As bird flu losses topped 35 million fowl, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday that the USDA has paid about $146 million in indemnities to poultry owners, with an additional $263 million available. “That’s about half of where we were in 2014-2015 with the last outbreak,” he said.
On Wednesday, two days after state legislators rewrote a voter-approved animal welfare law, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill into law, averting a possible shortage of eggs and pork. The new law revamps housing standards for egg-laying hens and delays until Aug. 15 a prohibition on the sale of pork products from farms that do not give pigs enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs or turn around freely.
The trade in wild animals is coming under increasing pressure to shut down, ever since the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was linked to a "wet market" in Wuhan, where throngs of customers shop for live animals held in cramped quarters, according to FERN's latest story, by Brian Barth. (No paywall)
In January, Iowa became the latest state to have its ag-gag law overturned by the courts, a victory for free speech and animal-rights advocates. But the victory was short-lived. This month the state’s legislators revived ag-gag with a new law that targets undercover investigations into livestock farms — and it comes as ag-gag supporters across the country are looking to craft laws that will survive constitutional challenges.(No paywall)
The U.S. District Court in Wyoming ruled Monday that the state’s ag-gag laws are unconstitutional. The ruling comes after several years of litigation between the state and plaintiffs who argued the laws were written solely to deter monitoring of the effects of agriculture on the state’s water, land, and air.
The Humane Society of the United States “finds itself ensnared in a widening controversy over sexual harassment in the upper levels of the nonprofit’s management,” said Politico Magazine. The publication describes complaints by six women of improper behavior by Paul Shapiro, an HSUS vice president.
Wayne Pacelle, the scourge of the U.S. meat industry in his role as chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, is the subject of three complaints of sexual harassment, said the Washington Post.
In their rush to protect farmers from adverse publicity, Idaho legislators enacted an unconstitutional, “staggeringly overbroad” muzzle of free speech and investigative reporting, ruled U.S. appeals court judges in Seattle.
McDonald’s will now require chicken suppliers, including Tyson and Cargill, to treat animals more humanely at slaughter. “Birds sold to the chain ... no longer will be shocked, shackled by the feet to conveyors and have their throats slit ...,” says The Los Angeles Times. “Such methods can leave chickens fully conscious when they are slaughtered.”
A coalition of consumer, free speech and animal rights groups filed suit in federal court in Des Moines to challenge the constitutionality of Iowa's "ag gag" law, enacted in 2012. Iowa is the No. 1 state for hog and egg production and the largest target yet by campaigners against state laws that criminalize undercover employment on farms and at packing plants.
Animal welfare activists, led by the Humane Society of the United States, have filed papers in California to introduce an initiative that would make all eggs cage-free in the state by 2022.
Siding with animal-rights activists, U.S. district judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah's so-called "ag gag" law is an unconstitutional violation of the right of free speech, said the Salt Lake Tribune. Legislators in a variety of states have pursued the laws, which prohibit surreptitious recording of farming practices, following graphic accounts of mistreatment of livestock.
Years in development, the animal welfare rule for organic farming, issued in the final days of the Obama administration, will take effect at least 60 days later — May 19 — than planned due to the Trump administration freeze on new regulations, said USDA. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) urged the government "to avoid further delays and allow this new effective date to stand."
After USDA removed investigation files from its website on some 9,000 animal facilities, including circuses, dog breeding operations and scientific labs, animal rights activists are crying foul, says the Humane Society of the United States. The society notified USDA that it would re-open a similar public access lawsuit it filed and won in 2005 if the agency doesn't immediately bring the documents back online.
The USDA wrapped up months of work on animal welfare rules for organic producers today by releasing the regulation two days before the end of the Obama administration. The regulation requires that producers provide outdoor access for poultry while codifying biosecurity practices against disease spread by wild birds.
President-elect Donald Trump is considering Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for secretary of agriculture, despite his record — or maybe because of it — of opposing animal rights activists, says Politico. In Idaho, Otter signed the country’s toughest “ag gag” law, which carries up to a year in jail and a maximum fine $5,000 if a person is caught using a fake ID to access a farm and then film the activities there.
Oklahomans will decide on Nov. 8 whether to become the third state with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to farm and ranch, a campaign whose chief target is animal-rights groups. Proponents have a 3-to-1 advantage in fundraising, says StateImpact Oklahoma, adding, "The issue has attracted more direct donations than any other ballot question, suggesting right-to-farm is high-stakes Oklahoma politics."
New technology may save billions of male chicks from an inhumane death and help hatcheries cut down on waste. “All male chicks born at egg farm hatcheries are slaughtered the day they hatch. This is typically done by shredding them alive, in what amounts to a blender,” says the Washington Post. Males are considered “useless” because they can’t mature to lay eggs and they aren’t the same breed that is raised for meat. But with huge profits at stake, egg companies are vying to be the first to change that system.
Chinese officials in Shangdong Province have ratified the country’s first government-backed recommendations for how to slaughter chickens, says the New York Times. The guidelines, which were are not mandatory, are both an attempt to quell activists’ concerns and corner the export poultry market, which increasingly calls for more humane animal production.