Despite mounting evidence of the myriad negative effects of factory farming, it remains the foundation of animal agribusiness. The indecent nature of the enterprise is manifested in numerous abusive practices and increasingly, activists are looking to the courts and legislatures to demand change. Is government intervention necessary to enact corporate responsibility?
A unanimous victory in the New Jersey State Supreme Court suggests that agribusiness need to account for considerations beyond the bottom line. The non-profit Farm Sanctuary led a coalition of humane organizations, farmers, veterinarians, environmental and consumer groups that recently won a precedent setting victory against factory farms. Factory farms, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, are “characterized by confinement of the animals at high stocking density, often in barren and unnatural conditions.” While federal and state legislation outlaw animal cruelty, in most cases these laws do not protect animals slaughtered for food. Are industry giants manipulating the spirit of the law?
The coalition successfully challenged the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s definition of humane animal husbandry practices before the New Jersey State Supreme Court. New Jersey, like many states, has an exemption to its animal cruelty law for routine animal husbandry practices – the suit argued such a broad definition of routine practices abets inhumane treatment.
According to Farm Sanctuary, “The Court further held that tail docking could not be considered humane, and the manner in which mutilations without anesthesia including castration, de-beaking and de-toeing could not be considered humane without some specific requirements to prevent pain and suffering.” To read the details of the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, visit the Environment News Service.
In this November’s general election, California residents will vote on the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, Proposition Two. If passed it will prohibit factory farms from “raising chickens, calves or hogs in small pens or cages,” as noted by Nicholas Kristoff in A Farm Boy Reflects. Legal battles around factory farms continue, with a lawsuit filed only days ago by Californians for Humane Farms against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Egg Board (AEB). The suit alleges that the USDA and the AEB have spent $3 million dollars in illegal federal funds to fight the campaign for Proposition Two.
Beyond inhumane treatment of animals, there are vast consequences of factory farming on human health, the environment, and the viability of family farms. Anna Lapp√©, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, replied to Kristoff¬¥s piece and asserted, “It’s time that our tax dollars no longer finance the inhumane conditions – for workers and animals and the climate – of factory farms.” Common practices include frequent use of antibiotics to pollution from animal waste, making the campaign against factory farms one of only four national priority campaigns run by the Sierra Club. The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) also emphasizes the fight against factory farms in their Farm and Food Policy.
Encouragingly, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production in the U.S., released a report earlier this year calling for substantial change in agribusiness. The report concludes that, “In this age of increased awareness of the need for economically and environmentally sustainable endeavors, animal agriculture cannot be left behind.”
For a thorough explanation on agribusiness giants and subsidiaries, visit an archived post at the Farm Aid site. To read about corporations voluntarily implementing more humane practices, see the previous 3P post on Smithfield foods.
Are you active in the fight against factory farms? If so, what’s your motivation?
Animal cruelty, health concerns, agribusiness, environmental justice?