Animal Advocates Closely Watching Farm Bill: Major Changes Proposed

Aug 01, 13 Animal Advocates Closely Watching Farm Bill: Major Changes Proposed

by: Stephanie Carroll Carson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Animal-rights advocates are perched on the edges of their seats as members of the U.S. House and Senate evaluate legislation to replace the Farm Bill that expires in September.
Two measures that directly affect animal welfare are part of the package. Both House and Senate bills include a version of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would make it a crime to attend or bring a child to a dog fight or a cockfight.

Sows lined up in crates. An undercover HSUS investigation in Spring 2012 revealed cruelty and unsanitary conditions at a Wyoming pig breeding facility owned by a pork supplier. Courtesy of HSUS.

Florida law prohibits attending or participating in animal fighting, but Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said the northern part of the state is a “gateway” for the activity.
“There are people who will move fighting birds from Florida into Alabama because the penalties are so weak,” Pacelle said.

In this photo taken at an egg-producing “factory farm,” battery cages are stacked eight high and hold more than two million birds. Courtesy of HSUS.

The maximum penalty in Alabama for participation in cock fighting is $50.
The House version of the Farm Bill also includes an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Pacelle predicted it would mean misery for many animals – including calves, pigs, chickens, puppies and even sharks – by tossing out state animal-welfare laws.
“If there’s a state standard that says that the animals should be able to lie down, turn around, stand up and extend their limbs, that could be nullified by Steve King’s amendment,” he said. “He even opposed efforts to include pets in disaster planning.”
King has said he believes the wide variety of state animal-welfare laws makes it difficult for food producers to comply with them and restricts commerce. However, Pacelle said the King amendment could nullify hard-won rights for animals in 34 states and has broad implications for food safety and environmental standards.
Despite complaints that cockfighting is part of the national heritage of some cultures, Pacelle said the legislation making it illegal to attend is not discriminatory.

Veal calves in crates. Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.

“Unfortunately, people of many different backgrounds have engaged in animal fighting,” he said. “But every poll we’ve conducted shows the vast majority of people of every background – white, black, Latino, Asian – they all overwhelmingly oppose animal fighting.”
Pacelle noted that even Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback once convicted for illegal dog fighting, lobbied Congress in support of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act last year.

Chihuahua puppies

These Chihuahua puppies were some of about 80 dogs taken from a puppy mill near Tylertown, Miss. in an investigation by the Humane Society of Mississippi and HSUS. Photo credit: Chuck Cook.

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