Update: The new rules were finalized on January, 18, 2017.
As we’ve reported in the past, buying certified organic meat doesn’t guarantee the animals were treated humanely. And while there’s no cure-all for an industry that often prioritizes economy over animal welfare, things may be looking up for animals raised on organic farms in the U.S.
That’s because a set of rules called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) won last-minute approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and could make it onto the Federal Register to become law within the week. The OLPP enacts comprehensive animal welfare standards covering living conditions (particularly for poultry), healthcare, slaughter, and transport.
STEPHEN COMMENT: California State Assembly Bill 27, which places tough restrictions on the use of all antibiotics on farm animals, was signed into law on October 10th by Governor Jerry Brown. This is a monumental victory for animal welfare and for us.
“The law is a game-changer,” says Avinash Kar, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics.” And as Maryn McKenna also notes in this excellent article, “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, California is the country’s biggest dairy producer and third-leading state (behind Iowa and Texas) for beef cattle. It produces 5% of US milk, beef cattle, and chicken eggs, and because of the new law, the lives of all the animals responsible for those products will change. … And maybe more important, California has always been a place that sets trends for the rest of the country to follow.”
The massive overuse of antibiotics on factory farmed livestock, administered routinely in their food and water to maximize weight gain and for disease prevention and control, is a practice that is completely unnecessary when humanely rearing sustainably farmed, pastured livestock – as nearly any small family farmer or rancher will tell you.
It may be considered a necessity on factory farms because the living conditions, due to vast overcrowding, are so vile, so toxic and so debilitating that, without constant dosing of antibiotics, large percentages of factory-farmed livestock very probably would succumb to disease and die.
In addition to protecting the essential effectiveness of current antibiotics, which is the subject of Issue 8, there is one other reason this new legislation is important from my perspective. By prohibiting antibiotic misuse, Bill 27 should force factory farmers to take steps to lessen overcrowding and to clean up the pestilent living environment of their animals - perhaps even to abandon the horror that is the system of factory farming itself.
They certainly will no longer have recourse to the routine dosing of antibiotics to keep these suffering animals alive.
This is a landmark, overdue, tremendous piece of legislation, signed into law in a visionary state, which I for one, am proud to call home.
California is about to become the first place in the United States to put tough legal restrictions on the ways farmers can give antibiotics to livestock, going far beyond what new federal rules allow.
The controls come courtesy of a law that has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, which he will sign by Sunday. Bill 27 (prosaically titled, “Livestock: use of antimicrobial drugs”) represents the only legislation ever enacted in the U.S. that puts enforceable limits on antibiotic use, gives a state agency oversight of how farmers use the drugs, and prescribes fines if they go beyond what is allowed. (Update: Brown signed the bill one day after this was published, Saturday, Oct. 10.)
faCE Commentary: Big Agriculture, confronted by increasing public awareness of the endemic, despicable cruelty and suffering factory farmed animals endure, as documented in widely circulated undercover videos shot by workers at their facilities, had to act to address the problem.
The soulless Big Ag corporate executives who make the decisions, decided that profit trumps any concern they may have about the suffering factory farmed animals endure. Rather than investing in improving the conditions for the millions of animals in their custody, rather than losing sleep over the health risks passed on to their customers, the consumers of factory farmed meat, they lobbied state representatives to propose legislation criminalizing clandestine image and sound recording at these facilities – what has now become known as Ag-gag laws.
Eight states, including Idaho, currently have Ag-gag laws on their books. Many other state legislatures had similar bills proposed that were defeated and did not become law.
Idaho’s Ag-gag law, this past August, has been struck down on constitutional grounds.
U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the state’s 2014 Ag-gag law violated the First Amendment and selectively targeted critics of the industry. The judge wrote that “the effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment.”
He also wrote that “The facts show the state’s purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics."
We anticipate this ruling will survive appeal and that these egregious, unconstitutional Ag-gag laws in seven other states to be similarly challenged, and struck down.
An Opinion in the Brattleboro Reformer is noteworthy: “this is also a win for small, family-owned farms that strive to be responsible caretakers of the land and their animals. The more people know about how their meat is raised and slaughtered before it makes it to the dinner table, the better educated they are to make choices that are right for their families. While that slab of meat at the supermarket may be cost-effective, it may not be the best for our health, the planet or our own consciences.”
AARP and numerous other groups have voiced concern about the dangers inherent in these laws. They adversely effect other industries such as health care and child care. Michiarel commented to the Opinion above, “ I would sure hope that someone working in a child care facility or health care agency would be held to the same standard of honesty. It makes one wonder what the agricultural facilities have to hide.”
Each of us, along with our First Amendment rights as defined in the Constitution, are better off today as a result of Judge Winmill’s ruling.
ARTICLE: Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho's Ag-Gag Law by Brianne Hogan
Some good news!
Yesterday a federal judge has ruled that Idaho’s law banning secret filming of animal abuse at agricultural facilities is unconstitutional.
The ruling comes after a coalition of animal activists, food safety, and civil liberties groups sued the state more than a year ago, opposing the so-called “ag gag” law. At the time, journalist Will Potter said of the bill, “It’s a direct attack on whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists. Most importantly, laws like this are an attempt to keep everyone from knowing what really takes place behind closed doors on factory farms and slaughterhouses.”
After years of animal rights activists saying the spate of state laws outlawing undercover investigations of farming operations—so-called ag-gag laws—violate free speech rights, a federal judge has ruled the very same.
On Monday, U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the District of Idaho said the state’s 2014 law—which came in response to an exposé video produced by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals that went inside an Idaho dairy farm—both violated the First Amendment and selectively targeted critics of the industry. It’s the first time such a law has been struck down on constitutional grounds.
In his summary opinion, the judge wrote that “the effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment."
Many many factory farmed products, animal and agricultural, distributed and sold to American consumers, are banned for health reasons from import or sale in the countries of the European Union and other countries elsewhere around the world. Factory farmed animals, Big Ag products like GMO engineered seeds and pesticides like Monsanto’s Round Up are banned. When these huge corporations exert diplomatic and political pressure to try to force legislative change in foreign countries, informed citizens see the threat and don’t hesitate to mobilize and make their voices heard.
50,000 people took to the streets in Berlin earlier this year. We should celebrate, learn from and follow their example.
A broad alliance of farmers, ethical consumers, and anti-capitalist activists staged a march through Berlin that numbered up to 50,000, to denounce the proposed TTIP treaty between the US and EU, and mass farming technologies.
More than 120 organizations joined the fifth annual ‘We are Fed Up!’ demonstration, which this year focused on the increased importation of American farming practices – such as genetic modification, frequent antibiotic injections for animals, and chemical meat treatments – following the implementation of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Another front line. Big Ag is pushing hard to influence our government’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines report due later this year. While Americans are choosing, as individuals, to eat less meat, USDA guidelines have a major influence on the food purchasing and planning decisions made by institutions and larger organizations such as hospitals, schools, government, religious and social services. Big Ag’s insatiable greed vs. the health and well being of Americans and the health of the planet we all share.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to release the latest version of the government's influential dietary guidelines this year, and there could be a major change that accelerates the trend of Americans eating less meat.
The guidelines, which are updated every five years, have traditionally advised Americans about healthy eating choices, eating choices which, until now, have only reflected what the government views as a diet that is healthy for humans. But the panel that advises the government is pushing for the recommendations to reflect what is healthy for the environment, too. Given the huge carbon footprint of meat production, making this change would almost certainly entail lowering the official, government-recommended intake of meat.
Big Ag has powerful lobbyists and spends millions of dollars controlling politicians and the legislative process in Washington D.C. to prevent the passage of new regulatory policies which in any way limit the ability of factory farms to operate in just about whatever way they want to. When Big Ag finds an ally in the pharmaceutical industry whose companies profit immensely manufacturing 23,000,000 pounds of antibiotics each year for farm animal consumption, they become so powerful they can effectively block any meaningful policy change in Washington at the Federal level.
Big Ag and Big Drug value profit over any concern for the massive environmental damage factory farming is causing to our planet [damage to a far greater extent than any other industry - see articles in faCE IT Health Concern – Pollution] or for the misery and suffering billions of factory farmed animals endure throughout the entirety of their lives.
Voices calling out to change this are rising. Katy Kiefer and her group did not abandon the legislative process. They drafted a resolution and succeeded in getting their city council to vote unanimously to adopt it. Ten other city councils in different parts of the country voted the same way. As more and more city council members vote with a clear conscience, as more city councils pass similar resolutions, and as greater numbers of citizens are empowered by this resolve, calls for change can work their way up the legislative ladder from the grassroots level. There’s power here.
Idaho’s Section 18-7042 Ag-gag law criminalizing the photographing of factory farms and slaughterhouses is a really really BAD law.
Realizing the damning, damaging effect undercover footage shot at their factory farms was having by spreading awareness of the horrible endemic animal living conditions and the cruelty at these facilities, wealthy, factory farm owners and their immensely powerful and influential Big Agriculture industry groups reacted, not by attempting in any even remotely meaningful way, to improve the miserable living conditions of the billions of animals suffering under their care, but instead rammed this Ag-gag legislation through the Idaho ‘justice’ system.
These Ag-gag laws have been challenged in court as unconstitutional. Here is an update. It’s news we applaud:
Big agribusiness and the factory farming industry spend massive amounts of money to gain and maintain political influence. Today, aspiring politicians nationwide can land significant monetary support for their campaigns just by pledging allegiance to this industry. Well intended politicians have challenged this powerful influence by trying to introduce and pass humane animal protection legislation for the past several decades. And have failed.
Do not become cynical of our political process. Do not despair.
Never underestimate the power of Democracy and the power of a compassionate, enlightened electorate.
In California in 2008 voters statewide approved ballot Proposition 2, an initiative requiring that chickens in cages have the space to lie down, turn around and to fully extend their wings. This was one of the most successful ballot Propositions in California state history, voted for by 8,203,769 compassionate Californians and passing with an overwhelming 63.5% of the vote.
In 2010 a state law, AB1437, expanded the mandate, requiring all eggs sold in California to be produced in conditions in compliance with Proposition 2.
This pair of laws has survived every legal challenge from the factory farming industry, its entrenched interest groups and powerful lobbyists, both in California and nationwide. Both laws go into effect January 1, 2015.
Debra J. Murdock, the executive director of one of these interest groups, the Association of California Egg Farmers, stated that, after losing several legal attempts to overturn Proposition 2, California factory farmers are busy "making the changes in anticipation of what it means to be an egg farmer on Jan. 1, 2015." Meanwhile, the Missouri attorney general, claiming that California's law violates interstate commerce protections, is challenging its constitutionality in federal court.
We expect these laws to stand. Starting January 1, Missouri factory farmers can go sell their eggs, the product of so much animal suffering and misery, somewhere else!
Further, these California laws are now influencing similar anti-cruelty legislation in other states.
Proposition 2 does not end the factory farming of chickens in California but it is a powerful step in that direction.