THE HUMANE SOCIETY – KITTY BLOCK
Despite strong public support for the measure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has killed a rule that established clear and meaningful protections and higher animal welfare standards for farm animals raised under the organics label. The USDA delayed implementation of the rule three times before yesterday’s announcement that it would formally withdraw the rule. This gift props up factory farming operations that exploit the confusion and imprecision of prevailing standards. And it’s a travesty for millions of animals raised within the organic system, as well as the consumers who appreciate organic products and look to the government to support stronger welfare norms under the USDA’s authority.
The USDA now claims—for the first time ever—that it does not have statutory authority to pass rules improving welfare conditions for livestock, including poultry, on organic farms. The agency has conveniently ignored its own regulatory history of doing so, such as with its “access to pasture” rule, promulgated in 2010. That rule required that ruminant animals be allowed to graze, and clarified that producers had to maintain pastures for their animals. The USDA has also ignored comments from key members of Congress that contradict the agency’s recently-formed interpretation.