Sen. Booker Introduces Federal Bill to Protect Farm Animals and Hold Industrial Agribusinesses Accountable for System FailureThe Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act would improve the welfare of farmed animals and place liability for disasters on the corporations and industrial operators who profit the most from factory farming rather than American taxpayers
WASHINGTON, DC – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) and Mercy For Animals, along with a coalition of more than 50 animal welfare, public health, labor, environmental, faith-based and sustainable agriculture organizations, commend U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for introducing the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act. This federal legislation aims to better protect animals and the American people by holding the industrial operators of high-risk Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) accountable for the damage they cause when their systems fail. These industrial agribusiness facilities, also known as “factory farms,” raise large numbers of farm animals such as pigs and chickens in intensive confinement where their movements and natural behaviors are extremely inhibited.
Over the past few years, numerous crises have highlighted the threat that corporate meat producers and their web of high-risk factory farms represent to the food system, animals, workers, public health, the environment, farmers and rural communities. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aided industrial livestock and poultry producers in the depopulation of millions of animals under incredibly cruel conditions. Many were killed using a process called “ventilation shutdown,” during which a barn’s ventilation is shut off and animals are sometimes left to suffer for hours before they eventually die of hyperthermia. While corporate meatpackers insisted that jeopardizing workers and killing millions of “excess” animals was the only option, agribusiness executives experienced a 300 percent growth in profits, propped up by funding from the federal government, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
“We’ve seen multiple recent crises that have shined a light on the threat that corporate meat producers and their web of factory farms represent to workers, animals, the environment and rural communities. Built by agribusinesses, the industrial livestock and poultry system is designed to maximize production—while externalizing risk and liability—to ensure corporate profits even when the system fails,” said Sen. Booker. “The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act would place the liability for disasters where it belongs—on the corporations and industrial operators who profit the most from factory farming and ensure farmed animals are not subjugated to cruel and inhumane practices.”
"Most Americans would be shocked to learn that taxpayers are often footing the bill when animals on factory farms are killed in cruel ways, and that billions of chickens and turkeys are not legally protected from suffering at slaughter,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We applaud Senator Booker for introducing the landmark Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, which would provide new protections for farmed animals and hold corporations accountable for the true costs of factory farming.”
"When natural disasters like bird flu and extreme weather strike, industrial livestock operations incur huge losses. These losses are too often shouldered by contract farmers, rural communities and government,” said Craig Watts, former contract poultry grower and field team operations director, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “It’s time we stop allowing multibillion-dollar corporations to externalize the cost of their high-risk operations. The Industrial Animal Accountability Act shifts the burden to where it belongs: the backs of Big Agribusiness."
“Since its inception almost 100 years ago, our country’s Farm Bill has become a tool that the industrial agriculture industry uses to do little else than maximize its profit—to the detriment of consumers, the environment, food system workers, farmers, and farmed animals,” said Leah Garcés, President and CEO, Mercy For Animals. “As a result, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in U.S. food system reform: The meat industry has created deep-seated problems that exploit and harm the most vulnerable. It must be the industry’s responsibility to solve these problems. The IAA recognizes this responsibility and affords the industry an opportunity to begin to right these wrongs.”
According to a nationwide online survey, the vast majority (89 percent) of Americans are concerned about the impacts of the factory farming industry—citing animal welfare, worker safety or public health risks. This has led to strong, bipartisan support for government intervention to reform industrial animal agriculture. The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act offers solutions to address the animal cruelty and devastation caused by the factory farming system, including:
- Requiring industrial operators to register high-risk CAFOs, submit disaster preparedness plans and pay to cover the costs of preparing for and responding to disaster events;
- Ensuring that industrial operators aren’t using the worst depopulation and slaughter practices, including dangerous line-speed increases and meatpacker self-inspection programs;
- Protecting billions of farmed animals by passing new requirements for more humane transport and slaughter, including phasing out cruel live shackling of chickens and turkeys; and
- Investing significant new resources for higher-welfare slaughter technology in meat and poultry processing facilities and establishing a pilot program to train and employ more part-time inspectors for small processing plants.
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent avian influenza outbreaks have demonstrated how fragile the industrial factory farming system is, causing the animal welfare protections Americans expect to break at the seams. By ensuring that animals are protected while prioritizing farmers and ranchers who use more humane and regenerative methods, this bill will prevent the industrial operators of high-risk CAFOs from shifting the failure of their systems onto taxpayers.
The ASPCA and Mercy For Animals encourage the public to contact their U.S. senators to urge them to cosponsor the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act to better protect animals and avoid further taxpayer-supported harms from factory farms.
About Mercy For Animals
Mercy For Animals is a leading international nonprofit working to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system. Active in Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United States, the organization has conducted more than 100 investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses, moved more than 300 food companies to adopt animal welfare policies, and helped pass historic legislation to ban cages for farmed animals. Join us at MercyForAnimals.org, and follow Mercy For Animals on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.