ASPCA Joins Lawsuit Against USDA for Failing to Protect Organic Animals

April 12, 2018

a brown cow

In mid-March, we told you the bad news: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrew a long-anticipated animal welfare rule that would have improved the lives of millions of animals on organic farms. But the story doesn’t end there. Yesterday, the ASPCA joined a lawsuit against the USDA, standing in solidarity with fellow plaintiffs representing the organic industry and animal welfare. The lawsuit’s basis is that USDA is disregarding federal organic law and violating federal requirements for how organic rules are made and changed. The law firm Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris assisted the ASPCA with the filing. 

While the vast majority of organic farmers meet high standards of animal care, an increasing number of large-scale, “faux-ganic” companies that raise millions of animals have entered the organic space and are exploiting loopholes in the rules. This deception is especially prevalent with organic eggs: 50% of organic eggs now come from hens who never set foot outside, a result of these companies being able to skirt USDA’s vague outdoor-access requirement. 

The ASPCA has fought for years to close this loophole and bring the USDA organic program in line with consumers’ expectations and what farm animals deserve. We worked with USDA to craft the new animal welfare rule, which was finalized last year and would have required true outdoor access among many other improvements. But after repeated delays, and despite tens of thousands of animal advocates and organic farmers speaking out, the current administration withdrew the rule. 

Rather than back down, we’re taking this fight to court. The USDA’s action is a travesty not only for animals, but for responsible organic farmers and consumers who are getting swindled.

“The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule would provide groundbreaking protections for millions of animals on organic farms, bringing USDA organic standards more in line with consumers’ expectations of animal welfare practices under that label,” said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “But after repeated and unjustified delays, and despite tens of thousands of animal advocates and organic farmers speaking out, the USDA has abdicated its duty to enforce meaningful organic animal welfare standards, and we are joining this action to compel them to do their job.” 

Stay tuned for updates on this important news and learn more about our fight for more meaningful organic standards here. It’s thanks to all of you, our supporters and advocates, that we can show the court the overwhelming public support for strong organic animal welfare standards—please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to stand with us and be notified when we need your help in the next round of this battle and the battles to come.