Victories for Farm Animals
On January 7, 2019, in a huge victory for farm animals, the Supreme Court maintained laws passed in two states that ban certain egregiously cruel practices of factory farms: battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates. All these practices stifle natural expression of (respectively) birds, pigs and calves through near constant immobilization. The incredible physical and emotional stress endured by these animals severely impacts their well-being. Both Massachusetts and California not only prohibit these practices, they prohibit the sale of eggs, pork and veal from facilities that utilize these nightmarish practices.
The Supreme Court also upheld California’s ban on the sale of foie gras, which is produced by cruelly force-feeding geese to the point of liver disease. Fois gras is literally the diseased liver of tortured birds. California banned fois gras, and the cruel industry has since failed in two attempts to get the courts to overturn the law.
These laws have prompted pushback, like efforts by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to weaken states’ abilities to regulate agricultural products. Fortunately, this was defeated, too.
Battery cages. Photo credit: HSUS.
These victories for animals are especially laudable considering the factory farming industry’s massive financial resources.
Here in Connecticut, we have one factory farm. Around five million egg-laying birds are currently languishing in battery cages at Hillandale Egg Farm, headquartered in Bozrah. Formerly KofKoff Egg Farms, Hillandale sells their eggs under several different brand names and control about 90% of the state’s egg market. In recent years, the filth and cruelty of Hillandale’s operations have been featured in two Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) undercover operations at their Maine and Pennsylvania facilities.
A ban on cruel confinement would 1) promote best practices that our small, family farmers already follow; 2) protect our small, family farmers by preventing large-scale factory farms from coming to Connecticut (which would push out our family farmers); and 3) make state policy clear, thus enhancing business opportunities for Connecticut’s family farmers, whose humane-oriented customers would know with certainty that farm animals raised in Connecticut are treated more humanely.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has consistently promoted efforts by factory farms to fend off competition and innovation from small family farms, in three ways: 1) fighting efforts to ban cruel intensive confinement systems; 2) supporting so-called “right to farm” measures, some of which have shown to be a backdoor attempt to prevent local municipalities from banning dangerous pesticides and chemicals or needlessly cruel practices; and 3) challenging the naming of soy, almond, and rice milk as “milk.” (The intent of standards of identity is to prevent companies from passing off cheaper ingredients onto customers; soy, almond, and rice milk are generally more expensive. Both plant-based and cow’s milk are similarly fortified with vitamins and minerals.)
Moving away from factory farming is something that our state agencies should be aggressively promoting for purposes of animal welfare, a cleaner environment and improved public health. If factory farms were forced to cover costs of their direct negative impact on the environment and human health, they would not be in business due to the expenses associated with these externalities.
Annie Hornish is the Connecticut Senior State Director for The Humane Society of the United States and a member of Sierra Club Connecticut.