States are Empowering Industry Boards to Decide Farm Animal Care

veal calf

Update June 4, 2010: The Vermont House and Senate agreed to the conference committee report, and Gov. signed S.B. 295 into law.

The new law creates a livestock care standards board, but as a result of the efforts by animal welfare advocates, contains some protections against farm animal cruelty. For more on this law as it made its way through the legislation, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.    

Update May 8: The Vermont House of Representatives did not concur in the Senate proposal for H.B. 767 as described in Animal Law Coalition’s report below.

H.B. 767 was attached to S.B. 295 and sent to a conference committee. On Sat., May 8, animal welfare advocates learned the committee may strip the bill of the stronger penalties and protections for farm animals approved by the Senate. They called, faxed and emailed committee members in an effort to save these landmark provisions. And they largely prevailed. The conference committee report is found here (scroll to p. 2971 and look for S. 295)

The Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council would still be created. The members, though, under the conference committee version would include someone with experience investigating charges of cruelty to "livestock" but who is not affiliated with a humane society or any other entity represented on the Council.

There is no longer a sunset provision that would have terminated the  Council effective Jan. 1, 2013. 

The Council would evaluate the current laws and actually recommend and draft legislation regarding the care and handling of livestock including horses. Factors to consider would include the overall health and welfare of these animals, agricultural best management practices, morbidity and mortality, food safety, biosecurity and disease, protection of local and affordable food suplies, and humane transport and slaughter.

The bill would allow video cameras to be ordered to be placed in slaughterhouses if there are false statements in licensing applications or there has been a violation of the laws. Other conditions could be imposed on continued licensing in such situations.

Applicants for a slaughter license or renewal of one must submit and adhere to a humane livestock handling protocol. Slaughter houses must submit to the state any documentation related to USDA violations. Failure to comply with these provisions constitutes a violation and could mean suspension or revocation of the slaughter house operator’s license.

Also, a license could be suspended or revoked for conviction of a felony, misdemanor animal cruelty or more than one violation of regulations relating to slaughterhouses. 

The bill specifies appropriation of $50,000 for training employees in the humane handling of animals in slaughter houses.

Violations would be a misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000 for a first offense, $5,000 for a second offense and $10,000 for third and subsequent offenses. Offenders could be jailed for up to 2 years. The fines are lower than in the Senate version. The Secretary could seek an injunction to stop illegal slaughter house operations and also refer individuals for prosecution.

Compare the conference committee’s report and recommended provisions above to that approved by the Senate which is discussed in Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below. Pretty close. This bill, S. 295, also does requires rescues to be registered and licensed by the state and all animals brought into the state must have health certificates. 

Update April 29: Yesterday the Vermont Senate by a vote of 24-2 passed, H.B. 767, which would create a Livestock Advisory Council much like those established in other states this past year.

In Vermont’s bill, though, there are provisions added by the Senate that would impose stiff penalties, allow injunctions and even require revocation of  licenses for facilities that violate the state’s law requiring humane slaughter of livestock. 6 V.S.A. §3132 

A first offense would mean a fine up to $5,000; a second violation of the humane slaughter requirements would mean a fine of up to $10,000, and a third violation would result in a fine up to $25,000. The secretary of agriculture would have the authority to seek injunctions to stop violations. Significantly, the secretary would be required to revoke permanently the license of any person who violates the humane slaughter requirements two times. 

Also, up to $50,000 would be appropriated for training slaughter house employees in the humane treatment of animals.

After one violation, offenders would be required to install streaming video in all areas where animals are handled. The video would be required to be submitted to the secretary of agriculture, meaning the public could request access to it. 

The Senate also voted to put a sunset provision in the bill that would terminate the Livestock Advisory Council on Jan. 15, 2013. 

The Livestock Advisory Council would "evaluate" current laws, recommend policies and offer educational outreach regarding the care and well being of farm animals. 

The council would have only one representative of humane organizations and one small farmer. Otherwise, the council would consist of the secretary of agriculture and food and markets and the state veterinarian and representatives of agri-business.

This council’s "outreach" is likely to be nothing more than an advertisement for factory farm practices; agri-business would be given a seat at the table in determining agricultural policies for the state while humane advocates and citizens will be left out.

H.B. 767 now returns to the House of Representatives today for approval of the amendments. 

State legislatures have been passing bills that leave voters with little say in farm animal care as well as food safety and food choices.

These laws and bills are clearly calculated to fend off efforts to stop factory farming abuses such as the new Michigan law enacted in October, 2009 that will eliminate the worst of the factory farming practices, battery cages for egg laying hens, gestation crates for pregnant sows and tie stalls for veal calves. Also, in 2009 Maine joined Colorado and Arizona in banning these cruel practices for pregnant sows and veal calves.  California with its successful Prop 2 will ban cruel confinement for egg laying hens as well. Oregon and Florida ban cruel confinement of pregnant sows. A bill similar to California’s law, Prop 2, remains pending in New York’s Assembly as well as Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

Pending bills that restrict local control over farm animal care 

This past week the governor of Alabama, Robert Riley, signed into law H.B. 561, which prohibits counties and cities from adopting laws relating to livestock and animal husbandry on private property.

The regulation of livestock and animal husbandry is now in the sole jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Industries and the State Board of Agriculture and Industries. The State Veterinarian will be responsible for the administration and enforcement of any laws and rules relating to control of diseases in livestock.

The bill also further provides for the penalties for cruelty to animals. The fines would be no more than $3,000 but there would be minimum fines of at least $500 for the second offense and $1000 for the third and subsequent offense. Jail time is limited to 6 months.

A similar bill, S.B. 36, has passed in Louisiana. S.B. 36 requires the Louisiana Board of Animal Health to establish standards for the care and well-being of farm animals and birds used for food. The board is required to consider the (1) health and husbandry of the livestock and poultry; (2) generally accepted farm management practices; (3) generally accepted veterinary standards and practices; and (4) the economic impact the standards may have on livestock and poultry farmers, the affected livestock and poultry sector, and consumers.

The new law prohibits parishes and cities from passing laws related to farm animal welfare and would require them to petition the Board for approval of existing laws. Under this law parishes and cities as well as "private groups" can petition the Board for approval of standards they propose. 

In Oklahoma, H.B. 2345 (attached below) has passed both the state House of Representatives and Senate. Under this bill a newly created Oklahoma Livestock Care Standards Board will have "authority to recommend standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in this state, subject to the authority of the State Board of Agriculture to administer and enforce.  In establishing those standards, the Board shall consider factors that include, but are not limited to, agricultural best management practices for care and well-being, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity and mortality data, food safety practices, and the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers."

According to the bill, in "carrying out its purpose, the Board shall endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage Oklahoma grown and raised food, and protect Oklahoma farms and families."

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will have the authority to administer and enforce the standards and "the power and duty to promulgate rules implementing and effectuating …the standards established by the Oklahoma Livestock Care Standards Board".

As with the other similarly constituted Boards, the Oklahoma LCSB will include the director of the Dept. of Agriculture and representatives from agri-business and veterinary organizations. A county humane society representative, representatives of "consumers" and two legislators will also be included. 

2009 Oklahoma laws, H.B. 2151 and S.B. 452, already prevent local governments from passing laws concerning the care and handling of farm animals.

Similar laws passed in Kentucky, Chapter 257 (attached below for downloading), but failed in Missouri.

Agri-business taking control of farm animal treatment away from citizens

factory farmThe Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma legislation are only the latest in a number of such state bills that have passed usually on a fast track in the past year.

The most notorious is Ohio’s Issue 2 which actually amended the state constitution to allow to allow a specially created Livestock Care Standards Board made up largely of agri-business and other food industry interests to determine the standards for care and treatment of farm animals including equines. The Board has broad  power also to determine food safety, food supplies and even food choices. Issue 2 was a ballot initiative approved by voters in November, 2009. The implementing law was just passed by the Ohio state legislature. In implementing Issue 2 lawmakers decided not to limit the LCSB’s discretion by adopting minimum humane standards for farm animal care. The legislature also decided not to allow exemptions from the LCSB’s jurisdiction for horses, dogs and cats kept for breeding and family pets. The LCSB may eventually assume jurisdiction over all of these animals. 

Another ballot initiative may amend the Ohio constitution once again to require the LCSB to end the worst factory farming abuses.

During the 2010 legislative session West Virginia enacted H.B. 4201 which  requires that "agricultural best management practices for the care and well-being of livestock and poultry" will be decided by the Livestock Care Standards Board with the approval of the Legislature.  The Board will also decide issues like Ohio’s LCSB that are related to "biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity and mortality data, food safety practices, and the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers."

West Virginia’s LCSB will be made up of the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and the Director of the Animal Health Division, along with members appointed by the governor and approved by the state senate: a West Virginia veterinarian with a large animal practice; dean of the agriculture department of a West Virginia college or university; a county humane society representative, someone "knowledgeable about food safety" in West Virginia; two representatives of West Virginia consumers; two members representing statewide organizations that represent farmers, one of whom must be a member of the largest organization in the state representing farmers; and three members representing family farms engaged in animal production, at least two of which are family farmers.

"Family farmer" is not defined.  

pigsA new 2010 Indiana law, H.B. 1099 states the Board of Animal Health "may adopt rules to establish standards governing the care of livestock and poultry. The board shall consider the following when adopting the standards:
(1) The health and husbandry of the livestock and poultry.
(2) Generally accepted farm management practices.
(3) Generally accepted veterinary standards and practices.
(4) The economic impact the standards may have on:
  (A) livestock and poultry farmers;
  (B) the affected livestock and poultry sector; and
  (C) consumers

Also this year, 2010, Utah enacted H.B. 155 which established an  Agricultural Advisory Board to advise "regarding… the planning, implementation, and administration of the [agriculture] department’s programs… and the establishment of standards governing the care of livestock and poultry, as part  of which the Agricultural Advisory Board may consider: (i) food safety; (ii) local availability and affordability of food; and (iii) acceptable practices for livestock and farm management.

Utah’s Agricultural Advisory Board will be comprised of the state Farm Bureau Federation; Utah Farmers Union; Utah Cattlemen’s Association;  Utah Wool Growers’ Association; Utah Dairymen’s Association; Utah Pork Producer’s Association; egg and poultry producers; Utah Veterinary Medical Association; Livestock Auction Marketing Association; Utah Association of Conservation Districts; the Utah horse industry; the food processing industry; manufacturers of food supplements; and a consumer affairs group.

A South Carolina bill, S.B. 453, that limits challeges to CAFOs and prevents local regulation of the care and treatment of farm animals was vetoed last year by Gov. Mark Sanford, but the legislature voted to override the veto, and S.B. 453 is now law. H.B. 529 which was passed in Georgia in 2009 is similar. Under this law local governments are prevented from taking action to stop farm animal cruelty, pollution and other hazards and nuisances from the operation of CAFOs.