Can you imagine eating cats and dogs? There’s a new law on its way that would prevent this from ever happening by prohibiting this cruel practice. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “The House and Senate provisions will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S., and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.” This bill has broad bipartisan support and is very likely to pass.
While the practice of eating cats and dogs is uncommon in the United States “Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse to end up on someone’s dinner plate” according to the Humane Society.
The new law would alter the Animal Welfare Act to forbid people from knowingly slaughtering a dog or cat for human consumption. Punishment for violating the law would be up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500.
It’s bad enough that we eat farm animals – we shouldn’t expand that to include cats and dogs. Of course, we wish cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys and fish were covered under the law as well. We love cats and dogs, but we also care about farm animals just the same. While there’s no law pending to prevent eating them, there’s still something you can do – switch to a plant-based diet!
A new hotline (1-888-209-7177) was just launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) so that workers can more safely document the abuse of animals.
As the old saying goes, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians.” The slaughterhouse operators know this better than anyone, which is why they have pushed “ag-gag” laws through in a handful of key states. These ag-gag laws prevent the documenting of abuse by criminalizing undercover investigations of agricultural facilities. We have previously reported on the plight of both farm animals and workers in the nation’s slaughterhouses. While horrible conditions persist, the public is kept in the dark.
“The bleak conditions endured by animals on factory farms are often made worse by overt violence and neglect,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the HSUS. “Pigs are often beaten. Chickens are stomped on. Lame cows are left for dead. We want whistleblowers to know that help is just a phone call away.”
To tackle this problem, the HSUS established a hotline for reporting cruelty and neglect on factory farms, at livestock auctions, and in slaughterhouses. This will empower employees at those facilities who have witnessed cruelty or other unlawful acts.
The HSUS offers whistleblowers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who have committed acts of cruelty to farm animals. Hotline callers will be assured anonymity if they desire it. The HSUS will work with the United Farm Workers to distribute information about the hotline to workers at factory farms, slaughterhouses and livestock auctions.
We applaud the HSUS for their new program and all those who have the courage to call it. Of course, the best way to end the harsh conditions and frank abuse in animal agriculture is simply to go vegetarian- a move the HSUS enthusiastically endorses.
It seems maybe we started to celebrate too soon. Along with many animal welfare organizations and vegetarian associations, we thought that since the egg producers and consumer groups had reached a solid agreement which had strong bi-partisan backing, that progress would finally be made. However, federal standards for the welfare of egg-laying hens suffered a defeat when they failed to make it into the farm bill legislation voted out of the agriculture committees in the U.S. House and Senate. The full Senate debated its version of the farm bill this week. Attempts at floor amendments failed, but the standards could come back to life when the farm bill reaches the joint House-Senate conference committee.
Pork and beef producers, however, object in principle to the notion of federal regulation of farm animal housing — even though, in this case, the egg producers themselves are asking for federal regulations as a way to pre-empt state rules that are more troublesome. When the agriculture committees of both House and Senate finished their versions of the farm bill last week, all mention of guaranteed living space for egg-laying hens had vanished.
The setback hurts even more because the agreement grew out of the voter initiative campaign to set animal welfare standards for egg-laying hens right here in Washington, and was led by our friend at the local HSUS chapter, Dan Paul.
To understand how a battery hen lives, stand here for a year.
Currently, ninety percent of America’s eggs are laid by chickens that live in long rows of metal wire cages. Each cage holds about eight hens, and they’re packed in pretty tightly. At the henhouse that Dan visited recently, owned by a family-run enterprise in Modesto, Calif., each hen has, on average, 67 square inches – less than the area of a standard sheet of paper. “These birds can’t even spread their wings,” says a senior director at the Humane Society of the United States. “These are living, feeling, sentient animals who are caught up in the food system, and at a bare minimum, they deserve not to be tortured for their entire lives; not to be immobilized to the point where they can’t even extend their limbs.”
Ever since cages became standard in the egg industry some 50 years ago, many people have been horrified by them. Despite their outrage, advocates of animal welfare weren’t able to do much against the cages. For egg producers, the cages made economic sense. They made egg production possible on an unprecedented scale, delivering cheap eggs to consumers. Advertising gimmicks, such as “naturally nested,” “free range,” or “cage free,” have little meaning because there are no legal definitions of them and no mechanism for enforcement.
In the Spring of 2011, Dan Paul, director of the Washington branch of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), launched a ballot initiative here in Washington State that would help improve the lives of 6.5 million egg-laying hens living in factory farms in our state. The public response was truly extraordinary, evidenced both by the passion and dedication of the volunteers, as well as the overwhelming positive response from the public.
What his in-state efforts resulted in, however, was an agreement with the United Egg Producers to push a joint effort to pass federal legislation, which in part would give each bird, throughout the entireUS flock, significantly more space to live. Their signature drive prompted the framework to help not only our 6.5 million birds, but every hen throughout this nation – it was a truly staggering result!
The proposed legislation, HR 3798 would culminate with hens nationwide being provided a minimum of 124 to 144 square inches of space, along with the other enrichment improvements. Remember, most birds in the US live in states that do not allow for the initiative process, so an agreement with industry to obtain a federal law is the most likely path to truly end the barren battery cage in the US.
All is not lost. Eventually public concern will win out. But you don’t have to wait until it does. You can choose to skip the eggs, thus reducing consumer demand and ultimately production as well. There are many egg substitutions on the market, and even more egg-free recipes for favorite dishes for you to enjoy. Both the chickens and your body will be glad you did!
Pigs are some of the smartest animals on Earth. Highly social, intelligent, and curious, they engage in complex tasks, form elaborate, cooperative social groups and feel fear, pain, and stress. Studies show that they are more intelligent than dogs, and scientists have demonstrated that pigs are capable of playing simple video games, learning from each other, and even learning names.
Most breeding pigs in the U.S. are confined in “gestation crates” for virtually their entire lives. For several years, they’re confined to crates that nearly immobilize them, enduring a cycle of repeated impregnation. These individual cages are approximately 2 feet wide — so small the animals can’t even turn around or take more than a step forward or backward. Due to the duration and severity of their confinement, these pigs’ suffering is among the worst of all factory-farmed animals.
Following The Humane Society of the United States’ legal complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission over false and misleading animal welfare statements made by Seaboard Foods, the nation’s third-largest pork producer, Seaboard has been forced to alter its online advertising around the hot-button topic of animal welfare throughout its operations.
Unfortunately, the company continues to use inhumane animal care practices at its farms, such as the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in small gestation crates.
“While we are pleased that Seaboard has been forced to abandon its misleading online advertising, it would be better if the company had changed its actual practices,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations for The HSUS. “Seaboard is still confining animals in small cages where they can’t even turn around, contrary to good science, common sense and consumers’ desire for better treatment of animals.”
The complaints followed a 2011 HSUS undercover investigation that documented inhumane treatment of animals at a Seaboard facility. The investigation revealed pigs confined in tight gestation crates barely larger than their own bodies, preventing them from even turning around, and workers hitting animals, duct-taping their legs to their bodies and jabbing their eyes.
Seaboard’s lofty claims about animal care were in stark contrast to the findings in the investigation. Seaboard had claimed that the company uses “the most humane practices throughout the animal’s life…” In response to an FTC investigation triggered by the HSUS’ complaint, the company removed this false and misleading statement about its commitment to animal care.
Tell us something about yourself. How did you first become interested in animals in general and farm animals in particular?
My fascination with animals seems to have been hardwired from birth, but it took many years and many nuggets of exposure for me to finally get that ‘aha’ moment.
I grew up in the suburbs of Southern California, but spent a few weeks each summer during my early teenage years at a camp which centered around a working farm. The cows spent their days wandering around in one of the many pastures; the chickens were free to roam and munch on bugs in the manure and dirt, the pigs dined on the plants and the camp’s food waste; vegetable were grown on the farm and picked by the campers – this system was balanced and thus, it worked. Read more