In the veal industry, calves are often confined and tethered by their necks, rendered virtually immobile for nearly all of their short lives. Female breeding pigs face a similar fate: Confined to gestation crates, pregnant pigs cannot take more than one step in any direction. But if voters get their say, that may soon change in Massachusetts.
This morning, animal advocates gathered in Boston as Citizens for Farm Animal Protection, a coalition of animal welfare groups including the ASPCA, announced a new ballot proposal to phase out extreme and inhumane confinement systems used for breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens in factory farms in the Bay State.
The cages and crates generally used to confine these animals are among the cruelest forms of factory farming. Forced to live in spaces barely larger than their bodies, hens, veal calves and pregnant pigs are often unable to even lie down, turn around or extend their limbs. The coalition will collect more than 90,000 signatures in order to qualify the proposal for the 2016 statewide ballot.
If approved by voters, Massachusetts will join 10 other states that have already passed laws cracking down on this type of farm animal abuse.
In addition to the ASPCA, the coalition includes the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston and The Humane Society of the United States, along with family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals. The measure has won support from food safety advocates.
This is a huge step forward for Massachusetts’s farm animals, but we’re not there yet! Bay State advocates: if this important measure is to get on next year’s ballot, we’ll need your help. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade today to stay up-to-date as the campaign moves forward and for opportunities to help.
“So many animal confinement practices on farms are unacceptably cruel, preventing animals from fully extending their limbs or even turning around freely,” said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “No animal should have to suffer like that. We support this ballot initiative that rejects some of the cruelest farming practices used today.”
We need your help urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to close a critical loophole for calves. Currently, slaughterhouses can slaughter “downer” veal calves (those too sick, weak or injured to stand and walk) rather than humanely euthanizing them. Investigations have revealed horrific animal abuse at slaughter plants, with workers kicking, slapping, dragging and electrically shocking calves in order to get them to stand and walk. Some of these calves are merely days old.
The USDA has proposed a rule requiring that downer calves be promptly and humanely euthanized on-site, and is now soliciting public feedback. Please help us ensure the proposed rule does not get watered down: let the USDA hear your voice today!
In a pivotal decision, a federal judge in Idaho has ruled that an ag-gag law violates the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, striking this terrible law from the books. This is the first time a court has ruled on the constitutionality of an ag-gag law, and the ASPCA is hopeful that this decision will mark the beginning of the end of these dangerous laws.
The Idaho statute, which passed in 2014 despite outcry from both humane and food industry voices, criminalizes undercover investigations into animal welfare, food safety, or worker safety at industrial farms. Under the law, workers, investigators or good Samaritans could be convicted for documenting and exposing animal abuse or dangerous public health risks.
Exposés on farms are a critical animal-protection tool, forming the basis of animal cruelty prosecutions and spurring reforms to ensure the safety of our food supply. In the past few years, in an effort to protect their bottom line from the consumer awareness these investigations provoke, the animal agriculture industry has been driving the introduction of ag-gag/anti-whistleblower bills in state legislatures across the country. A broad coalition of groups spanning animal welfare, workers’ rights, food safety, sustainable farming and environmental interests has worked together to block over 30 bills. Despite this collaborative work and broad public opposition to these bills, laws have passed in five states.
It is a great victory for farm animals, their advocates and whistleblowers across the country that the dangerous Idaho law has been deemed unconstitutional. The ASPCA applauds this decision and hopes it sends a clear message to the animal agriculture industry that hiding abuses and punishing whistleblowers is no way to conduct business in this country.
Sign the Open the Barns pledge to be an advocate against ag-gag in your state, and spread the word about these dangerous bills to your friends and family.
The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee this week took a step forward to protect research animals by demanding the USDA address the serious allegations of animal cruelty and neglect at its research facility or forgo millions in funding. The 2016 appropriations draft bill approved by the subcommittee contains a provision to withhold $56.1 million of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that its animal welfare protocols and reporting requirements are updated.
“The rampant cruelty taking place at this taxpayer-funded USDA research facility is inexcusable,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We cannot allow suffering of the kind exposed at USMARC to continue, and the ASPCA commends the members of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee for holding the USDA accountable for farm animal treatment at all USDA research facilities.”
Withholding funds for further animal research is an important step, but more must be done. Congress must close the loopholes that allow for this type of suffering by passing the AWARE Act, bipartisan legislation that would require animal agricultural research at federal facilities like USMARC to meet Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards, and Congress and the USDA should ensure that these facilities undergo regular inspections.
You can help! Make sure your tax dollars are used appropriately and in a transparent and humane manner: Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center today to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the AWARE Act.
Last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that when certain meat is purchased by the federal government for federal cafeterias, preference is given to producers who raise animals according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) antibiotic recommendations.
Unfortunately, those FDA recommendations fail to address the deplorable animal welfare conditions that drive the overuse of antibiotics in the first place.
Nearly all land animals raised for food are kept in factory farms where crowding, filth and stress abound. To compensate, and to speed animals’ growth, companies often feed animals a steady dose of antibiotics. The chicken industry is a prime example.
The FDA recommendation that forms the basis of the White House’s new policy aims to stop companies from using antibiotics to speed animal growth. However, it does not address the common practice of routinely administering “preventative” antibiotics to compensate for poor welfare.
Reduction in on-farm antibiotics should always feature better animal welfare, and the ASPCA has a host of recommendations for achieving this on all farms, regardless of antibiotics protocols. These include things like more space, lower stress, better sanitation and, of course, treating animals with antibiotics when truly needed. Read more about how these common-sense measures can improve chicken welfare, and take action for chickens, on our Truth About Chicken site.