Booker Announces Legislation to Hold Large Factory Farms Accountable and Improve Animal Welfare

Booker Announces Legislation to Hold Large Factory Farms Accountable and Improve Animal Welfare

Legislation would require industrial operators to prepare for disaster events and utilize more humane practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, legislation that would place the liability for responsible disaster mitigation on corporations and industrial operators by requiring those entities to register with USDA, submit disaster preparedness plans, and pay a fee to establish a fund focused on disaster events. This new fund, the High-Risk AFO Disaster Mitigation Fund, will be utilized to enforce disaster mitigation plans and ensure that the most humane practices are used if depopulation is absolutely necessary.

The legislation would also ensure that industrial operators aren’t using inhumane methods in other aspects of the food system by ending line-speed increases and meatpacker self-inspection programs for animal slaughter, closing regulatory loopholes to prohibit the slaughter of all downed animals, and requiring more humane treatment of livestock transported for long periods.

Lastly, the legislation would invest resources for higher-welfare slaughter technology in meat and poultry processing facilities and establish a pilot program to train and employ more part-time inspectors for small processing plants.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid slaughterhouse shutdowns and rapid virus spread, USDA and other public health officials aided industrial livestock and poultry producers in the depopulation of millions of animals, often under incredibly cruel conditions. The total number of animals killed and under what conditions remains in question, as companies aren’t currently required to report on depopulation actions.

“We’ve seen multiple recent crises that have shined a light on the threat that corporate meat producers and their web of factory farms represent to workers, animals, the environment, and rural communities. Built by agribusinesses, the industrial livestock and poultry system is designed to maximize production– while externalizing risk and liability– to ensure corporate profits even when the system fails,” said Senator Booker. “The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act would place the liability for disasters where it belongs–on the corporations and industrial operators who profit the most from factory farming and ensure farmed animals are not subjugated to cruel and inhumane practices.”

“Most Americans would be shocked to learn that taxpayers are often footing the bill when animals on factory farms are killed in cruel ways, and that billions of chickens and turkeys are not legally protected from suffering at slaughter,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We applaud Senator Booker for introducing the landmark Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, which would provide new protections for farmed animals and hold corporations accountable for the true costs of factory farming.”

“When natural disasters like bird flu and extreme weather strike, industrial livestock operations incur huge losses. These losses are too often shouldered by contract farmers, rural communities, and government,” said Craig Watts, former contract poultry grower and field team operations director, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “It’s time we stop allowing multibillion-dollar corporations to externalize the cost of their high-risk operations. The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act shifts the burden to where it belongs: the backs of Big Agribusiness.”

“Since its inception almost 100 years ago, our country’s Farm Bill has become a tool that the industrial animal agriculture industry uses to do little else than maximize its profit—to the detriment of consumers, the environment, food system workers, farmers, and farmed animals,” said Leah Garcés, President and CEO, Mercy For Animals. “As a result, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in U.S. food system reform: The meat industry has created deep-seated problems that exploit and harm the most vulnerable. It must be the industry’s responsibility to solve these problems. The IAA recognizes this responsibility and affords the industry an opportunity to begin to right these wrongs.”

“This bill (The Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act and the establishment of the Office of High-Risk AFO Disaster Mitigation and Enforcement) promises much-needed improvements throughout the meat & livestock supply chain, from food safety to animal welfare and labor standards,” said Devin Cornia, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey. “Further, it will ensure that more funding is made available to family farms versus industrial corporate agribusiness, improving regional and local food system resiliency.”

The full text of the bill can be found here.

The list of supporting organizations can be found here.

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