In a surprising amicus brief, the Justice Department last week recommended that the Supreme Court not hear Missouri’s challenge to California’s animal-welfare laws, which mandate larger cages for some farm animals. The stance could bode well for animal-welfare advocates fighting for similar legislation in other states.
Federal judges on the east and west coasts have rebuffed the USDA and are allowing lawsuits to proceed against the Trump administration's dismissal of animal welfare standards for organic farms, a regulation that was in the works for years. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says that by delaying and then withdrawing the livestock rule, the government "engaged in a pattern of misconduct that can only be corrected by a federal court."
A decade ago, California voters rattled the U.S. farm sector and set off years of lawsuits by approving a referendum to give egg-laying chickens, sows and veal calves the room to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs. On Nov. 6, the electorate could do it again, this time by specifying how many square feet each animal would get and by banning the sale of meat and eggs from farms that do not comply with the rules.
On one of the last days before USDA can carry out its plan to kill the organic livestock rule, the organic food movement put a full-page ad in the Washington Post, asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to drop the idea. The USDA announced in mid-December that it lacked statutory authority to implement the rule, which was a decade in the making, and set a 30-day comment period before it would withdraw the regulation.
Chefs protested and producers promised to pursue a reversal following a ruling by a three-judge U.S. appellate court panel to allow enforcement of a 2004 California law banning the sale of foie gras. The law "has been idled for more than half of the time it has been on the books" and a state judge decided in 2015 that the state law wrongly interfered with federal food laws, said the Los Angeles Times.
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.”
Consumers want more humanely raised meat and food companies want to provide it. Now pig producers are promising more humane measures in the way they raise pigs. But just what those measures will be remains a question in an industry still dominated by the sow gestation crate, says the San Francisco Chronicle.
The long-running ban on horse slaughter in the United States, a rider on the annual USDA-FDA funding bill, would end on Sept. 30 under a vote by the House Appropriations Committee. Before clearing the bill for a floor vote, the committee refused, 27-25, to include the provision in the $145 billion funding bill for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.