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.
The Rotten Egg Bill has reared its ugly head again. Senator Maria Cantwell has just signed on as a cosponsor of the EGG PRODUCTS INSPECTION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2013 (S.820), which 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 does nothing but benefit the animal abusers. It will do nothing to help the birds; in fact, it will do just the opposite. Please urge Senator Cantwell to withdraw her sponsorship and ask Senator Patty Murray to vote NO
[Ed: You can read more about our official position in opposition to it when it was introduced last year here. And as detailed below, this year's bill is even worse than the one that failed last year.]
United Poultry Concerns opposes the EGG PRODUCTS INSPECTION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2013. We oppose legislation that benefits egg producers and legally condemns hens to living in cages. With Congress set to consider the Farm Bill shortly, please notify your U.S. Senators and Representatives that you oppose the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Urge them to oppose this legislation and briefly and clearly explain your reason.
Call Senators and/or Representatives at (202) 224-3121.
Before you read further, please watch “Normal and Natural,” a short video by Edgar’s Mission in Australia.
“This legislation puts cages in place, puts them in law. That’s a huge cave-in . . .” – Joe Miller, attorney for Rose Acre Farms Battery Cage Hen Operation, 2nd largest egg producer in the U.S., 2013.
Facts: The Egg Bill would legalize and legitimize cages for hens
What is an enriched cage?
Helping Hens or Benefiting Their Abusers?
What Should I Do?
In “Agreement Raises Flags for Egg-Laying Hens” published in 2012, United Poultry Concerns reviewed the effort by animal advocates to ban cages for egg-laying hens in Europe and the United States. In 2011, a pact between The Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers frustrated this effort, which also failed in the European Union when a law went into effect January 1, 2012 banning conventional barren battery cages while legalizing “enriched” or “furnished” battery cage systems for hens in the EU.
Following suit, the alliance between HSUS and UEP led to legislation before Congress in 2012. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 (The “Egg Bill”) sought to legalize cages for egg-laying hens, prevent voters from initiating ballots to ban cages in their own state, and prohibit states from passing stronger welfare laws than those set in the Egg Bill.
Last year’s bills failed but are once again before Congress. Under the terms of the 2013 Egg Bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Curt Schrader of Oregon, barren battery cages would be phased out over a 20-year period and replaced by “enriched” cages as the dominant housing system for hens in the United States.
The Egg Bill would legalize and legitimize cages for hens
Since cages are the cheapest way to mass-produce billions of eggs for consumers, the majority of the 280 million hens in U.S. facilities will continue to be caged in long windowless buildings just as they are now, under the proposed law.
This year’s Egg Bill is even worse than last year’s: one of the worst exemptions allows the toxic excretory ammonia levels of 25 parts per million in confined-hen buildings to reach even higher levels of toxicity to accommodate egg industry “emergencies” of unspecified duration. The toxic ammonia the Egg Bill permits constitutes animal cruelty even without cages.
Basically it’s still a battery cage, the birds living behind bars on metal grid flooring, the cages stacked up in tiers, many thousands of hens to a building. Compared to the old-style cage, there’s mandatory additional floor space per hen measuring roughly the size of a postcard, bringing the entire minimum space per hen to 750 square centimeters (116 square inches), little more than a sheet of paper.
The cages must include a perch, a “nest” box and a scratch pad. The term “nest box” sounds comforting, Clare says. “But in the enriched cage context it is simply a curtained area, behind which the hen finds the same sloping cage floor, the metal grid now covered in matting of some kind. Not a wisp of straw, no soft material with which to arrange her nest. Some of the enriched colony cages I saw held up to 60 hens. Gleaming metal cages stretched away into the distance, and there was that familiar unending clamor of frustrated hens’ voices.”
Helping Hens or Benefiting Their Abusers?
Under the terms of the Egg Bill, the majority of hens will remain in cages. They will be locked into a federal law administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which doesn’t even enforce the 55-year-old “Humane Slaughter Act,” from which birds are excluded.
At most, brown hens, being slightly larger than the white hens who represent the majority of egg-laying hens in the United States, may within 20 years get a maximum of 144 square inches apiece, or one square foot of living space per hen. The white hens will max out at 124 square inches per hen, well below a square foot, even though a hen needs a minimum 1.5 square foot, or 216 square inches, merely to engage in minimal “normal behavior.”
Whether the Egg Bill would ban starvation molting of hens is a question. The ammonia cave-in and the cage cave-in show how capitulation to egg industry economics and “emergencies” will likely influence the bill as it moves through the legislative process to its final, eviscerated form.
The claim that the proposed legislation would ban inhumane methods of “euthanasia” is totally false. Spent hens are just piles of garbage – a costly nuisance – to egg producers, to be gotten rid of any old way. Like the male chicks of the egg industry who are trashed as soon as they are born, their sisters are a waste product to this industry as soon as they lay fewer eggs. Gassing hens to death with CO2 in metal boxes is NOT EUTHANASIA!
What Should I Do?
United Poultry Concerns opposes the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. We oppose legislation that benefits egg producers and legally condemns hens to living in cages. With Congress set to consider the Farm Bill shortly, please notify your U.S. Senators and Representatives that you oppose the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Call them at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to oppose this legislation and briefly and clearly explain your reason.
About a third of the world’s remaining tropical forests are to be found in Indonesia. They include some of the world’s most biodiverse rainforest, home to countless species of animal, including the orangutan, elephant and Sumatran tiger. Between 2000 and 2010, Indonesia lost almost 3 million acres of forest each year. A two-year moratorium on felling forests in an effort to halt deforestation (deforestation that benefits timber, paper and palm oil companies) cut this to 450,000 acres a year. The moratorium recently expired, leaving plantations and loggers legally free to expand into new areas (although they are expanding ILLEGALLY all the time anyway). Indonesia is already the world’s third-largest carbon emitter.
On Monday 13th May, Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, signed a two-year extension of the moratorium, which bans new logging permits for primary, or virgin, forest — i.e. forest not logged in recent history. The moratorium was vehemently opposed by — big surprise – palm oil planters. A spokesman for the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Producers said the ban caused Indonesia to be overtaken by Malaysia as the world’s biggest producer of palm oil. (And who will care when the rain forest is GONE??)
“We firmly reject any proposal to extend this moratorium because we stand to lose more than we gain from it,” the spokesman said. Profit NOW is apparently more important than the fact that carbon dioxide emissions were found this week to have reached the highest atmospheric concentration in recorded human history. If emissions continue to rise the world will experience devastating degrees of warming within several decades — apparently still too far in the future for the palm oil companies to care.
Environmentalists say the moratorium is, while better than nothing, still far from sufficient. It excepts projects already approved by the forestry minister and others considered vital, such as for power production, and leaves many glaring loopholes. For example, the province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra has overturned its own deforestation ban at the local level and plans to open up a million hectares of protected forest for exploitation despite the moratorium — and despite a petition with almost almost a million signatures.
It is a good point to mention (again?) that none of us should be using palm oil. It isn’t in anything crucial, it isn’t in anything you can’t do without. I know we were all delighted to find Earth Balance….but it contains palm oil, so ditch it. Spectrum Canola Oil Spread (at Vegan Haven) and Saffola margarine (at QFC) are both vegan and palm oil-free. You can do it.
Here’s some food for thought: If the main reason for choosing a vegan lifestyle is to reduce suffering, what do you think about in-vitro meat?
The New York Times recently reported about a hamburger grown in a laboratory from muscle tissue. This in-vitro, or cultured, meat doesn’t require the water, grain, land, transportation, and slaughter of an animal.
The sample being worked on at the moment isn’t vegan–it’s origins are animal in nature (cow stem cells). But future versions could be grown from non-animal sources.
This still sounds like science fiction, and I’ll stick by the loads of scientific findings that meat of any kind isn’t healthy. But if people don’t stop eating meat, perhaps they could gravitate toward in-vitro meat and bypass factory farms.
Action alerts, news, tips, stories, and resources for Animal Advocates in the NW