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Republicans Know What Voters Want: *More Animal Cruelty*
But don't worry, it's cruelty for Big Ag profit, not for its own sake.
Now that several states run by Republicans have started bringing back child labor because it’s cheaper than paying workers enough, Republicans in Congress figure it’s time for animal cruelty to make a comeback, with a bill that would wipe out states’ ability to set standards for animal welfare, or for that matter any food safety standards at all. You see, Republicans might talk up “states’ rights” when it comes to defying federal health or labor regulations or agitating for civil war, but when states get in the way of factory farms’ ability to produce meat as cheaply as possible, that’s an infringement on freedom for corporate citizens.
The proposed Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act would “prevent States and local jurisdictions from interfering with the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate commerce,” wiping out at least 16 states’ laws regulating the treatment of farm animals.
As a f’rinstance, there’s California’s Proposition 12, a 2018 ballot initiative requiring that pork sold in the state come only from pigs born to sows that have enough room to both turn around and lie down. Clearly, that’s a radical Marxist regulation supported only by weirdos who think there’s something cruel about cramming pregnant sows into “gestation crates” that don’t allow them to turn around. That law — or at least the part of it banning gestation crates (it also regulates chickens and veal calves) — was upheld in May by the Supreme Court, with Neil Gorsuch writing that although “the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list.”
The Guardian reports that, Americans generally being pretty sentimental about things like cruelty to animals whose flesh they will nonetheless consume, there’s little chance the EATS Act would pass on its own, which is why House Republicans want to bundle it into the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture to improve its chances.
In states where they’ve passed, laws regulating the welfare of farm animals have been generally very popular, the Guardian notes:
Massachusetts, for example, passed a law in 2016 that banned extreme confinement of farmed animals. In a public referendum, nearly 80% of voters approved a law banning the sale of meat or eggs from animals held in confined spaces, and legally required farmers in the state to give chickens, pigs and calves enough room to stand up, lie down, extend their limbs and turn around freely.
California’s Prop 12, the subject of that recent Supreme Court case, similarly passed in 2018 by a 62.66 percent to 37.34 percent margin, even with the state’s big agricultural industry.
Opponents of the EATS Act argue that it would have effects well beyond eliminating the ability of states to set minimal conditions for animal welfare. Since factory farming also tends to cram animals close together in filthy conditions, it’s likely to make animal-spread diseases more likely:
Most states currently require pre-entry inspection and disease control measures for farm animals entering the state. In Iowa, for example, no animal that “is infected with or has been recently exposed to a disease can enter the state.” These measures were designed not only to protect animals, but also farmers from the devastating effects of zoonotic disease spread.
The bill would also make it far more difficult for small farm operations that raise animals sustainably to compete with Big Ag, and could even “jeopardize animal welfare laws protecting horses from slaughter, as well as those banning wildlife trafficking and puppy mills.”
If this thing passes somehow — I can’t see it surviving the Senate, but maybe I’m too optimistic — then every Republican who voted for it should be targeted with campaign ads featuring a sad Sarah McLaughlin song over scenes of big-eyed puppies in distress, goddamnit.
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