ASPCA Opposes USDA’s Withdrawal of Critical Organic Animal Welfare Rule

Organization remains dedicated to improving on-farm organic welfare standards
March 12, 2018

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) condemns today's decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP).

“The USDA’s withdrawal of the OLPP is a violation of the public trust that reverses the nearly two decades of collaboration and feedback from farmers and consumers that led to this groundbreaking rule,” said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Millions of animals will continue to suffer each year because of the USDA’s abdication of its duty to enforce meaningful organic animal welfare standards.”   

The OLPP Rule was finalized by the USDA in January 2017 and marked the first comprehensive set of regulations governing on-farm treatment of animals ever issued by the federal government. If implemented, the OLPP Rule would have served to significantly close the gap between consumers’ expectations regarding the quality of animal welfare under the Organic label and the reality of what USDA Organic regulations currently require. While most organic farmers embrace stronger animal welfare standards, some large-scale organic brands have been increasingly exploiting loopholes in the standards and raising animals in factory farm-like conditions.

Among many improvements, the rule specified minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens, along with meaningful outdoor access. The rule also required enrichment for a number of species, like dust bathing materials for birds, and prohibited certain kinds of physical alterations, like tail docking of cattle or de-beaking of chickens and turkeys.

Over the years, the ASPCA has played a key role in helping move the OLPP Rule forward. Most recently, the organization filed an amicus curiae brief on March 1, 2018, supporting a critical case brought by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) against the USDA for its continued delays in implementing the OLPP. In 2017, the ASPCA, with the Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Forward, released a comprehensive report about the decades-long battle to codify animal welfare standards for organic products. Since 2012, the ASPCA has actively informed the USDA and its advisory body, the National Organic Standards Board, of the need for stronger organic animal welfare standards through the submission of detailed testimony and recommendations. The organization has also consistently rallied its millions of supporters, farm animal welfare experts, farmers, and other companies and organizations to encourage the USDA to implement the rule.

“Without these rules in place, certain organic companies will continue to mislead consumers and abuse the current organic welfare standards, jeopardizing consumer confidence in the Organic program,” said Bershadker. “Despite this disappointing decision, the ASPCA will continue to fight for higher organic animal welfare standards and educate consumers on how to buy food that aligns with their values.”

ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare

There are now nearly 10 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of whom exist in inhumane factory farm-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 which food labels provide the most meaningful animal welfare standards, visit ASPCA’s campaign “Shop With Your Heart.”