Isn’t That Illegal?

One of the first questions people ask when they learn about the treatment of animals on factory farms is, “Isn’t that illegal?” The sad reality is…

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There are no federal laws regulating animal cruelty; that’s done at a state level. All states have laws against animal cruelty, but most states have Common Farming Exemptions. CFE’s state that if a practice is commonly done on factory farms, it’s automatically legal.

Cut off a puppy’s tail without anesthetic? Felony animal cruelty. Cut off a piglet’s tail without anesthetic? Legal on a factory farm.

The only federal animal welfare law that applies to farm animals is the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. This states that animals should be unconscious prior to slaughter in order to ensure a quick and relatively painless death.

But chickens and turkeys are exempt from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Since chickens & turkeys make up 8.75 billion of the 9 billion animals killed in the U.S. every year, this law applies to less than 3% of all farm animals.

And it turns out the USDA isn’t enforcing this law even for the 3% of animals it applies to. A recent report found that even slaughterhouses with gross violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, such as a live pig being scalded to death, faced no consequences.

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What about the environment? If animal treatment on factory farms isn’t regulated, surely the pollution from factory farms must be?

In 2005, the EPA struck a deal with factory farms. If a few factory farms allowed the EPA to monitor air pollution levels, the entire industry would be immune from all past and future violations of the Clean Air Act.

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Factory farms also became immune from the Right-to-Know Act, which gives workers and communities the right to know what toxic chemicals they’re being exposed to.

So what kind of pollutants are workers and surrounding communities exposed to? Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide levels 10x higher than legal levels for the oil industry.

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It’s disturbing to realize that we can’t rely on the government to ensure that food is humane or just, but there is some good news.

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 We can take matters into our own hands by boycotting factory farming and switching to plant-based proteins. It’s never been easier or tastier to stop supporting the factory farming system.

To educate your friends and co-workers about this issue, e-mail info@ffacoalition.org to schedule a presentation for your business, organization, or class. To learn more about plant-based diets, visit www.chooseveg.com

Sources for Further Reading:
USDA Audit Report for Pig Slaughterhouses - http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/24601-0001-41.pdf
Lack of Farm Animal Welfare Laws - http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others/?_r=0
Clean Air Act - http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/eip-analyzes-epa-cafo-data/
Number of Animals Killed Per Year - http://www.humanesociety.org/news/resources/research/stats_slaughter_totals.html
Legal Analysis of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act - http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ddushmsa.htm