This week (Monday 22 July) marked the first lawsuit against ag-gag laws. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, environmental journalist Will Potter and animal rights activist Amy Meyer filed a civil lawsuit on Monday contesting the constitutionality of a Utah law that bans recording at an agricultural facility without the owner’s consent. In February of this year, Meyer became the first person charged under an ag-gag law, after she filmed a downed cow at a slaughterhouse while standing on a public sidewalk. Charges were later dropped.
The lawsuit alleges that the Utah law violates the Constitution, as it singles out certain types of speech for less protection under the First Amendment. It would also single out certain types of investigative reporting as illegal. Although its primary purpose is to put a lid on political debate over factory farming by preventing the public from finding out about the inherent animal cruelty, it could also impact food safety measures and apply to the filming of unsafe working conditions or bad employment practices.
A total of 8 states now have ag-gag laws. Proponents argue that this is a private property issue. They are right, of course. At issue is their private property: money.
Israel, once the third-largest producer of the cruel delicacy known as foie gras, is now to ban all trade and sales.
This month a preliminary hearing of the new legislation passed the Knesset by a wide margin (59-10). Dov Lipman, the conservative rabbi and new member of parliament who sponsored it, said, “I am proud to be a member in a Knesset that chose to place values before interests and fleeting pleasures. As a public official I have many responsibilities, one of them being to care for the rights of animals that depend entirely on us and can’t care for themselves. I believe that this law will contribute not only to animals but also to Israel’s global image. The time has come to get this soul-corrupting food out of Israel.”
Urgent Action Alert:
Animals suffering on factory farms urgently need your help.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a version of the Farm Bill that includes the dangerous “King Amendment”—a measure that would override state animal protection laws nationwide.
If enacted, the King Amendment would nullify the few state laws that do provide protection to farmed animals, such as laws banning cruel crates and cages, prohibiting the force-feeding of ducks, and forbidding horse slaughter and shark finning.
The shameful King Amendment, proposed by animal cruelty defender Rep. Steve King of Iowa, is also a threat to laws governing environmental protection, worker safety, and more.
The Farm Bill is currently under review by a joint congressional committee, which has the authority to remove the King Amendment.
It is crucial that you speak out against this dangerous legislation, which will have devastating consequences if enacted.
Please contact your U.S. representatives today and urge them to oppose the King Amendment to the Farm Bill.
Don’t Let Congress Eliminate State Animal Protection Laws: Stop Dangerous Farm Bill from Advancing
We urgently need your help.
Last night, leaders from the United States House of Representatives refused to allow debate on pro-animal amendments to the Farm Bill, while allowing the dangerous King Amendment to slide through.
If enacted, the King Amendment would nullify the few state laws that do provide protection to farmed animals, such as laws banning cruel crates and cages, prohibiting the force-feeding of ducks, and forbidding horse slaughter and shark finning. This amendment also threatens laws governing environmental protection, worker safety, and more.
All of our hard-fought victories could be lost.
The King Amendment and the rest of the Farm Bill will be voted on by the House later tonight and tomorrow. We need your help to speak out immediately against this dangerous legislation, which will have devastating consequences if enacted.
What You Can Do:
Please contact your US representatives as soon as possible and urge them to vote “NO” on the Farm Bill. Representatives receive a lot of emails, so personalizing your message will make it stand out.
Thank you for getting active to help our country’s farmed animals!
In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.
Please look up and use your full nine-digit zip for the best results.
Sharks are a vital part of the oceans’ ecosystems. But 20% of the nearly 550 species of sharks risk extinction, in part because of the cruel appetite for shark fin soup.
Each year, millions of sharks are killed for their fins, considered a delicacy to some, and are often de-finned while still alive and thrown back into the ocean to drown.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has asked for the public to comment on a proposed rule.
The purpose of the proposed rule is to implement the Shark Conservation Act, which is meant to close loopholes in the U.S. ban on shark finning.
The problem is that the federal government may then block states from taking extra steps to prevent the influx of non-regulated shark fins into their states. That could threaten the ability of states to close their market to shark fins–and mean a big step backwards for shark conservation.
The Humane Society of the United States has a petition you can sign. Please tell the Department of Commerce that while you approve the implementation of the Shark Conservation Act, states should have the ability to adopt even stronger measures to minimize their role in providing a market for shark fins.
You may have heard that PS 244, Active Learning Elementary School in Queens, NY, adopted meat-free menu in their cafeteria recently. The students led the change at the pre-kindergarten to third-grade school. They were drawn to healthy plant-based options like falafel, spinach wraps and cucumber salad.
Now, the San Diego school district is introducing Meatless Mondays to its kindergarten through 8th grade students. The move was voted in by the board as an attempt to introduce healthy eating to the kids and help curb obesity. Starting this fall, students will get to enjoy meals like tofu and vegetable stir fry, baked potatoes, and grilled vegetable paninis.
From coast to coast, kids are learning about veganism. Let’s hope that these two changes are the start of a healthy, cruelty-free trend.
Are you a student or parent with school-age kids? Why not ask your school to introduce more vegan food in the cafeteria. It’s never to early to start a life-long habit that has a profound effect for people, the environment, and the animals.
Today letters were hand-delivered to the Washington State offices of U.S. Senators Ed Murray and Maria Cantwell (both D-WA), as well as U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), urging them to oppose The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 (H.R. 1731/S. 820). Green Vegans, NARN, Action for Animals, and United Poultry Concerns were signatories to the letters. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 would condemn egg-laying hens to confinement in battery cages forever, and would prohibit any future challenge by state law or public vote. This bill has provisions that would fare even worse for hens than the similar bill that failed to pass last year.
Below is the text of the letter delivered to Congressman Dermott–the letters to Senators Cantwell and Murray are exactly the same except for the substitution of “S. 820″ for any mention of “H.R. 1731.”
Dear Congressman McDermott,
H.R. 1731, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, is a far worse bill than proposed in 2012. Though the bill amends an Act that addresses itself entirely to the quality of table eggs and concerns about maintaining public health, the H.R. 1731 amendments take on an entirely new subject: changes in the housing of hens who produce table eggs. Though this letter does not cover all the flaws and threats of the bill, these are our major concerns. We oppose this bill in its entirety and ask you to oppose it for the following reasons.
First, no person, organization, or state government may improve the welfare and treatment of egg-laying hens if it differs from the inadequacies of the Act. There is no sunset language in this bill. According to the proposed bill, no person, agency, or act of Washington State government could implement science-based improvements based on studies of animal behavior before or after 2029 when the bill comes into full implementation: Requirements within the scope of this Act with respect to minimum floor space allotments or enrichments for egg-laying hens housed in commercial egg production which are in addition to or different than those made under this Act may not be imposed by any State or local jurisdiction [Section 4(b)(c) of the bill]. H.R. 1731 will disenfranchise your constituents from this matter—completely. We hope this issue alone, the disenfranchisement of the people of Washington State, will move you to oppose this misleading bill.
Second, H.R. 1731 removed important definitions and deadlines. It currently states: “(a) The term ‘adequate environmental enrichments’ means adequate perch space, dust bathing or scratching areas, and nest space, as defined by the Secretary of Agriculture, based on the best available science, including the most recent studies available at the time that the Secretary defines the term.” The deadline schedule for the Secretary of Agriculture to define “adequate environmental enrichments” has been deleted from the 2013 version of the bill. The deleted section from 2012 read, “The Secretary shall issue regulations defining this term not later than January 1, 2017, and the final regulations shall go into effect on December 31, 2018.” The number of nesting spaces serves as an example of the need for clearly defined implementation. Research demonstrates that the lack of nesting opportunity is extremely stressful to the hen as it is one of several innate behavioral needs. Yet the Secretary is not required to specify any interior changes to cages excepting square inches per hen, itself a gross denial of the hens’ basic needs.
Third, the 2012 version of the bill used the word “must” consistently as the implementing mandate, as in “must provide environmental enrichment”; the 2013 bill (the “Amendments”) replaces “must” with “shall” throughout. We believe “must” was replaced with “shall” to further weaken the minimal, humane-washing changes it proposes. Going to the U.S. Federal Register Website, “Drafting Legal Documents / Principles of Clear Writing / Section 3” you will see they believe it correct to, “use ‘must’ instead of ‘shall’” because: “shall imposes an obligation to act, but may be confused with prediction of future action” while “must imposes obligation, indicates a necessity to act”. The plain English use of “must” in the 2012 bill is obvious when compared to “shall” in the 2013 bill. That change must be opposed along with the bill.
Fourth, cruel practices will continue under this bill: burning off the sensitive tips of beaks ensures a lifetime of pain and suffering—in addition to disabling the hens’ ability to groom their feathers and pick off lice; the wholesale slaughter of male chicks at birth, often by suffocation or grinding while alive, will continue because they do not lay eggs; female chicks will never experience the enriched experience of bonding with a mother hen; the maximum space allowed in caged confinement when the bill is fully implemented in 2029 is one square foot for the larger brown variety of hens; yet the overwhelming number of hens used in the US egg industry are the smaller white leghorn variety. They will theoretically receive a maximum of only 124 square inches per hen, or fourteen percent less than one square foot. After enduring this bill’s impacts, not a single hen will be spared from a life of deprivation before slaughter.
Fifth, there are no criminal penalties for violating the provisions of this bill. If the Secretary of Agriculture finds noncompliance, he submits reports to various committees. Eggs without carton labels describing how the hens were raised “shall” not be part of commerce. Eggs coming from covered sources that do not provide the “enrichment” and tiny space allocations less than those as scheduled in the Act as amended by H.R. 1731 are prohibited from commerce. But, again, there are no provisions for penalties, confiscations, fines, or any other impediment that would stop that commerce even after a notice, if any, was given.
Sixth, these amendments apply to egg-laying hens, but the Act they are being appended to is about egg handling and grading to maintain public health. We do not see any specific provisions that hen cages can be inspected and reported, only the facilities where eggs are “handled”. In addition, there are no appropriations to pay for the compliance inspections, reporting, and enforcement, if any.
Seventh, H.R. 1731 does not include over 56 million commercial egg-laying hens who are “in production” in any given month. This is multiplied over the course of every year as the egg-laying hens are killed and replaced when productivity declines. “All layers in the United States on April 1, 2013 totaled 348 million…. The 348 million layers consisted of 292 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 53.0 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.11 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs.” (USDA, Cornell, 2013). S.802 only covers table eggs. In addition, all flocks of less than 3,000 hens are excluded from this bill. Why should any hen be denied consideration by the proponents of the ill-conceived H.R. 1731?
Eighth, this bill does not protect human workers or hens from ammonia. The 2012 amendments allowed 25 ppm of ammonia in the air in egg-layer housing but the 2013 version adds an allowance for temporary increases for unusual conditions. At 25ppm, “Marked eye, skin, and respiratory irritation” occurs in humans. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL). However, “temporary” is not defined in the proposed legislation regarding permissible ammonia levels over 25ppm and is therefore of unspecified duration. How long is “temporary” and what are “unusual conditions”?
Chickens exposed to 20 parts per million of ammonia for 42 days are susceptible to pulmonary congestion, swelling, and hemorrhage. Studies documenting the destructive effects of atmospheric ammonia on chickens and turkeys are referenced in: Carlile, Fiona S. 1984. Ammonia in Poultry Houses: A Literature Review. World’s Poultry Science Journal 40: 99-113.
Ammonia is not the only toxic gas in the chicken houses, and these other toxic gases are not addressed in the proposed legislation: nitrous oxide, CO2, hydrogen sulfide, methane. Chickens need three times more air volume than humans per kilogram of body weight to meet their oxygen requirements. The toxic gases in the houses added to the airborne debris (feathers, dander, organic dust, insecticides, microbes) are as cruel as cages. This toxic waste environment is also detrimental to ecosystems and contributes to global warming.
Congressman McDermott, we ask you to make certain this bill does not pass out of committee, and should it progress to the House and Senate conference committee for resolution, please oppose it there. Remember those of us who are dedicated to ending the real suffering of the hens NOT covered by these amendments. If H.R. 1731 passes, we will be denied our advocacy and hope for ending animal abuse. We, your constituents, and national organizations who specialize in chickens and farmed animal advocacy, oppose it.
So…the first nationwide shark fin ban in Asia has just been adopted in the country of Brunei, on the island of Borneo. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah made the decree that officially bans the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei and their domestic sale, as well as banning the importation and trade of shark products. Admittedly Brunei has the population of Portland, OR, but it IS the 5th-richest country in the world.
Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council has drafted a Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, which has been released for 60-day public comment. This consultation period may still resolve remaining issues with the Code, including some confinement during pregnancy and a long phase-out period. A recent national poll showed that 84% of Canadians support a complete phase out of these confinement systems.
In April, the Retail Council of Canada and eight of Canada’s largest retailers (including Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, and Safeway Canada) committed to sourcing fresh pork products from gestation crate-free suppliers over the next nine years. Two of the three largest pork producers in Canada—Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods—have already announced that they will shift away from gestation crates within the next 4-9 years. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, also announced a similar policy within the next four years (Even though it has just been purchased by China?)
The new Code of Practice will take effect in 2014, at which time the construction of new gestation crates would be prohibited. Pork producers would have to eliminate the lifelong confinement of pigs in gestation crates and house them instead in groups by 2024.
Nine US states and the European Union have passed laws against the use of gestation crates. More than 50 of North America’s largest pork buyers, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Tim Hortons have committed to eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains within the next 2-9 years.
Right now — now, not later — please call your Representative in the U.S. Congress and ask that she or he demand to strip the King Amendment from the Farm Bill. The King Amendment would overturn every voter-approved animal welfare ballot measure relating to agriculture – Prop 2 in CA (veal and gestation crates, battery cages), Prop 6 in CA (the sale of horses for slaughter), Prop 204 in AZ (veal and gestation crates), and Amendment 10 in Florida (gestation crates). It could also void six other state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in a half-dozen other states, the comprehensive animal welfare standards adopted by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, and other anti-downer laws and animal protection laws designed to shield farm animals from abuse. Under this amendment, we would have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, or public health.
During his ten years (HOW? WHY?!) in Congress, the Republican Steve King from Iowa has attempted to block all animal welfare laws. He favors killing horses for human consumption, killing American bison in Yellowstone National Park, and trophy killing of polar bears, even though they are an endangered species. He opposes every bill against dogfighting and cockfighting. He even opposed including pets in disaster planning.
Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative. Just say, “Hi, I’m calling to ask that Representative NAME oppose the King Amendment to the Farm Bill, which slashes protections for animals and violates state’s rights.” If the person you speak with doesn’t know your representative’s position, please leave your name and phone number, and ask for a call back. Send a follow-up email saying the same thing.
I can only say again, this is HUGE. I can’t think of any other piece of legislation that has the potential to cause such suffering for so many.
Action alerts, news, tips, stories, and resources for Animal Advocates in the NW