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FAAC Assists in Drafting a Groundbreaking Farmed Animal Protection Bill

New legislation regulating industrial animal agriculture will be before the Senate, and Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic (“FAAC”) assisted in researching and drafting some of the legislative language in the bill. Today, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act of 2022 (“IAA”).  The IAA would establish the Office of High-Risk AFO (“Animal Feeding Operation”) Disaster Mitigation and Enforcement within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to enforce the provisions of the IAA. The IAA seeks to address a wide range of issues: registration of high-risk AFOs; inhumane mass culling methods or “depopulation;” labor standards for exploited slaughterhouse workers; abuse of certain drugs in farmed animals; exclusion of poultry from federal humane slaughter laws; cruel transport methods; and high-speed self-inspection slaughter systems.

FAAC student clinicians Bailey Soderberg and Talon Wendel worked with a coalition of policymakers and non-profit organizations, including the ASPCA and Mercy For Animals, to shape the bill into a comprehensive document that tackles some of the largest and most egregious issues in industrial animal agriculture. FAAC clinicians primarily researched and drafted language for two major parts of the IAA bill.

First, FAAC clinicians investigated and drafted new parameters for transporting farmed animals, proposing amendments to the existing transportation laws. For the last century, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law has governed farmed animal transport, allowing transporters to confine animals within vehicles for up to twenty-eight consecutive hours without food or water. Under certain exceptions, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law also allows transportation for thirty-six hours without unloading, feeding, or watering animals. The Twenty-Eight Hour Law is outdated and features few animal welfare considerations beyond time constraints with no tangible enforcement mechanism. The IAA would add multiple welfare requirements for any transportation lasting more than eight hours: protection from the weather; proper bedding; sufficient species-specific space; appropriate water supply; and acceptable temperature ranges.

Second, FAAC clinicians provided guidance on reducing slaughter line speeds and slaughterhouse deregulation. Since the 1990s, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) (a sub-agency of the USDA) has created programs allowing approved slaughterhouses to increase slaughter line speeds and reduce federal oversight. These programs allowed untrained private slaughterhouse employees to replace federal inspectors—essentially creating a system of self-inspection. Higher line speed operations increase risks of injuries to slaughterhouse workers as they try to keep pace, creating food safety concerns (less time to inspect each carcass), and increases incidences of inhumane handling of farmed animals. The IAA would terminate these high-speed self-inspection slaughter systems. The IAA would also provide funding for additional FSIS inspectors and additional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) inspectors to ensure that slaughterhouses have proper federal oversight.

These and other changes under the IAA could significantly improve animal welfare, as well as slaughterhouse worker safety, food safety, and environmental protections. For the FAAC student clinicians, this was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with clients creating groundbreaking legislative protections for farmed animals.