By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Americans are taking a stand against one of the gravest assaults on animal welfare, unfolding right now in the U.S. Congress, where a radical faction of the pork industry is pushing to include the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act (H.R. 4417/S. 2019) in the Farm Bill. We’re not going to let them succeed, and we’ve spent the summer fighting the misrepresentations of the corporate backers of the EATS Act, especially the factory farming interests that recently lost their legal challenge to Proposition 12 in the U.S. Supreme Court. The EATS Act is aimed at overturning Proposition 12 (the popular California ballot initiative setting in-state standards for the sale of certain egg, veal and pork products) and blocking states and local authorities from setting standards for the sale of agricultural products.
Proponents are pushing to hitch the EATS Act onto the Farm Bill, a large-scale legislative package that directs federal agricultural policy and programs every five years. As Farm Bill discussions play out, we’re fully mobilized around the priority of preventing this reckless power grab and defending the remarkable farm animal welfare protections we’ve helped to enact in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington, as well as hundreds of other laws across the country that the EATS Act puts at risk.
Today, a Senate sign-on letter led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Alex Padilla and Cory Booker that we pushed in opposition to the EATS Act and any related legislation garnered a total of 30 Senate signers, and a few weeks ago, a House sign-on letter led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Brian Fitzpatrick that we advocated had 172 signatures total. In other words, within weeks of the introduction of the EATS Act in June, we’ve successfully mobilized more than one-third of the bipartisan membership of both the House and Senate in opposition to this extreme proposal.
We’re mobilizing other constituencies as well to speak out against EATS. A letter we’re leading already has more than 100 other organizations onboard, representing a range of concerns including sustainable agriculture and family farmers, public health, food safety, the environment, labor and law enforcement. Hundreds of individual farms, veterinarians, and attorneys are also sending letters voicing opposition to inclusion of the EATS Act or anything like it in the Farm Bill. The list of diverse opponents of EATS Act is growing every day.
In addition, more than 102,000 people have responded to our action alerts and written to their federal officials urging them to take a stand against the EATS Act. We released a compelling TV ad that exposes what’s wrong with the EATS Act. All of this is part of a broad public outreach strategy to make it clear to Americans that this proposed legislation is not merely bad for animals but bad for our democracy and the rule of law.
The EATS Act seeks to usurp state and local lawmaking authority and wipe out duly enacted animal cruelty and public health measures across the country. Its underlying premise flies in the face of established principles of federalism on which our nation was founded, as it would deny U.S. citizens the power to enact change on the state and local level regarding goods sold within their states.
The EATS Act targets state laws concerning the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, baby veal calves and breeding pigs, while threatening other animal welfare laws, such as those dealing with cruel puppy mills and the slaughter of horses, dogs and cats for their meat, as well as wildlife trafficking. It also jeopardizes hundreds of state and local laws covering food safety, environmental protection, labor standards, promotion of local agriculture and many agricultural product laws.
American legislatures have been passing laws to protect animals for more than two centuries, and Americans have been demonstrating their concern for animals for a lot longer. In our legislatures, as in our individual capacities, we are entitled to pursue our goals of protecting animals—all animals—from cruelty, suffering and neglect.
The passage of compassionate legislation that benefits animals should happen more smoothly and frequently in a great nation. But there are always well-funded special interests—threatened by even the most minimal safeguards for animals, even when they benefit human health and safety—ready to fight back. It’s especially true for some in the pork industry, who have opposed us time and again on the most basic of reform initiatives. We’re well accustomed to squaring off against billion-dollar industries in battles over animal welfare. Please join us and give it all you’ve got. The stakes could not be higher, and to win, we need you.
Fight this reckless and unjust proposal by telling your federal legislators to oppose inclusion of the EATS Act or anything like it in the Farm Bill.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.