November 17, 2017

USDA Ignores 40,000+ Public Comments, Again Delays Organic Animal Welfare Rule

factory farmed chickens

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dealt a cruel blow to animals by further postponing the implementation of stronger farm animal welfare regulations in its Organic program. These standards, known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule, would help prevent cruelty to the more than 65 million animals raised each year on Organic farms. The ASPCA has been urging the USDA to implement stronger rules for over a decade. 

The OLPP rule would bring Organic farm practices more in line with the higher welfare standards consumers expect. For instance, most organic consumers (68%) assume that organically raised animals have access to outdoor pasture and fresh air throughout the day—but this is not true. The OLPP rule would require true access to the outdoors, along with many other important welfare provisions. 

ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker calls the latest delay “Another example of powerful agribusiness entities trampling vital animal welfare protections.” Farm animals, consumers and farmers deserve better, which is why the USDA’s second delay was met by the submission of more than 40,000 comments from farmers, trade groups, consumers, food safety advocates and veterinarians urging implementation of these long-overdue rules. This third delay by the USDA is nothing more than submission to the demands of Big Ag, which wants to continue to use and abuse the Organic label while refusing to give animals meaningful outdoor access.

The USDA is justifying its decision not to implement these rules by asserting that it lacks the legal authority to set animal welfare standards for the Organic program. This is in direct contrast to the agency’s own findings from January of this year, when the USDA affirmed its legal authority to issue animal welfare regulations for the Organic program. The USDA has in fact already exercised this authority in 2010, when it published its Organic Access to Pasture rule to require that cows and sheep have access to grazing pasture. 

It is the USDA’s responsibility to uphold the integrity of the Organic label for the sake of responsible farmers, consumers and farm animals. We will keep fighting to make sure the USDA listens to the public and implements the OLPP rule. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to receive updates and important alerts to take action on Organic.