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Congress is deep into writing a new Farm bill in the coming months, and leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees will be considering vital reforms to combat animal cruelty at the federal level.

American “kill” horses being held in a U.S. feedlot before being packed into trucks headed to Canada or Mexico where they will be slaughtered for meat for foreign diners. The Farm Bill could halt these exports. Credit: Horse Slaughter in North America Report.

In recent years, many agriculture committee leaders have strongly opposed any attention to animal welfare. In the prior Farm bill, completed in 2018, animal advocates pushed hard for reform and overcame objections from many key farm-state lawmakers, securing provisions to ban the sale of dog and cat meat in the United States and to forbid cockfighting and associated activities in five U.S. territories.

With five years having passed, Congress is due to pass this new Farm bill and, because of hard work and an outpouring of grassroots concerns, more than a half-dozen animal welfare policies could find their way into the final Farm bill. Three measures, if enacted, would close out what many people view as horrid practices that have endured for decades in the United States:

  1. Animal Fighting: The FIGHT Act would ban shipping roosters by U.S. mail for fighting, would allow private citizens to sue dogfighters and cockfighters when federal law enforcement fails to act on known information about ongoing criminal fighting ventures and outlaw online gambling on dogfighting and cockfighting.
  2. Horse Slaughter: The SAFE Act would halt live exports of horses and other equines to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, shutting down the slaughter of American horses once and for all
  3. Greyhound racing – The Greyhound Protection Act would end gambling on live racing in the United States and ban foreign tracks from simulcasting their races here at home.

Other measures that stand a chance of inclusion are the Puppy Protection Act to impose more humane treatment standards for large-scale commercial dog breeding operations and a modified Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to make horse soring a felony.

Threats to animal welfare loom, too. The biggest one is the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, which targets the nation’s most important state-based animal welfare laws – Prop 12 in California and Question 3 in Massachusetts.

Wayne Pacelle, who was recently listed as No. 1 among 10 Animal Rights Activists You Should Know and Follow! – One Green Planet points out that opposition to these state measures (and Support for EATs) comes largely from Chinese-owned factory farms operating here in the United States.

“Congress should not be in the business of overturning state elections to drive more vertical integration within a U.S. pork industry already heavily infiltrated by foreign-owned factory-farming multinationals.”

A Cultural Shift Precedes a Re-Set of the Law

In recent years, the Ringling Brothers ended their use of elephants in circus acts, and our country is seeing the collapse of the mink industry, and the world is close to ending commercial whaling. Major fashion houses and retailers no longer sell fur.

The Center for a Humane Economy (CHE), a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, engineered the passage of the FDA Modernization Act in 2022 to end an 84-year-old mandate for extensive animal tests for all new drug development protocols. The federal government, at CHE’s urging, banned the trade in big cats as pets and the breeding of big cats for that purpose, along with banning the trade in shark fins for soup.

But major problems for animals remain and that’s why it’s an urgent moment to include overdue reforms on the Farm bill, advocates say.

Cockfighting is a Crime-Ridden Enterprise

Fighting roosters are bred to be handled by humans and are known to be very affectionate. Photo Credit: Jewel Johnson, who has rescued seized fighting roosters at her sanctuary, Danzig’s Roost in Colorado.

In cockfights, humans strap razor-sharp blades on the legs of a rooster to enable deadly slashing and puncturing of combatants. It’s criminal and intimately tied to all kinds of corruption today, including deadly fentanyl and other illegal drugs, illegal weapons, and fatal shootings across the country that are all part of news reports of animal fighting busts.

The United States may have a population of more than 20 million fighting birds, he says, with the cockfighters spinning a completely fraudulent yarn that their birds are only for “show” and “exhibition.”

Dr. Jim, Keen, D.V.M., Ph.D., and director of veterinary sciences for the Center for a Humane Economy, has documented in a comprehensive report that breeding and transporting fighting birds is a major factor in the spread of global zoonotic diseases, adding even more to the case for action to eliminate this barbaric enterprise.

Keen, who lives on his family’s 140-year-old ranch in South Dakota says that cockfighters are hiding in plain sight. “Travel around rural reaches of the United States and you’ll see ‘farms’ with dozens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of brilliantly colored Sweaters, Kelsos, and other breeds tethered to A-frame huts or barrels.”

No Dignity for Horses

American “kill” horses packed into trailers headed for slaughter in Mexico to be turned into meat for foreign diners. The Farm Bill could halt these exports where horses suffer severe injuries and linger for months without veterinary care before being slaughtered. Credit: Horse Slaughter in North America Report.

The horse slaughter pipeline refers to the lengthy journey about 20,000 American equines suffer every year, because they are routinely sold to kill buyers at auctions from California to Iowa to Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Sonja Meadows, founder, and president of Animals’ Angels has seen the horrors firsthand from her investigations.

Meadows joined with Animal Wellness Action on an extensive field investigation called “Horse Slaughter in North America” which documented that equines endure torment for weeks and months when they are funneled into the slaughter pipeline, packed in trucks without food or water, standing in frigid temperatures without shelter in Canada, and butchered by stomach-churning means.

“For the past 15 years, Animals’ Angels has been investigating the horse slaughter industry, and thus we are very familiar with all the key exporters, importers, transport routes, and the demand of the foreign markets for the meat. It’s time to focus on the facts, join forces, and move this bill forward.”

A Race to Save Dogs

A greyhound named Ella used to race but was rescued and today lives as a beloved pet. Credit: Jerry Clack.

 The Farm Bill must contain the measure to end greyhound racing, says Christine A. Dorchak, president, and general counsel of GREY2K Worldwide, “because Greyhound racing is cruel from start to finish.”

Dogs used for racing are kept confined in stacked metal cages for up to 23 hours a day. When let out to race, they suffer serious injuries including broken legs and backs, crushed skulls, and paralysis. Greyhound breeders in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado have been documented killing rabbits in cruel “live lure” training exercises.

The good news is that this activity has declined significantly from 60 U.S. tracks to just two tracks in West Virginia, both owned by Delaware North, a New York-based gambling and food-service company.

An emerging problem is that foreign dog tracks are also working to capitalize on the end of greyhound racing in our country by appealing to American gamblers for the first time. Thousands of greyhounds are killed in foreign jurisdictions. The animal protection community is particularly concerned about the involvement of the Tijuana dog track Agua Caliente. There are no animal welfare standards at Caliente, and its owner, Jorge Hank Rhon, has previously been linked to drug cartels by U.S. authorities.

“As dog racing fades in the United States, it is moving across the border and the criminality of greyhound racing is particularly attractive to cartel-affiliated groups trying to capitalize on it,” Dorchak says, adding that the solution is to include the Protection Act in the Farm Bill.

Democracy Unraveling by Foreign Intrusions Over Farm Animal Welfare

Pigs are social and highly sentient animals. The EATS Act would unravel state laws that grant pigs raised for our food minimum room to move. Credit: National Rural Knowledge Exchange.

The EATS Act threatens decades of animal welfare work at the state level, and it is the most serious threat of turning the Farm Bill into a dagger for the animal welfare cause, advocates say. Specifically, the National Pork Producers Council is working to undermine U.S. elections and to hand over more authority over American agriculture to the government of China.

In 2013, the Bank of China provided a $5 billion loan to The Shuanghui Group, better known as the WH Group, to buy U.S.-based Smithfield Foods. The effort by America’s biggest global rival to acquire one of America’s biggest protein producers was met with some grumbles and discomfort in political and economic circles at home, but no protest movement developed to trigger a serious review from regulators or lawmakers to derail the acquisition.

Now, a decade into the deal, the China-controlled Smithfield Foods controls 26 percent of U.S. pork production — the most glaring example of foreign influence over U.S. agriculture, advocates say, with Smithfield holding one in six pigs and nearly 150,000 acres of U.S. farmland.

And now comes the NPPC, the front group for Smithfield and the Brazil-owned JBS (which controls 14% of U.S. pork production), seeking to unwind U.S. laws – Prop 12 in California and Question 3 in Massachusetts – that restrict some pork trade that comes from sows in confinement crates so unforgiving that the animals are immobilized for years on end.

Americans can get a glimpse of China’s vision for pig farming by seeing the farms it’s built in that Asian nation — a nation with a domestic consumption of 700 million pigs a year. The Chinese Communist Party is on a building boom, and the new farming model is the high-rise factory farm.

A Moment of Clarity Begs the Question

If there was ever a moment of clarity about the direction of American agriculture, this is it, Pacelle says, asking this rhetorical question:

“Do Americans want the EATS Act and delivery of foreign control of U.S. agriculture and no standards of humane treatment at all? Or do Americans want the homegrown Prop 12 and Question 3, which seek to remind American consumers that sentient animals remain at the center of the enterprise of animal agriculture?

Tiny Rescue Animal Collection
Tiny Rescue Animal Collection

Not Your Sweatshirt By Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

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