Two U.S. Representatives from Southern California are sponsoring legislation that would force federal agencies to purchase meat only from sources that raised the animals free from cruelty and abuse.
Representatives Diane Watson, D-Calif., and Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., introduced the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act to set a higher standard for food purchased by the federal government. Their bill, H.R. 4733, requires that food purchased for federal programs come from animals raised with enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and stretch their limbs.
American Farm Bureau lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher says she doesn't think the bill will go anywhere.
"The good news is that the people who introduced it are a little bit lower ranking in the scheme of things than the people who did before," Thatcher said. "I doubt that this year you are going to see much on the Federal level that will move, I think HSUS is going to continue on the state levels."
HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, praised the Watson-Gallegly proposal and encouraged Congress to act swiftly to pass it. The bill was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.
Thatcher, a panelist at a Commodity Classic breakout session on agriculture's agenda in Washington, DC, along with National Farmers Union lobbyist Chandler Goule, noted that livestock groups are very appreciative of the financial and public relations support they're getting from grain and soybean groups in their battle against animal welfare activists.
According to Goule, HSUS leaders don't want their rank and file members to know what the organization is really up to.
"What your average American who's not in agriculture production does not understand is that HSUS is a $120 million, $135 million political machine and it has zero animals in its care," Goule said. "You have all these grandmothers and granddads that think when they give to HSUS that they're getting cats and dogs off their streets. They're not; they're giving HSUS more ammunition to go into your states and regulate how you produce agriculture. If you truly want to help cats and dogs, go give to your local shelter."
Thatcher pointed out that in addition to having more money and more members than the six-million member Farm Bureau does, the 11-million member HSUS also has more lawyers.
"Farm Bureau has six lawyers on staff, HSUS now has 30, which is up from five or six years ago when they had five; now they have 30," Thatcher said. "So that ought to tell everybody that their plan is far more to go to the legal and lawsuit stuff than continuing some of what they're doing now."
Goule, formerly staff director of the House Agriculture Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee, agreed with Thatcher that HSUS would continue to focus on enacting humane handling laws at the state level.