Tuesday, November 29, 2016

As more states pass animal welfare laws, ag groups step up fight against further regulations

A hog feeding operation near Tribune, Kan. (AP photo)
Massachusetts voters earlier this month passed an animal-welfare law, making it the 12th state "to ban the use of some livestock- and poultry-raising cages or crates, such as gestation crates for sows, veal crates for calves or battery cages for chickens," Jen Fifield reports for Stateline. All 12 states "have relatively small agriculture industries for animals and animal products and fewer large-scale farming operations."

But producers in states with large-scale farming, backed by state Farm Bureaus, have seen the writing on the wall and have begun proposing changes "that would make it harder for states to further regulate the way they do business," Fifield writes. "North Dakota and Missouri adopted amendments in the last few years that enshrined into their constitutions the right of farmers and ranchers to use current practices and technology. Legislatures in many states, including Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska and West Virginia, considered proposed amendments this year. And Oklahoma voters this month rejected a similar amendment sent to them by the Legislature."

Daisy Freund, director of farm animal welfare for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said "the amendments would not only prevent states from passing new animal treatment laws, but would make it harder for anyone to win a lawsuit against an agriculture business, even if the operation was affecting nearby quality of life, or air or water quality," Fifield writes.

In recent years the agricultural industry has pushed for "ag-gag" laws to make it illegal to take photos or videos of private farm property without the owner’s permission or to lie about where they worked when they applying for a job on a farm, Fifield writes. "About 26 states considered ag-gag laws from 2010 to 2015, but only nine—Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming—passed them. Idaho’s ag-gag law was overturned last year by a U.S. district judge who said it suppressed freedom of speech and violated the Equal Protection Clause. Lawsuits are pending in North Carolina, Wyoming and Utah." 

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