Cathy Liss: House Farm Bill Doesn’t Do Enough for Animals

Washington, DC, April 19, 2018 – The House Agriculture Committee yesterday reported out its version of the 2018 farm bill (H.R. 2), legislation Congress must pass this year to reauthorize a variety of programs on which the agriculture sector heavily depends. The committee accepted one amendment that would improve animal welfare but also adopted an amendment offered by Representative Steve King (R-IA) that would have adverse consequences for animal welfare.

In reaction to this outcome, Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), issued the following statement:

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AWI is grateful to Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) for his successful amendment to end the dog and cat meat trade in the United States. Surprisingly, this trade is still legal across much of the United States, and there have been instances of dog and cat meat being sold in some communities. In the absence of federal action, six states have sought to ban this practice and now a federal prohibition is needed to bring uniformity to this patchwork of state laws.At the same time, we were disappointed that Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) was unable to offer his amendment to strengthen the law protecting equines from the inhumane practice of horse soring. In his remarks before the committee, Rep. Yoho stated, ‘I trust that is safe to say that there is no member on this committee or moreover this body that is in favor of animal abuse.’ Sharing that belief, we are all the more discouraged that the House Agriculture Committee today once again approved a farm bill that includes Rep. King’s amendment, which is one of the most dangerous attacks on animal welfare to date.The King amendment limits states’ authority to set standards for animal welfare within their own borders and would undo progress that has been made in achieving more humane treatment of livestock and companion animals. It would, for instance, invalidate California’s laws prohibiting the sale of foie gras and of eggs from hens kept in extremely small, crowded battery cages. It would also interfere with restrictions many states have placed on gestation crates for pigs, tail-docking of cattle, and horse slaughter, and override efforts to ban the sale of pets from puppy mills. The broadly written amendment not only puts many animals at risk but also jeopardizes food safety standards, states’ sovereignty, worker protections, environmental quality, and consumer safeguards.AWI thanks Rep. Denham for his effort to remove this dangerous provision. Rep. Denham noted that the King amendment ‘eliminates laws intended to keep our constituents safe.’  We hope he will try again when the farm bill comes to the House floor.Finally, we are troubled that the farm bill still includes provisions that undermine the Endangered Species Act by allowing federal agencies to essentially ignore the impact some of their activities have on imperiled species in the United States. For instance, the bill exempts the Environmental Protection Agency from having to evaluate whether the use of pesticides affects threatened or endangered species, opening the door to exposing vulnerable populations of wildlife to dangerous chemicals. This is the beginning of a long process and we will be working to make further improvements as the bill works its way through Congress.www.awionline.org