Voters and state legislatures have reduced the suffering of millions of animals raised for food in this country in the last few years. Now Congress is on its way to erasing all those advances.
The version of the farm bill that the House of Representatives just passed includes an amendment that would undermine state laws banning cruel factory farming practices. For instance, California bans gestation crates for sows, and bans the sale of pork products derived from pigs locked up in gestation crates. The House of Representatives has said that other states are free to sell pork products that do derive from gestation crated-sows into California, which, if adopted by the Senate and signed by the president, would make the Golden State’s law practically meaningless.
The state-level victories that the House is trying to undo include:
- Bans on gestation crates, in which female pigs spend most of their lives. The imprisoned sows cannot turn around in the narrow cages, cannot interact with others and are often driven so mad that they chew compulsively on the bars of their prisons all day. The states that have banned them include Maine, Rhode Island, California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Oregon.
- Bans on battery cages, which cram four hens into each 16-inch-square cage, precluding the birds from spreading their wings or even lying down, as I’ve written elsewhere. “They stand on wire mesh that cuts into their feet; sometimes their toes grow around the wire. The walls of the cage rub off the birds’ feathers and cause blood blisters.” States that have outlawed battery cages include California and Michigan.
- Bans on veal crates, which are about two feet wide. Newborn calves are shut into the boxes for their entire lives, which are only a few months long. Some are even tied down by their necks so they won’t develop muscles, which would make their meat tougher. They can’t stretch or even lie down comfortably. States with laws against veal crates include Maine, Rhode Island, California, Arizona, Ohio, Colorado and Michigan.
The threat to these laws is in the King Amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve King of Iowa. This is his second try at eviscerating the laws states have chosen to pass: Care2′s Alicia Graef described his first attempt here. Republicans shoved it into the first Farm Bill, which the House of Representatives voted down.
The second time the farm bill came up in the House, now without the SNAP (food stamps) program that feeds millions of hungry Americans, Republicans rammed the King Amendment in again. Then the House passed the bill. It is now in conference, where Senators and Representatives try to reconcile, i.e. reach a compromise between, the version of the farm bill the Senate passed (which does not have a King Amendment) and the version the House passed (which does). It is now up to the Senators on the reconciliation committee to block the amendment.
Please let your senator know that you oppose the King Amendment by signing our petition.
Photo credit: Shan213