March 12, 2018

USDA Ignores Public Will, Kills the Organic Animal Welfare Rule

a sheep in a pen

On Monday, March 12, 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officially withdrew the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP), killing these groundbreaking protections for animals raised on Organic farms. The ASPCA condemns this decision in the strongest terms possible.

“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 would have been the first comprehensive set of regulations governing on-farm treatment of animals implemented by the federal government. The rule significantly closed 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. Among many improvements, the new rule specified minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens, along with meaningful outdoor access, and prohibited certain inhumane physical alterations like tail-docking and de-beaking. 

While most organic farmers embrace stronger animal welfare standards, some large-scale brands intentionally exploit loopholes in the USDA’s current standards and raise animals in factory farm-like conditions while still earning the Organic classification. These companies are actively misleading consumers, most of whom believe they’re making more welfare-conscious decisions when they buy meat, dairy and eggs with the Organic label.

After years of collaboration with the ASPCA and other stakeholders, including farmers and experts in farm animal welfare—and in light of the tens of thousands of supportive comments submitted by concerned Americans—the OLPP Rule was finalized by the USDA in January 2017, but then delayed by the new administration several times before the final withdrawal was issued on March 12. 

Take Action! Three Ways You Can Push Back:

  •  Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. Now is the time to rise up stronger than ever. We’ll let you know when animal-friendly bills are pending where you live so you can speak up for those who can’t.
  • Learn to Shop With Your Heart. The government can’t stop you from using your power as a consumer to make more humane choices. We’re here to explain which food labels and certifications actually mean better animal welfare.
  • Become a Member. We’ve been working nonstop for over 150 years to eliminate cruelty to animals. So much progress has been made, but we clearly still have a long way to go. Help us stay in this fight.