Congress Pushes Farm Bill Threatening Animal Welfare Gains

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The U.S. Congress’s Farm Bill, a substantial piece of legislation governing agricultural and food programs, faces scrutiny for its potential to harm animal welfare.

The 2024 Farm Bill, recently approved by the House Agriculture Committee, is particularly concerning for animal rights advocates. The bill includes provisions that could reverse progress in animal welfare, endanger public health, and negatively impact countless animals.

The 2024 Farm Bill could undo years of animal welfare progress.
Photo: Pexels
The 2024 Farm Bill could undo years of animal welfare progress.

Nullifying Proposition 12

One of the most contentious aspects of the proposed Farm Bill is its attempt to nullify California’s Proposition 12 and similar laws in other states. Proposition 12, approved by a wide margin and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, represents the nation’s strongest law on farm animal welfare, reports the Humane Society of the United States. It bans the use of gestation crates—small metal cages that prevent pigs from turning around—and mandates more humane living conditions for farm animals.

However, the new Farm Bill seeks to override this and other state-level welfare standards by congressional fiat, effectively undoing years of progress in humane animal treatment.

Chairman Glenn Thompson, who drafted the bill, has faced criticism for his alignment with the National Pork Producers Council and other industry groups. His efforts to “fix” Proposition 12 disregard the voices of family farmers, citizens, and even pork producers from his home state, Pennsylvania, who support more humane practices, reports the Humane Society.

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The bill reallocates climate-smart agriculture funds to traditional programs.
Photo: Pexels
The bill reallocates climate-smart agriculture funds to traditional programs.

Favoring Low-Welfare Practices

The bill appears to favor low-welfare pork producers, puppy mills, and mink factory farms. It grants these industries significant benefits, despite their controversial practices. For instance, mink farming, which has been banned in over 20 countries due to its public health risks and cruelty, receives subsidies under this bill, the HSUS reports. This support continues despite the clear public health risks posed by mink farms, including potential pandemic threats.

The bill also targets animal rescue groups, making it harder and more expensive for them to operate. These provisions threaten international rescue efforts and benefit high-volume breeders and puppy mills by reducing competition. This move could lead to increased profits for breeders and mills at the expense of animal welfare.

Low-welfare farming practices increase public health risks.
Photo: Pexels
Low-welfare farming practices increase public health risks.

Impact on SNAP and Climate Initiatives

The proposed Farm Bill also affects food assistance programs and climate-smart agricultural practices. House Republicans aim to freeze future increases in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, potentially reducing the amount of assistance low-income families receive, reports Agriculture Dive. This change could lead to significant cuts in benefits over the next decade, making it harder for families to afford healthy food.

Additionally, the bill reallocates funds designated for climate-smart agriculture under the Inflation Reduction Act to more traditional conservation programs, according to the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition. This reallocation removes requirements for spending on climate-smart practices, potentially hindering efforts to combat climate change through sustainable farming.

California's Proposition 12, the nation's strongest animal welfare law, is at risk.
Photo: Pexels
California’s Proposition 12, the nation’s strongest animal welfare law, is at risk.

Opposition and Future Prospects

The opposition to the Farm Bill is robust, with animal rights groups, farmers, and legislators speaking out against its provisions. The bill has drawn bipartisan criticism, and several key measures, such as the SNAP benefit cuts, face significant opposition from Democrats.

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As the HSUS reports, the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to take a tougher stance on animal welfare, potentially leading to changes in the final version of the bill.

Chris Herr, Executive Vice President of PennAg Industries, highlighted the benefits of Proposition 12 for Pennsylvania farmers who have already adapted to more humane practices. He emphasized that many producers have made significant investments in better housing systems for animals, reflecting consumer demand for humane treatment.
“So we’ve gone to open-pen housing and made changes to the production systems that we have, and we’d hate to see them be rolled back,” Herr told Lancaster Farming.

The current version of the Farm Bill represents a step backward for animal welfare and public health. As the legislative process continues, it is crucial for advocates and concerned citizens to voice their opposition to these harmful provisions. The well-being of millions of animals and the future of humane farming practices depend on it.

Click below and take action for animals!

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