Animal Law

Must Read Article of the Day: “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat”

An impressive report, “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat” has just been published in Rolling Stone. It contains graphic images and video and details the brutal lives and deaths our “food” animals on our factory farms have to suffer. The facts in the article are eye-opening:

  • 500 million tons of factory-farm animal waste generated each year;
  • 35,000 miles of rivers and streams across 22 states reporting polluted waterways caused by farm-animal excretement;
  • 9 billion broiler chickens, 113 million pigs, 33 million cows and 250 million turkeys raised and killed for food each year.

And that’s just beginning. Animals on factory farms live a nightmare. Read the descriptions of how a broiler chicken and a dairy cow, respectively, are made to suffer:

If you’re a broiler chicken (raised specifically for meat), thanks to “meat science” and its chemical levers – growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically engineered feed – you weigh at least double what you would in the wild, but lack the muscle even to waddle, let alone fly.

Your hooves have rotted black from standing in your own shit, your teats are scarred, swollen and leaking pus – infected by mastitis – and you’re sick to the verge of total collapse from giving nearly 22,000 pounds of milk a year. (That’s more than double what your forebears produced just 40 years ago.)

If the above descriptions make you feel ill and you wonder, “How can this happen? How can these businesses get away with this?” then I am sorry to say that a lot of what is seen at factory farms in undercover footage is perfectly legal. There are no federal statutes pertaining to livestock while being bred or raised for food, only slaughter (and a de minimis statute on transporting food animals across state lanes). So while one may think a statute such as the Animal Welfare Act would be relevant, that Act only covers research, exhibition, and the pet industry, and specifically exempts farmed animals raised for food. Therefore, as the Rolling Stone article rightly points out, the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act is the only federal law governing our food animals, and that Act only covers slaughter. Furthermore, birds are completely exempt from the Act.

The lack of satisfactory federal law on the welfare of our food animals means that undercover activists, like the ones profiled in the Rolling Stones article, must rely on state anti-cruelty laws. But that’s not simple or easy to do: 36 states expressly exempt “customary” farming practices from their anti-cruelty statutes. Consequently, agribusiness has the sole authority to determine which farming practices are cruel or not. Additionally, there is the threat of ag-gag laws; these laws criminalize whistleblower activity at factory farms. These laws help keep hidden the cruel practices of agribusiness and allow our food animals to continue to be abused.

Read the article and learn the true cost of the cheap meat you eat. Do you think it is worth it?

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