Update! The U.S. Senate has just voted to approve the Farm Bill by a vote of 87 to 13. The bill did not include the dreaded King amendment that had the potential to nullify important state and local laws protecting animals, but senators approved three key measures that benefit companion animals. The House is expected to vote on the bill later this week, so stay tuned for more updates on the blog.
The Farm Bill is not the most rousing of legislative packages, when it comes around every five years or so, but it’s mighty important in our fight to protect animals. For us, and for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, it’s become a last stand against one of the most reckless proposals ever introduced in any legislature -- an amendment that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has been attempting to foist upon his colleagues -- and the rest of us.
Thankfully, the final Farm Bill language released last night by leaders of the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees does not include the King amendment. So that dangerous amendment is going exactly where it deserves to go -- nowhere.
The King amendment threatened to do immeasurable harm to animals, by nullifying state and local laws that address, among other issues, the consumption of horse and dog meat, ending the slaughter of horses, the extreme confinement of farm animals, shark finning and animals in puppy mills. But it also threatened to undermine the work states and localities do to protect their citizens in a broad range of policy areas, including food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, manure management and handling of diseased livestock. It was a straight-up attack on states’ rights to legislate to protect their citizens and animals, and it’s dead now.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund worked to marshal overwhelming opposition to the King amendment, bringing together a coalition of more than 225 groups across the political spectrum in opposition.
There was still more good news in the package released last night as it also includes language incorporating three animal protection bills that humane advocates have been working throughout the last session to push through:
- The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only three percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. The measure was supported by a broad network of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary and animal welfare organizations and pet product companies. The bill was originally introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
- The Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act will prevent this horrible trade from taking root here in the United States, and make it easier to advocate for its end worldwide. The consumption of dog and cat meat is already banned in some U.S. states, but if adopted, this provision in the Farm Bill would outlaw it nationwide. This gruesome trade kills some 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats globally every year. Originally, the measure was introduced as a bill by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., played key roles in getting it included in the Farm Bill.
- The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act clarifies that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting activity apply to all U.S. jurisdictions, including the U.S. territories. The amendment will protect animals from cruelty, communities from associated criminal activity, and the public from disease transmission in the food supply. The measure was originally introduced by Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., helped get it into the Farm Bill.
Our work keeping the King amendment out of the Farm Bill language and securing these excellent reforms is a significant achievement, but we have more to do. In the coming days, we will need to keep up the fight to get the Farm Bill passed in its current form. Your support has been crucial in getting us to this point, and we need one more thing from you. Please call your U.S. Representative and urge that they support the 2018 Farm Bill. Among other things, you can remind them that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., worked hard to reach a strong bipartisan agreement on the Farm Bill. On those and other grounds, it deserves their support.