USDA delays, and may rewrite the rules of care for organic livestock

For the third time this year, the Agriculture Department is holding up a regulation that would give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than is common at conventional operations, and this time, it says, it may rewrite the rule, which already is a decade in the making. "We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector," said the Organic Trade Association, which sued USDA two months ago for unlawful delay of the animal welfare regulation.

McDonald’s wants more humane treatment of chickens

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.”

The next wave in animal welfare: Fish

Mercy for Animals, a U.S.-based animal welfare group, is launching a campaign to bring awareness to the plight of fish in industrial aquaculture. The groups key concerns include “too many fish routinely crammed into pens and tanks, fish being raised in dirty water, high disease and mortality rates,” writes Clare Leschin-Hoar in FERN’s latest story with NPR’s The Salt.

Iowa ‘ag gag’ law is challenged as unconstitutional

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.

Organic food industry sues USDA over slowdown of livestock welfare rules

In a challenge to the Trump administration's drive to erase Obama-era regulations, the organic food industry accused USDA of unlawfully delaying animal welfare rules that give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than allowed at conventional operations. Livestock groups and their allies in Congress have alternated between ridiculing the organic livestock rule and trying to scrap it.

Drive to overturn ‘ag gag’ laws heads to the Midwest

After courtroom victories in Utah and Idaho, "expect challenges in the Midwest to so-called 'ag gag' laws that criminalize certain forms of data collection and recording on farms and ranches," reports Harvest Public Media. University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau says, "Laws in states like Iowa and Kansas are crying out for a challenge at this point," adding that animal rights groups are preparing challenges in at least two states.

Activists seek to make all hens in California cage-free

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. 

USDA mulls update of animal-welfare license rules; HSUS says data on mistreatment is hidden

The USDA is opening a 60-day comment period on potential updates to the license requirements for people who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes. At the same time, the Humane Society of the United States says the USDA’s new “search tool” for accessing animal-abuse records “is still virtually unusable.”

Twenty-nine states make it illegal for counties and cities to pass seed laws [UPDATE]

With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state. (No paywall)