Victories for Animals in the 2018 Farm Bill

December 12, 2018

a sow with her piglets

Update—December 12, 2018:  After passing the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87-13, and then the U.S. House by 369-47, the final Farm Bill now goes to the President for his signature. The ASPCA commends Congress for passing these critical protections for animals in the bill.

The Farm Bill is a massive piece of legislation, renewed every five years, that establishes federal agricultural policies and priorities. After months of negotiation, Congress released its final 2018 Farm Bill language last night. The bill reconciles differences between the two separate versions passed earlier this year by the U.S. Senate and House. The bill includes important victories not only for farm animals, but for our nation’s pets. The legislation could be voted on and signed into law as soon as the end of the week.

One major victory for animals is the inclusion of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, vital legislation that protects victims of domestic violence and their pets by making crossing state lines to injure a pet a federal offense. This Act, now renamed in the Farm Bill as “Protecting Animals with Shelter” (PAWS) and championed in the House by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), will help victims of domestic violence and their pets escape abusive environments and seek the safety and shelter they need. The ASPCA applauds Congress for including this groundbreaking provision in the Farm Bill.

Another enormous win for farm animals is in what the legislation doesn’t include: the King Provision, or the so-called “Protect Interstate Commerce Act.” By stripping this measure from the final bill, Congress chose to protect the ability of states to pass animal-protection laws. Important wins for animals, like the passage of Proposition 12 in California to ensure cage-free housing and more space for factory farmed veal calves, mother pigs and egg-laying hens, would have been negated had the dangerous King Amendment been included. 

Another victory for farm animals: the final measure maintains the integrity of the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) and its ability to recommend animal welfare improvements for animals raised on farms under the USDA Organic label.

The Farm Bill conference report also contains the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, which seeks to end cockfighting in U.S. territories by closing loopholes that prevent the federal prohibition of this heinous crime. The ASPCA commends Congress for using the Farm Bill as an opportunity to expand animal fighting prohibitions to combat cockfighting, whether it occurs within a state or a U.S. territory.

Additionally, Congress included a federal prohibition on the consumption and trade of dog and cat meat in the U.S. While the final language is not as strong as the original House passed provision, it is a stride in the right direction for animals. Only a handful of states specifically ban dog and cat slaughter for human consumption–the vast majority of states are silent on this issue.

These victories couldn’t have happened without your help. Thank you to the tens of thousands of members of the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade who contacted their members of Congress to speak up for animals!