ASPCA Commends USDA for Improving Lives of Animals Raised on Organic Farms

New National Organic Program rule is first set of comprehensive regulations addressing on-farm animal welfare
January 18, 2017

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) for today finalizing a long-awaited set of animal welfare standards for animals raised under the organic label. This historic move by the USDA marks the first comprehensive set of regulations governing the on-farm treatment of animals ever issued by the federal government.

“It has been a long road to this historic moment, and we commend the NOP for its determination to see this new rule through,” said Deborah Press, Director of ASPCA Regulatory Affairs. “For more than a decade many large-scale organic producers have profited from the organic label’s good reputation, charging premium prices while subjecting animals to factory farm-like conditions. The ASPCA and its 2.5 million supporters look forward to seeing the rule implemented in the new administration.”

The new Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule addresses the wide disparity between consumers’ expectations regarding the quality of animal welfare under the organic label and the reality of what USDA previously required. Among many improvements, the new rule specifies minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens. The rule also requires enrichment, like dust bathing materials for birds, for a number of species, and restricts certain kinds of physical alterations, like tail docking in pigs or de-beaking of chickens and turkeys.

“Farm animals and consumers have deserved better from the organic label for a long time, and this rule ensures they will get it,” said Suzanne McMillan, Content Director, ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare. “No longer will ‘access to the outdoors’ just be a screened porch that only a few birds can access. This rule brings the organic label closer to meeting consumers’ expectations regarding animal welfare.”

In addition to protecting farm animals from cruelty, the new standards also support a level playing field for the majority of independent organic farmers who have already been providing meaningful outdoor access for their animals and holding themselves to higher-than-required standards. The USDA is giving producers a year to comply with the majority of the new requirements.

Over the years, the ASPCA has played a key role in helping move this rule forward. The organization was joined by 13 consumer advocacy, health, environmental, and animal-protection organizations to demand stronger animal welfare regulations under the organic program. The ASPCA, along with the Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Animal Concerns Trust, also amassed the support of over 60 farmers who believe that high animal welfare is a benchmark of organic production; rallied more than 30 ASPCA veterinarians who urged USDA to release meaningful animal welfare standards; and heard from a world-renowned animal welfare expert attesting to the importance of outdoor access.

There are now nearly 10 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which exist in inhumane factory-like facilities. The ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Program is committed to directing consumers, corporations and lawmakers toward solutions that will improve these vulnerable animals’ lives. For more information about food labels which provide the most meaningful animal welfare standards, visit ASPCA’s campaign “Shop With Your Heart.”