A key goal of the project to move beyond factory farming in the U.S. should be to accelerate the enactment of state and local policy to hold the meat industry accountable for the harm it inflicts on people, animals, and the environment. To further this goal, Farm Forward is collaborating with Yale Law School’s CAFE Law and Policy Lab and other NGOs to develop innovative policy approaches that can be enacted at the state and municipal level to challenge factory farming practices. A coalition of nonprofits will work collaboratively with Yale law and other graduate students to research and understand modern legal and policy challenges for those working to challenge factory farming. The insights and findings generated by the students will complement and support existing policy efforts, providing valuable resources for activists, citizens, and policymakers at the state and local levels.
A critical feature of this work is the theory of change under which we’re operating: the complex problem of industrial animal farming will require a collective, diverse, and intersectional method of policy decision-making and reform, and no single justice area (e.g., environmental justice, labor rights, animal protection, or farmer advocacy) should be advanced at the sacrifice of another.
Like climate change and wealth inequality, factory farming is a wicked problem; its harms to people, animals, the climate and environment are varied, mutually reinforcing, and resistant to change; it doesn’t have a singular, let alone an easily identifiable solution. It’s a unique phenomenon that manifests itself politically, economically, and culturally and therefore requires a nuanced approach that isn’t reducible to only one framework or mode of understanding.
Moving beyond factory farming with public policy
Over the past ten years, the farmed animal protection movement has invested heavily in two strategies—alternative protein and corporate welfare campaigns. While these strategies have significant merit and should be pursued, they are not the only strategies available to the animal advocacy movement. An axiom of our collaboration with Yale Law School is that state and local policy specifically should be explored to meaningfully address the social costs of industrial animal agriculture. This is consistent with Farm Forward’s goal: to build the will, including political will, to end factory farming. To that end, numerous promising efforts across the U.S. should inspire optimism.
For example, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act late last year, which introduced a swath of new protections and regulations for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). More recently, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced the Transparency in Depopulation Act, which would “prevent federal funding from being used for some of the most inhumane methods of animal slaughter.” While policies of this sort are unlikely to become law in the near term, they galvanize meaningful attention to the issue at the highest level of government.
And in a surprising—and uplifting—move, the Supreme Court decided to uphold California’s Proposition 12, which prohibits the sale of pork from farming operations that use gestation crates for sows regardless of where in the U.S. the pork was produced.
Several promising policy proposals introduced or implemented outside of Washington DC also challenge the institutional power of CAFOs. One particularly exciting multi-state effort is the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), which pushes large institutions, like municipalities, to filter their food procurement through five domains: local economies, health, valued workforce, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. Values-based procurement policies of this type have been adopted by a number of cities across the U.S., from Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston.
Many other promising initiatives and developments are taking root across the country. Citizen activists and state lawmakers have proposed statewide CAFO moratoriums; controversial ag-gag laws have been struck down in a number of states; the US’ only octopus farm had the most controversial components of its operation halted; cities have proposed comprehensive plant-based procurement policies. In addition, consider all of the work being done by environmental justice groups and labor organizations (among many others) to oppose the political and economic power of CAFOs throughout the U.S.
Among the great number of diverse approaches and strategies employed by the farm animal protection movement today, advocating for robust social policy addressing the different dimensions of harm caused by CAFOs is undoubtedly among the most promising.
The harms of factory farming are not isolated to one group but rather are inflicted upon workers, farmers, animals, neighboring communities, the environment, the climate, and public health. This collaboration between Farm Forward, Yale, and other NGOs signifies a commitment to an intersectional approach to ending factory farming, which centers the importance of building diverse coalitions for the broader effort of building political will.