After learning about the horrors of the animal agriculture industry, many people wonder, “Isn’t it against the law to treat animals this way?” The unfortunate reality is that there are very few laws protecting farmed animals. Exemptions leave animals who are raised for food poorly protected by most state laws, and completely excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act.
While some states offer minimal protection of farmed animals through anti-cruelty laws, most have exemptions for common farming practices. Shockingly, regardless of how abusive a practice is, if it is a common occurrence on many farms, it is permissible according to the law. Common practices include extremely cruel farming methods, such as cutting and ripping off tails, testicles, beaks and horns with no anesthetic, throwing live male chicks into a grinding machine, and tearing baby calves away from their mothers mere hours after birth.
Because farmed animals are specifically excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act, they are lawfully subjected to painful mutilations and intensive confinement for the entirety of their lives. While the federal Humane Slaughter Act—which excludes all birds— is intended to protect some animals from the most painful methods of slaughter, numerous investigations have shown flagrant violations of this law, revealing that it is not uncommon for it to be ignored by slaughterhouse workers and inspectors alike. Documented violations include animals being skinned, boiled, and dismembered, all while fully conscious.
When asked about the procedure for ensuring humane slaughter, a US slaughterhouse worker responded, “There isn’t one… Inspectors are required to enforce humane regulations on paper only.” In addition, the extremely fast pace at which animals are slaughtered leads to inevitable cruelty.
Of this unavoidable abuse, one slaughterhouse worker stated, “Nobody knows who’s responsible for correcting animal abuse at the plant. The USDA does zilch… You have hogs going through at eleven hundred an hour, the abuse is totally out of control."
Furthermore, there are laws that enable this abuse to continue. All 50 states have "Right to Farm" laws, which grant legal immunity to mega factory farms, and have the power to block new laws designed to protect farmed animals and the environment. Right to Farm laws were originally created to safeguard small family farms from local lawsuits, such as complaints about smell, noise and pollution from neighboring households. But today, these laws are being used by Big Ag to refuse making legally required improvements to animal farming practices.
In addition to Right to Farm laws, there are also "Ag-gag" laws which seek to block or “gag” animal protection advocates. Ag-gag laws have been implemented in a number of states across the US. The precise details of the legislation vary from state to state, but the effect is always the same: to deter activists and journalists from documenting and making public the treatment of animals on factory farms and to obscure the truth about where our food comes from. Without the evidence that undercover video provides, the worst abuses committed by the animal agriculture industry would go unseen and unpunished.
It is clear that exemptions and violations inhibit farmed animals from being effectively protected by state and federal laws. The best way to protect both the environment and farmed animals from cruelty is to leave them off our plates. Click here to learn how you can switch to a delicious and compassionate plant-based diet.
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