Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments are excluded from the 2013 Farm Bill

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  May/June 2013:

WASHINGTON D.C.––The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013,  written to implement a 2011 agreement between the Humane Society of the U.S. and United Egg Producers about laying hen cage sizes,  was not included in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives version of the 2013 Farm Bill. Failing to advance in the 112th Congress,  the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments were reintroduced in the 113th Congress as S. 820 and H.R. 1731. The Senate Agriculture Committee was in early May believed to be leaning toward including S. 820 in the Farm Bill, but omitted it from markup on May 14. “This is great news for livestock and poultry producers,”  exulted the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association newsletter Beltway Beef.  The cattle,  pig,  and meat poultry industries oppose the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments as a possible precedent for federal regulation of animal welfare in other branches of agribusiness.

PETA opposes the bill

Within the humane community,  the HSUS/UEP-backed amendments concerning laying hen cage size are also endorsed by Farm Sanctuary,  but are opposed by the Humane Farming Association,  United Poultry Concerns,  and Friends of Animals––and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  Quiet about the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments during the 112th Congress,   PETA on May 7,  2013 e-mailed an action alert to donors warning that the amendments “could keep hens used by the egg industry confined to cages forever.” “We are pragmatists and support reduced suffering,”  PETA said,  “but even representatives from the egg industry agree that this bill is a concession on the part of humane groups.” During the week of the Farm Bill markups the Humane Farming Association placed “Stop the Rotten Egg Bill” ads in the Washington Times,  the Washington Post,  and USA Today. United Poultry Concerns introduced a “Screaming Hen Bill” web page offering links to commentaries by––among others––veterinarian Nedim Buyukmihci and Will Anderson,  author of This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology. United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis alleged that in Europe,  the replacement of traditional battery cages with colony cages similar to those endorsed by the Humane Society of the U.S. and United Egg Producers has “already been disastrous for millions of hens and sickening to those who have visited ‘enriched’ cage facilities.” But it was after HSUS president Wayne Pacelle visited European egg production facilities using colony caging that he withdrew opposition to it and reached the agreement with United Egg Producers that the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 seek to codify.

“States’ rights” argument

Debate over the proposed amendments took another twist late on the night of May 15,  2013 when the House Agriculture Committee approved by voice vote a Farm Bill amendment introduced by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) which “would prevent states from passing their own laws regarding the production of ‘agricultural products’—a term so broad that it could include farm animals and dogs in puppy mills,”  summarized American SPCA spokesperson Bret Hopman.   “As a result,  improved agriculture standards at the state level could be negated by much weaker federal legislation.” Warned Pacelle,  “King’s amendment could overturn every voter-approved animal welfare ballot measure relating to agriculture,  including banning extreme confinement crates for pigs,  veal calves and laying hens,  and forbidding the sale of horses for slaughter for human consumption in California,  banning veal and pig gestation crates in Arizona,  and outlawing pig gestation crates in Florida.  The amendment could also nullify six other state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in six states, comprehensive animal welfare standards adopted by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board,  and a raft of anti-downer laws,”  Pacelle said. “The Senate version of the Farm Bill does not contain any language similar to the King amendment,”  Pacelle noted. “HSUS and other groups will work to strip the King amendment from the House Farm Bill on the floor.” Charged Humane Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian,  “King’s proposal violates the Tenth Amendment’s guarantee that the states’ sovereign rights cannot be abridged by Congress,  and tries to eliminate states’ police powers within their borders.”  Listing numerous state laws having little to do with animal welfare that the King amendment might overturn,  Markarian called it “most directly an attack on the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments.  Historically,” Markarian said, “when Congress preempts state laws it is in order to replace them with a uniform national standard,  and that is the idea behind the egg bill,”  whereas the King amendments would simply erase state standards. Countered Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller,  “The King amendment would not even exist if not for HSUS pushing the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments,  with all the accompany rhetoric about saving the industry from ‘a patchwork of state laws.’   Now it’s coming back to bite,  not only them,  but all of us.”

Animal fighting in Farm Bill

Pacelle and Markarian were pleased that both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill included an amendment by Representative Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) to extend the existing federal law against animal fighting by criminalizing either knowingly attending an animal fight or taking a child to attend an animal fight.  “With both versions of the Farm Bill including the same core provisions on animal fighting,  it should be included in any final bill approved by the Congress,”  said Markarian. —Merritt Clifton

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