Ask Joyce: Why Isn’t the Mistreatment of Farmed Animals Outlawed?

Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF Founder and General Counsel on November 12, 2008

ALDF’s "Ask Joyce" column appears in each issue of The Animals’ Advocate, ALDF’s quarterly publication.

Dear Joyce,
I recently saw a video in which cows were being mistreated. Why isn’t that sort of thing outlawed?

Dear Reader,
Farmed animals–the ten billion cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, geese and other species raised each year in the U.S. for food–have far too little legal protection. There are federal and state laws intended to provide minimum protections during transport and slaughter, but those don’t apply to the care and treatment of animals for the lion’s share of their lives on the “farm.” The majority of state anti-cruelty laws specifically exempt farmed animals from their protections. The massive factories that house these animals treat them as if they were machines and the result is a mountain of misery. Our job (yours and mine) is to speak up for these animals: we need laws that recognize that these animals are sentient and have basic physical and emotional needs. The good news is that things are slow starting to change:

  • The voters of Florida (2002), Arizona (2006) and Oregon (2007) have passed statewide bans on the intensive confinement of pigs. Just this month, the voters of California passed Prop 2, banning the intensive confinement of pigs, calves and chickens.
  • In 2007, Smithfield Foods, Inc., the largest pork producer in the U.S., announced it would eliminate gestation stalls (intensive confinement) in all of its facilities (Smithfield acknowledged that it was the company’s desire to be sensitive to consumers’ concerns that was in part responsible for its decision). Shortly afterwards, Maple Leaf Foods, the largest pork producer in Canada, agreed that all its operations would do also eliminate gestation stalls.
  • McDonald’s and Burger King have announced that they will be steadily increasing their demand that their suppliers provide pork from pigs in group housing.
  • ALDF’s lawsuit against Corcpork, a pig breeding facility in California was settled when Corcpork closed its facility forever. 

When enough people care, we can change the laws and provide farmed animals the protections they need. Please speak to your state legislators about the suffering of farmed animals. And, don’t forget that each of us has the power to make personal choices. My personal choice is that I don’t eat or wear animals. I hope people reading this article will consider that choice, as well.

Best regards,
Joyce