-whistleblower legislation? Find out here, and be sure to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade so you can take action on current animal-related bills in your state!
Members of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response and Forensic Services teams are on the ground in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, assisting local authorities with the investigation of a farm animal cruelty case involving nearly 30 horses and other farm animals.
The Pleasant Prairie Police Department executed a search warrant on April 9, finding, among other animals, five deceased horses and 22 horses in poor condition. These horses were removed from the property and are now being housed temporarily by local rescue groups, getting the care and attention they desperately needed.
On April 30 the ASPCA teams arrived in Pleasant Prairie, about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. We’re there to support the Pleasant Prairie Police Department by lending our expertise in animal crime scene investigation.
We’re honored to help the Pleasant Prairie Police Department step up for these animals in need, and we’ll provide updates about this case as they come in.
If you suspect you’ve witnessed cruelty in your area, please don’t hesitate to report it. You could save a life.
This morning a post written by independent journalist Will Potter made the front page of the social news website Reddit. It’s now blowing up on Twitter. Reaching thousands of people, Potter’s post detailed the first ag-gag prosecution in the United States.
A 25-year-old Utah woman who says she was standing on a public street outside a slaughterhouse used her cell phone to film an injured cow being carted away by a tractor lift. Amy Meyer now faces a class B misdemeanor for agricultural operation interference.
Ag-gag laws, like the one that passed last year in Utah, are specifically designed to silence investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms. But they can reach much further than that, potentially penalizing other witnesses and whistle-blowing workers. They can also hide other abuses, including food safety and labor violations. They criminalize acts including the recording, possession or distribution of photos, video and/or audio on a farm.
“This case illustrates the underlying intent of these laws: to keep citizens in the dark about what happens to animals on factory farms and where their food comes from,” says Suzanne McMillan, Director of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Welfare Campaign.
Guest blog by Daisy Freund, Manager of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Campaign
Did you know that roughly 9 billion animals are raised for dairy, meat and eggs each year in the U.S.? Most of these animals are crammed together by the hundreds or thousands. Not only do these factory farms have poor or nonexistent animal welfare standards—but they’re also environmental nightmares.
Here are the top five ways factory farms are hurting the Earth:
Animal agriculture generates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, including 9% of carbon dioxide, 65% of nitrous oxide emissions and 37% of methane emissions. Most of that methane comes from belching cows and rotting manure.
In the U.S., confined animals generate three times more raw waste than humans generate. Their manure is commonly stored in open-air “poop lagoons,” which release dangerous toxins such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane into the air and leach heavy metals, drugs and other additives given to the animals into the ground water. That’s just gross!
The waste is often used as crop fertilizer and over-applied to nearby fields, resulting in further air pollution and high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water supply. Excess nitrogen robs water of oxygen and destroys aquatic life.
Factory farms deplete our water by using large volumes for cleaning, cooling and drinking.
The fossil fuels required to raise this staggering number of animals and produce their food emit 90 million tons of carbon dioxide worldwide every year. More than half of the world’s corn is fed to animals, and corn requires more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop.