Issues in Farm Bill Have the Attention of Animal Advocates

Photo by Pauline Mak

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.

According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, both House and Senate bills include a version of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act.

"It would make it a crime to attend or to bring a child to a dog fight or a cockfight," he said.

The House version of the Farm Bill also includes an amendment that could nullify many California laws such as Proposition 2, which requires veal calves, breeding sows and laying hens be allowed to lie down, turn around and stand up in confinement.

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Pacelle said that amendment, by Iowa Rep. Steve King, would mean misery for many animals currently protected under Prop 2.

"It was an attempt to give animals some space as a quality-of-life issue, because they've been confined in small cages or crates on factory farms."

Pacelle said the King amendment would also affect California's new ban on shark finning.

"It's the second-largest market for the sale of shark fins for soup after China," he said. "It would also affect dozens of other laws that oppose standards or conditions on agriculture. That's why the California Congressional delegation is leading the fight to kill the King Amendment."

Rep. 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. But 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.

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