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December 11, 2013

10 minutes read

Current Legislation

Select editorials:

Columbus Dispatch, “Deal on animal care means no fall ballot issue”

USA Today, “Antibiotics benefit farm animals (and people), but at what cost?”

New York Times Op-Ed, “The spread of superbugs”

Legislation to Improve the Lives of Animals

In the past, inadequate or nonexistent legislation to protect animals has kept the agribusiness industry—which is unlikely to make improvements on its own—from implementing significant changes in animal welfare. Fortunately, the last five years have seen some exciting possibilities for true legal protection of farmed animals in the form of progressive new legislation at the state level, including a recent victory in Ohio.

Having recently served on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, and seen the tremendous public response to our report, and also brokered compromise legislation jointly sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and the Colorado Livestock Association, I have great optimism regarding the future of farm animal welfare during the next decade. –Bernard Rollin, Ph.D., Farm Forward Board Member


Update: PAMTA was reintroduced to the 112th Congress as H.R. 965 (previously H.R. 1549) by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) on March 9, 2011 and immediately referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Rules. The related Senate bill, S. 1211, was introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) on June 15, 2011. Unfortunately, analysis indicates that PAMTA has an extremely low chance of being enacted in this Congress.

H.R. 1549, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, or PAMTA, is proposed federal legislation that seeks to phase out the routine use of nontherapeutic antibiotics in farm animals – a common practice to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions on factory farms – in order to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick people and animals.

Check out our feature about antibiotics in agriculture to learn more.

Advance the UEP-HSUS Agreement

Update: On June 18, 2012, Senate leaders denied consideration of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 in the 2012 Farm Bill, although inclusion in the House’s Farm Bill is still possible. The HSUS and the UEP have agreed to extend the agreement until December 31, 2012. If no legislation is enacted by this time, the agreement will expire and HSUS will continue its state-by-state campaign for better conditions for hens in battery cages.

H.R. 3798 / S. 3239, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, is a federal bill introduced to improve housing for egg-laying hens and provide a stable future for egg farmers. In July 2011, the United Egg Producers (UEP), which represents farmers raising approximately 95% of all laying hens in the U.S., and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal advocacy group in the world, adversaries for many years over the use of battery cages in egg production, formed an unlikely alliance to work together in pursuit of federal legislation to regulate the production of eggs in the United States. Pressured by the passage of a series of costly state-level laws, the UEP now argues that the federal legislation is necessary for the survival of its farmers. The proposed federal standards would: include cages that give hens up to 144 square inches of space each, compared with the 67 square inches that most hens have today; provide so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior; prohibit feed- or water-withholding molting to extend the laying cycle; mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens;” and more.

While Farm Forward’s founder and CEO Aaron S. Gross, Ph.D. commented in a New York Times article that while “the industry moving from saying anything goes to saying there should be legal limits at the federal level is an enormous difference,” he also wrote in an open letter about the UEP-HSUS proposal that it has still not opened up critical dialogue about the unhealthy genetics of the birds themselves, and it is because of the “intensive breeding techniques of the modern industry that these birds have ended up in cages in the first place.”

As Farm Forward Board member and owner of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch Frank Reese likes to say, “If you change production practices, you change production practices but if you change genetics, you change the industry.”

Tell Congress that you care about the welfare of egg-laying hens, and urge your legislators to support and co-sponsor H.R. 3798 / S. 3239!

Ban the Slaughter of Downed Animals

H.R. 3704, the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act, introduced by Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and presently pending before the House Agriculture Committee, is a federal bill to amend the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act of 1958 that would permanently prohibit all downed animals – unhealthy livestock unable walk because they are diseased, injured, or ill – from entering the nation’s food supply, requiring instead that these animals be humanely euthanized. The legislation would close a loophole that currently allows the slaughter of downed calves. According to a 2003 Zogby poll, 77% of Americans find slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption unacceptable. Further, 72% of the confirmed cases of mad cow disease in North America since 1993 have involved downed animals. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court blocked a California law that would require euthanizing downed livestock at federally inspected slaughterhouses to keep the meat out of the nation’s food system; the justices unanimously concurred that the California law requiring euthanasia encroached on federal laws that don’t require immediate euthanizing. Whether enacted at the state or the federal level, a ban on downed-animal slaughter is necessary if industrial agriculture is to fully internalize the true costs of its unsustainable methods, such as foodborne illness and animal suffering, and avoid another record-setting meat recall like that seen in 2008.

Help us stop the slaughter of sick and injured animals! Follow this link to urge your legislators to co-sponsor and vigorously support the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act, H.R. 3704.

Stop the Genetic Engineering of Fish

H.R. 520 / S. 229 and H.R. 521 / S. 230, sponsored by Congressman Donald Young (R-AK), are acts to to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prevent the approval of genetically engineered fish, and, if approved, require the labeling of engineered fish in order to inform consumers. H.R. 521 / S. 230 would prohibit the sale, purchase, transport, and possession for interstate/foreign commerce of genetically altered salmon, marine fish, or products containing such fish. Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in February 2011.

Farm Forward has strongly advocated for a return to heritage genetics in the poultry industry in support of both animal welfare and human health.

Please join us, the Center for Food Safety, and many others in support of H.R. 520 / S. 229 and H.R. 521 / S. 230!

Pending State Legislation


Introduced in January 2013, H.1456 / S.2232 would prevent farmed animal cruelty, amending the animal cruelty statute in Massachusetts to prohibit the confinement of farmed animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. If the legislation is enacted, Massachusetts would join Rhode Island and a growing number of states that have stood up against extreme confinement of farmed animals. The Senate bill was reported favorably and referred to the Senate Ways and Means on June 30, 2014 with “No further action taken” on January 6, 2015.

State Legislative Victories


In June, Rhode Island enacted legislation to prohibit gestation crates for pigs, extreme confinement of veal calves, and the routine docking of cows’ tails.


In August, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board announced an effective date of September 29, 2011 for implementation of the finalized welfare standards that phase out veal and gestation crates, prohibit new battery cage facilities for laying hens, phase out tail-docking of dairy cattle, and provide other protections for farmed animals.


In June, an imminent ballot measure in Ohio was preempted by an agreement that enacted a long list of animal welfare regulations.


In October, Michigan passed historic legislation to protect farmed animals. In May, Maine became the sixth U.S. state to ban extreme confinement of farmed animals.


In November, California voters passed Prop 2 in a landmark victory for farmed animals.

In July, California Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 2098 into law expanding the California Penal Code 599f established in 1994—now to include federally inspected slaughterhouses and other entities, such as marketing agencies or dealers—mandating immediate action to humanely euthanize non-ambulatory animals on their premises.

Update: On January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the requirement for federally inspected slaughterhouses, stating that the legislation preempted a federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which permits the slaughter of downed animals (except cows in most cases) if they pass an inspection by a USDA inspector. Fortunately, it is still illegal in California for any entity other than a federally inspected slaughterhouse to buy, sell, receive, or transport a non-ambulatory animals, including cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep, and California’s downer law is still the strongest in the nation.

In May, Colorado enacted legislation to permanently phase out both gestation crates and veal crates. The state government worked with HSUS and Farm Forward Board Member Bernard Rollin, Ph.D. to make this landmark bill a reality.


Oregon followed Florida and Arizona’s example and banned gestation crates. This time it was not a ballot initiative but the state legislature itself that made the ban possible.


Arizona voters approved – with 61% of the vote – an initiative to ban veal crates for calves and gestation crates for pigs throughout the state.


In September, California signed into law a statute that prohibits the production and sale of foie gras, the fattened liver of a goose or duck that is made by cruelly force-feeding the bird in order to enlarge the its liver up to 10 times beyond normal size. In the state of Washington, the transportation (or acceptance) of “cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules, or other equine that cannot rise from a recumbent position or cannot walk” became a gross misdemeanor. The Washington legislature made the law effective immediately on March 31, 2004.


Oregon made it a Class A misdemeanor to trade in non-ambulatory livestock.


Florida voters approved a ballot initiative in banning hog gestation crates. This was the first time in history that any state prohibited an intensive method of production due to animal welfare concerns.


In July, the Florida Legislature passed into law a statute forbidding the sale of any animal that is “unable to stand and walk unassisted,” and requiring their humane treatment.


In July, Republican Governor Bill Graves of Kansas signed into law a statute that forbidding the sale of any animal “unable to rise to its feet by itself” at livestock markets, requiring the animal’s immediate and humane euthanization by an accredited veterinarian.


In reaction to graphic media coverage of downed animals at meatpacking houses in Modesto, California and stockyards in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Colorado State Legislature passed House Bill 96-1340 into law, making it illegal to sell any animal that is “unable to rise to its feet by itself.”


Farm Sanctuary helped to pass an initial downer law in California (California Penal Code 599f), which prevents dragging, pushing, holding, or selling downed animals at stockyards and slaughterhouses not inspected by the USDA.


Illinois HPAC, a predecessor to Humane USA PAC, now the Humane Society Legislative Fund, was the first group of animal advocates to successfully pass legislation eliminating particular farmed animal abuses endemic to factory farming. Farm Forward Chairman Steven Gross led the small team of volunteers that, with some financial support from the Humane Society of the United States, passed the Humane Care for Animals Act. This important legislation went into effect on July 7, 1993.