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.
Update—May 29, 2015: Great news! Governor McCrory vetoed H.B. 405, the dangerous ag-gag bill that would have silenced whistleblowers and kept North Carolina residents in the dark about horrific animal abuse on industrial farms. If you live in North Carolina, please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center now to thank the Governor for opposing this bill and to urge your state legislators to let the veto stand.
If a pending ag-gag bill becomes law in North Carolina, a newly released investigation may be the last look the public will get behind the closed doors of industrial agriculture in the state. Undercover video exposing abuse inside a North Carolina chicken slaughterhouse comes just as state lawmakers passed a dangerous ag-gag bill (H.B. 405) designed to prevent exactly this kind of disclosure.
The footage, as reported by ABC 11 Raleigh, was captured by an investigator for animal welfare group Compassion Over Killing in March and April 2015. It reveals birds being violently tossed across the facility, workers slamming birds upside down into moving shackles, and sick or injured birds tossed into piles of dead birds like trash. H.B. 405 aims to prevent the documentation and exposure of animal abuse and any other wrong-doing inside factory farms and slaughterhouses, including food safety-related violations and environmental or workers’ rights issues.
Rather than stopping these abuses, some North Carolina lawmakers and corporations would rather just keep the public in the dark.
Whether or not you live in North Carolina, you can help! Please take these actions today to help ensure this bill does not become law. Animals should never suffer in secrecy.
If you live in North Carolina:
Call Governor McCrory at (919) 814-2000 and leave a message with the receptionist stating that you are a North Carolina resident and are asking Governor McCrory to veto H.B. 405, the ag-gag bill. If you are calling after normal business hours, please call (919) 814-2050 and press 2 to leave a voicemail.
Email Governor McCrory using this online form urging him to veto H.B. 405. Please only email the Governor if you are a North Carolina resident.
Share this post and the card below with your friends and social media networks, asking everyone to take action today!
Don't live in North Carolina? Your voice can still make a difference! Because your dollars support North Carolina businesses, you can still help by letting Governor McCrory know that you’ll lose trust in North Carolina businesses if ag-gag becomes law.