Federal lawmakers today introduced a bill to require much needed protections for farm animals used for agricultural research at federal facilities. The bill follows a New York Times article that revealed horrifying examples of animal cruelty at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a federal livestock research facility in Nebraska.
The cows, sheep, pigs and other farm animals used in experiments at the facility are currently exempt from protections under federal law because of a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act. This loophole exempts farm animals “used or intended for use for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency, or for improving the quality of food or fiber” from basic welfare standards.
Introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA Vern Buchanan, R-FL; Louise Slaughter, D-NY; and Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, the bills would amend the Animal Welfare Act to remove current exceptions that exclude animals used in agricultural experiments at federally-run facilities from certain protections under the Animal Welfare Act. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, and Matthew Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), announced their support of the bill, titled the Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors (AWARE) Act.
The Meat Animal Research Center is part of the Agricultural Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 2006, ARS has spent nearly $200 million on the center, according to a report prepared by the USDA for Congress as part of the budgeting process.
The New York Times exposed the Meat Animal Research Center performing inhumane experiments on farm animals, including:
- locking pigs in steam chambers until they died;
- breeding calves born with “deformed vaginas” and tangled legs; and
- leaving lambs abandoned by their mothers in pastures to die of exposure or starvation.
The Center also performed painful experimental surgeries and allowed at least 6,500 animals to starve to death.