ASPCA condemns passage of House Farm Bill

'Disastrous proposal' would weaken animal welfare protections, fail to address export of horses for slaughter

According to a press release issued last week by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the U.S. House Agriculture Committee has passed its long-awaited $1.5 trillion Farm Bill, but the news is not good for animal welfare.

The organization denounced the passage of the bill because it would overturn existing state and local animal welfare laws with “disastrous consequences” for farm animals and higher-welfare farmers. Additionally, the ASPCA notes, the bill not only fails to provide critically needed enforcement advancements to protect dogs in puppy mills, but actually makes it harder to help dogs that are suffering. It also fails to provide support to the tens of thousands of American horses exported for slaughter each year.

A ‘squandered’ opportunity

“The Farm Bill has the power to impact U.S. agriculture policy for decades to come, and the House Agriculture Committee has squandered this opportunity to advance much-needed reforms, choosing instead to pass a disastrous proposal that attacks state protections for farm animals, puts dogs in puppy mills at even greater risk, and fails to address the horse slaughter crisis,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of Government Relations for the ASPCA.

“Congressional leaders have a responsibility to reject the predatory systems that perpetuate cruelty to animals, and we urge them to pass a final Farm Bill that upholds state farm animal protection laws, institutes much-needed funding and transparency measures to support a more humane food system, and includes both Goldie’s Act and the SAFE Act, bipartisan bills that are critical to ensuring the welfare of dogs, horses and other animals.”

Problematic provisions

The press release states that the House Farm Bill includes the following problematic provisions:

  • Weakens Enforcement for Dogs Suffering in Puppy Mills: Instead of advancing protections for dogs in puppy mills, the House Farm Bill allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue lax enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, codifying some of the USDA’s worst practices, all of which lead to animal suffering being ignored. Rather than requiring the agency to remove suffering animals, the bill merely tasks the agency to “consider” removing a dog in a state of “unrelieved suffering.” Even worse, the bill further narrows the definition of “suffering,” leading to even fewer animals receiving the urgent care they need. It also allows the agency to shirk its enforcement responsibilities by simply notifying law enforcement officials where the suffering animal is located, then passing the problems to local and state authorities. The ASPCA is urging Congress to remove the existing problematic language and to include the full text of Goldie’s Act in the final Farm Bill. This would require the USDA to conduct frequent and meaningful inspections, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, issue penalties for violations, and communicate with local law enforcement in a meaningful way to address cruelty and neglect.
  • Attacks Local and State Farm Animal Welfare Laws: The House bill includes so-called “compromise” language based on the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, a dangerous overreach of federal power that would eliminate existing state and local animal welfare laws, including bans on cruel farming practices. This language is a direct response to the success of animal welfare laws like California’s Proposition 12, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, and the latest transparent attempt to acquiesce to the demands of industrial agriculture interests, steamrolling states’ rights and ignoring the will of voters along the way. If this language stays in the Farm Bill, millions of farm animals will be forced back into inhumane cages while thousands of independent, higher-welfare farmers will be further disadvantaged in an already incredibly consolidated marketplace unfairly dominated by factory farming.

No end to horse slaughter

In addition to weakening existing protections for farm animals and dogs in puppy mills, the House Farm Bill also fails to include a bipartisan prohibition of horse slaughter. Despite congressional efforts that have effectively blocked the operation of horse slaughterhouses on U.S. soil since 2007, tens of thousands of American horses continue to be shipped to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses that supply other countries with horsemeat. The Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act would expand the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act—which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill—to include equines, prohibiting the commercial slaughter of horses in the U.S. and ending their export for that purpose abroad.

The House Farm Bill must now pass the House floor. Once the Senate releases and passes its own Farm Bill, then House and Senate leaders will need to concur on a single bill that must be approved by both chambers before it can be shared with President Biden to be signed into law.

Members of the public are encouraged by the ASPCA to contact their U.S. representatives to urge them to reject the provisions in the House Farm Bill that threaten animal welfare and instead pass a more humane Farm Bill. To contact your member of Congress, please visit www.aspca.org/FarmBill.

About the ASPCA

Founded in 1866, the non-profit ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first animal welfare organization to be established in North America and today serves as the nation’s leading voice for vulnerable and victimized animals. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org.

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