Breaking news: HSUS sues USDA for brazen maneuver to hurt farmers and nix federal farm animal welfare rule

By on January 12, 2018 with 85 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, The HSUS is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for working to scuttle the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule – one of the most important rules to ever come out of a federal agency, affecting the well-being of tens of millions of animals each year. The USDA finalized the rule in January 2017, after a decade of input from thousands of organic producers and consumers, and in doing so, it put the nation on a path to have rigorous and comprehensive standards for cows, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals raised under the organic seal.

The organics rule covers an array of housing, husbandry, and other animal-care protocols for animals raised under the “organic” label, strengthening nebulous and weak standards for “organic” milk, meat, and eggs that have been in place since 1990. Besides limiting tail docking and beak clipping, the rule that the USDA made final in January 2017 would also require animals to have year-around access to the outdoors, and would stipulate that the indoor space is sufficiently large to allow the animals to stand up and stretch their limbs. Non-ambulatory animals, such as those with broken limbs or those too sick to move, must be medically treated, or euthanized. Animals must also be able to walk on their own before they are transported to buyers, auction houses, or slaughterhouses.

Before it was made final by the USDA, the rule attracted tens of thousands of positive comments from citizens and stakeholders, including all of the major industry players in the organics industry. Among those endorsing the organic standards was Perdue Farms, the nation’s fourth biggest chicken producer. The standards flowed from nine separate recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which Congress authorized for the purpose of allowing key players in the industry to have significant input in shaping future rules for the organic label.

Not long ago, the NOSB voted unanimously to have the organics rule implemented immediately. Members of the board concluded that more consistent standards are needed to align livestock production standards with consumer expectations, a view that is supported by consumer surveys, which have found that most Americans (and 83 percent of frequent organic purchasers) say it is highly important that hens in organic farms have outdoor access. The USDA itself admits in its proposal to withdraw the rule that customers are willing to pay substantial premiums for outdoor access and other welfare standards.

This is not just about improving the lives of animals and honoring the wishes and expectations of consumers. It’s also about keeping family farmers who adhere to more humane and sustainable husbandry practices on the land, and about strengthening rural communities by giving them an opportunity to offer a value-added product for millions of consumers deeply concerned about animal welfare and wholesome food for their families. There are tens of thousands of organic producers in the market, and by differentiating their product in the marketplace by certifying that the producers don’t use hormones or antibiotics and use more humane production methods, they can command a higher price and make a better living. The producers voluntarily decide to go organic, and consumers do, too. There are no losers and no government coercion here, except some farmers who trade on the organic label and charge more for their product but don’t reach the animal care expectations to get there.

The new personnel who took over at the USDA last January, led by Brian Klippenstein who was executive director of an anti-animal-welfare super PAC called Protect the Harvest, worked almost immediately to try to scuttle the pro-farmer, pro-humane rule. They got an assist from big agricultural and foreign-owned business interests threatened by the notion that “organic” products will be perceived as superior to conventionally produced animal products. Specifically, the organics rule would force several large poultry producers to raise their animals in a manner that actually meets consumers’ expectations. Meeting consumer expectations is important since the only thing a customer may see at the grocery store is a label that states: “USDA Organic.”

Withdrawing this rule threatens to erode the integrity of the organic seal, and jeopardizes the prosperity of many rural organic farmers who pride themselves on already being capable of meeting higher standards. The fate of this rule leaves a nearly $50-billion-per-year industry with uncertainty and consumer confusion. If the USDA doesn’t restore the rule it originally adopted, organic producers will have to contemplate how else to communicate to buyers that they do not: (1) engage in inhumane practices such as debeaking and tail docking, (2) transport sick, injured, disabled, or blind animals, or (3) attempt to pass off covered porches and similar structures as true “outdoor access.”

While we file suit today, it’s also important that the USDA hear from you – that you care about animals and you care about farmers staying on the land and actually practicing animal welfare on the ground. Please take a moment to leave a comment urging the USDA to implement this rule that would finally bring the organic label in step with consumer expectations and allow a program that farmers and consumers opt into to have integrity.

Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Pam McCallen says:

    Please don’t withdraw the federal farm animal rule!!
    Withdrawing this rule, and ignoring its overwhelming support from organic producers and consumers alike, is an epic failure of public policymaking. Never in the last 27 years has USDA been confused over its authority to issue organic rules improving the welfare of animals, and its attempt to use that as an excuse to scrap this important rule threatens the integrity of the organic label and the many family farmers who rely on their customers’ faith in it.

    • Billie says:

      It is vital in today’s global market that the USDA demonstrate that, as a leader of producers of agricultural products, that humane practices are the “norm” and that all animals are treated humanely with current rules for organic standards are applied to all fee arming operations because the tax paying people whocekected current administration have spoken!

  2. Karen Gilles says:

    The organic label should indicate that animals experienced a better quality of life than that of the typical factory-farmed animal. Big-ag should not take priority over consumers and farmers who want better.

  3. Marleen harrison says:

    Please don’t turn your back
    On animal welfare. If nothing else, animals that r treated better taste better. Please show common sense. It’s why we elected you!!!

  4. Aleea Major says:

    I’m so happy you are suing! I buy organic and I specially look for American Humane Society Certifications when I purchase eggs and chicken. I expect the organic certification to mean more than just feeding the animals organically produced foods and withdrawing prophylactic antibiotics. I expect it to address best practices for animal welfare of stock. I do not want to eat a sick animal!

  5. Amanda B Grant says:

    I support humane practices in farming and believe that an organic certification which includes humane practices both informs consumers and provides incentive for farmers to utilize humane practices. If the organic certification ceases to reflect animal welfare I will cease to buy products labeled only as organic and will only purchase products which are certified humane.

  6. Renee borg says:

    Protect animals from all monsters in any way, shape or form. I will sign and support anything to do this.

  7. Andrea says:

    Please do not allow this! Lets be their voice

  8. Maryann Mills says:

    With drawing this rule takes away the organic protection. Please reconsider your actions

  9. Sue thompson says:

    USDA has a hard time helping animals/animal welfare. They are a joke as a governing entity regarding animal welfare.

  10. Debbie Brattan says:

    This act by the USDA is total BS! But animal welfare should NOT be just about animals so products can be labeled “organic”. This organic crap is just another scam to raise prices for consumers. And unfortunately there are way too many of them who by into this crap.

  11. Sherry says:

    I am for anything that makes life better for any animal!

  12. Maria Aguilar says:

    Farm animals need to be treated better.

  13. Patricia Atkins says:

    Please implement this rule. I only buy organic prosucts and I want to know that these practices are followed.

  14. ang says:

    being humane should not need reason.

  15. Patti Pruden says:

    The USDA of today has only one motive and that is to increase profit. They do not care about our health or the welfare of the animals. Profit is not a horrible thing but not at the expense of the consumer or the animals.

  16. Elizabeth Jennings says:

    Please keep the organic meet laws the same. My family loves eating organic and I also love knowing what the animals where feed and that they are treated ethically. Thank you

  17. Sonia Bracamonte says:

    Please implement this rule, grow a heart, animals deserve better

  18. Jennifer Wickliffe says:

    Do the right thing USDA! For the animals, the farmers and the consumer!

  19. L. Sempf says:

    All animals deserve to be treated with only the highest of value and respect — they give us Life in so many ways even giving their own Life!!!!! Least we can do is give Our best can we not??

  20. dc o'brien says:

    Support the Organics Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule. All animals, but most particularly meat animals, must be treated humanely, and those who deal in and consume “organics” must be given the opportunity to utilize and respect those labels. Any other approach is a corruption of law and a departure from human conscience and responsibility. thank you.

  21. Marion Glennon says:

    I stand behind the Humane Society in their suit against the USDA!

  22. Darlene Anderson says:

    The welfare of the animals should be a priority and food safety for the people. I support all efforts to help animals be treated humanely.

  23. Erica Lindemann says:

    Animals deserve humane treatment and farmers who follow standards of humane treatment should be rewarded with a label recognizing their work, and higher prices for their products. Large scale corporate farms with their inhumane crowding and confinement of animals and pollution should not be able to pass off their practices without information that identifies them to consumers.

  24. Tamala Hacon says:

    I will not buy a product that is not organic and / certified humane thus if i dont have this i won’t but buy it . I will do my research on the companies ethics .

  25. Sophie Rousset says:

    Please practice proper animal welfare, these animals deserve to be treated humanely! They deserve to be raised outside, in the grass, not to be tortured by cutting their beaks and tails off! I do not mind paying more money for my organic food but this is what organic means! This is just a disgrace if you try to undo all the progress we have made for these animals welfare! This is what humanely is all about! Let’s not regress but progress in this organic issue! I am beyond upset you would even think about taking thIs away that we have fought so hard to accomplish! Keep it true Organic!

  26. Colleen says:

    Withdrawing this long-awaited rule & ignoring it’s support from the Organic Producers & Consumers–is an epic failure of Public Policy making. Please rethink what you are doing?
    Thank you!!

  27. Laurie Simonds says:

    I would strongly urge the USDA to implement the very important and timely Organics Livestock and poultry practices rule. This is important to very many people and improves the practices of companies who raise animals for human consumption consumption. Please do this now.

  28. Alpina Chilton says:

    It is imperative that the UHUS agree on allowing animals to have more outdoor space to roam freely and exercise than not. The expected standards that we consumers pay, is a higher price, and that the label sustains it’s practices to withold the integrity of the Organic Seal. I have converted into a Vegetarian, however, I will only buy free range eggs, free range chickens, I stopped buying cows milk because of the inhumane abuses I have seen with utmost disgrace. Most people are against inhumane cruelty as I am. And in this generation, people are more interested in how the animals are being treated and raised, for example, if the chicken are housed in cramped-up cages verses outdoor freedom. My lifestyle has changed tremendously to protect the animal’s welfare and humane well-being. A lot of us read labels, and we know what we are looking for. I strongly believe that slaughterhouses will be banned from inhumane cruelty of which I’ve been an advocate on wildlife animals, and am totally against Trophy Hunters and Poachers as well, because we do care about the lives of these animals. ❤Alpina❤
    Wildlife Animals Supporter

  29. Amanda says:

    It is unbelievable that both animal and human welfare are not as important as factory farm big dollar. Anti animal welfare PAC, youvsjoukd be ashamed Brian klippenstein.

  30. Tiffany Miller says:

    Please help the farm animals.

  31. Tiffany Miller says:

    Please help the farm animals.

  32. Beta says:

    Please pass this!!

  33. Ann-Louise Brown says:

    Who comes up with these kinds of decisions that are nothing but damaging to the industry and the health of families. This is not to mention the inhumane treatment of these precious creatures.

  34. Angie Costantini says:

    Help us to have faith in the USDA BU doing the right thing and bringing organic labeling in step with consumer expectations!!

  35. Jenny Harker says:

    IMPLEMENT THE RULE! It’s the right thing to do as you well know! Can this crap government please do something decent and moral for a change?!

  36. ann sharkshnas says:

    Whai, what? only LIMITED tail docking, LIMITED beak cutting? Cruel animal husbandry practices need to be abolished entirely, not JUST organic. The cost of beef, poultry, pork, seafood has only skyrocketed since their beginning. Their should be no hell on earth for living beings whatsoever. Something is terribly wrong w ANYONE who supports anything other than humane practices. ABOLISH TORTURE bc that’s what it is, SADISTIC TORTURE.

  37. Barbara Haemmerle says:

    There is no upside to scuttling the Organics Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule. Abolishing these practices would render the USDA Organic seal meaningless and would only hurt those producers who are actually complying. The only “producers” who would benefit from this action are those who wish to use the organic label without adhering to the strict guidelines.

  38. marion wagner says:

    Please do not take away a rule you set in place that would set the humane treatment of these farm animals back instead of moving forward and doing what is right for the consumer, farmer and the animals. This does not make sense to me. What is wrong with the people running the USDA in this country? You implement a rule that is better for everyone now you want to withdraw it WHY?? Do the right thing for once here and stop the madness!

  39. Joe Horn says:

    Choose compassion. It’s good for business. It’s good for all of us.

  40. Elizabeth Miller says:

    We need more rights for animals! Do not take away their rights or regulation. They do not deserve injustice they have no voice! We need to act now to protect their rights not move backwards!

  41. Suzi Scheller says:

    Stop Now trying to hurt farmers & reversing federal farm animal welfare rule!

  42. Karl Benne says:

    Reinstating animal cruelty, disgustingly morally depraved. Hurting family farmers is harmful to all of us. Where are your Christian values?

    You must keep these rules and regulations in place!!!

    You will hurt God’s creatures!!!!

  43. Cynthia Tonseth says:

    Please do not scuttle the rules that made the Organic seal mean something . Those of us who value the treatment, safety, and welfare of the animals and appreciate the small farmer who does this want the label to show this. I am willing to pay for this kind of animal treatment . If Organic means nothing I will be angry and disgusted and be forced to rethink what I eat and choose again . I beg you to reinstate the conditions previously agreed on .

  44. Allyson Bibler says:

    Dear USDA, we need to protect our animals, our farmers, and ourselves – we need strong organics rules. It’s a win win win for everyone. I am happy to pay more for clean food that was raised humanely.

  45. Mindy Sweet says:

    I strongly encourage the USDA to continue in the path of stricter standards for foods labeled organic & the more humane and natural conditions for the animals used in this type of production.

  46. M. S. Valentine says:

    I support the retention of the Organic Labeling restrictions adopted in January of 2017. They are supported by extensive and authoritative research.

  47. Adine Schoonmaker says:

    The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule must remain intact. A growing number of Americans are becoming aware of the aborrent conditions in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Because of this we are increasingly turning to Organic products. If you role back legislation that protects these farm animals under this rule, we will fight back and not back down. We will also turn to small local sustainable farms and raise our own before we feed deseased and miserable creatures to oursleves and our families.There is a movement going on now that this administration cannot stop or win against. We are the majority and we will no longer tolerate the abuse of nature and her creatures.

  48. Nancy says:

    These standards are important for the animals, the family farms and the consumer. Don’t repeal a very good forward thinking movement. Keep these in place.

  49. Judith Geraci says:

    This Rule is key to humane treatment if animals. “Humane” = the best human behavior. Animals are not automatons. They are sentient, fellow inhabitants of the planet we share. Let’s be respnsible, compassionate caretakers of the creatures we rely on.

  50. Bridget says:

    Withdrawing this long-awaited rule, and ignoring its overwhelming support from organic producers and consumers alike, is an epic failure of public policymaking. Never in the last 27 years has USDA been confused over its authority to issue organic rules improving the welfare of animals, and its attempt to use that as an excuse to scrap this important rule threatens the integrity of the organic label and the many family farmers who rely on their customers’ faith in it.

    Don’t do this!

  51. C Thien says:

    We must implement this rule that would finally bring the organic label in step with consumer expectations and allow a program that farmers and consumers opt into to have integrity.

  52. Diane Sonnenberg says:

    I fully support the Organics Livestock & Poultry Practices Rule. I urge the USDA not to abandon or weaken the rule. As a consumer I by organic products whenever possible. I will support all politicians who also support the rule. Let’s remember why the rule was implemented. As a voter I expect the USDA to adhere to higher standards & not succumb to pressure from big agricultural.

  53. Michele Blackwell says:

    Care about animals since they provide so much for us.

  54. Eve McGregor says:

    I urge you not to eliminate the Organics Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule that you implemented prior to the current administration. We the People and the animals all stand to benefit from this Rule. It is shameful, disgraceful and illegal to get rid of it. Thank you for your attention.

  55. Mela Khedouri says:

    I strongly support the organic animal care rule. I am appalled at the treatment animals are exposed to in corporate factory farms. If I can’t buy humanely raised products I will not buy any animal products at all.

  56. Eve McGregor says:

    1. Go to:

    2. Submit a comment. Here is sample wording you can use:

    “Withdrawing this long-awaited rule, and ignoring its overwhelming support from organic producers and consumers alike, is an epic failure of public policymaking. Never in the last 27 years has USDA been confused over its authority to issue organic rules improving the welfare of animals, and its attempt to use that as an excuse to scrap this important rule threatens the integrity of the organic label and the many family farmers who rely on their customers’ faith in it.”

  57. Jeannette Clague says:

    I thought the USDA was there to protect the American people from poor food standards. This legislation is so overdue (and as far as I’m concerned doesn’t go do enough for animal welfare) but it is improvement. We need to know the standard to which ‘organic’ is being held. Up until now it’s just been a con game of word manipulation unless you’re a reputable manufacturer/farmer. The consumer can’t trust that ‘organic’ label you have to investigate the companies yourself. Many don’t have time, many don’t even know they’re paying a higher price for something they think is better, when it’s All a lie. It’s time to pass this rule and give the consumer what they are paying for.
    Thank you,

  58. Susan Morse says:

    As a consumer I want to buy organic and have products that treat farm animals humanely. The organic label must be honest so consumers can trust where their money goes. I don’t mind paying more for organic products.

  59. Patricia Silva says:

    1. Go to:

    “Withdrawing this long-awaited rule, and ignoring its overwhelming support from organic producers and consumers alike, is an epic failure of public policymaking. Never in the last 27 years has USDA been confused over its authority to issue organic rules improving the welfare of animals, and its attempt to use that as an excuse to scrap this important rule threatens the integrity of the organic label and the many family farmers who rely on their customers’ faith in it.”

  60. Patricia Silva says:

    “Withdrawing this long-awaited rule, and ignoring its overwhelming support from organic producers and consumers alike, is an epic failure of public policymaking. Never in the last 27 years has USDA been confused over its authority to issue organic rules improving the welfare of animals, and its attempt to use that as an excuse to scrap this important rule threatens the integrity of the organic label and the many family farmers who rely on their customers’ faith in it.”

  61. Deena Jansen says:

    I pride myself on being a “conscious carnivore” by researching labels and brands of the meats I buy. Please do not make this harder or allow endless suffering of animals in order to increase the bottom line.

  62. Helena Cunha says:

    Stop all cruelty against animals!! They are not “things” to use. They are living creatures with the right to live happy. They have feelings. They know what love is, they feel pain, sadness, happiness like humans do.
    Are humans intelligent? Yes?
    So why are we the most cruel living creature in this planet? STOP 🛑!

  63. Karen Ann Miller says:

    I just heard your interview on Thom Hartmann’s radio program and agree with you 100%.

  64. Joe White says:

    Brian Klippenstein is yet another example of this administration literally putting the fox in charge of the hen house!
    Please keep the Organics Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule in Place!!!

  65. Fran Lawson says:

    The organic rule must be implemented and kept in place. The people who want to do away with this rule do not want to abide by the standards that are required to be certified “organic”. Buying organic is a choice and consumers are willing to pay more to have it. They should be assured that if you buy organic that it meets all standards.

  66. Barbara Roberts says:

    I consistently purchase products labeled “organic” and am furious that the USDA, Trump Administration, and companies that dominate our food supply control intend to do away with protections for the welfare of the farm animals whose meat we eat. It is sadly typical that these huge, impersonal companies, only interested in increasing their incomes and not at all interested in the health and well-being of our citizens, are already claiming organic status for the meats they process and sell, without adherence to the definitions and protections set out to define “organic.” I completely oppose all of this. It is beyond time that the Trump administration begin to protect our citizens and not only the companies that apparently run our government with their financial support to candidates. KEEP IN PLACE AND STRENGTHEN FEDERAL FARM ANIMAL WELFARE LAWS…AND ENFORCE THEM. PROTECT OUR PEOPLE, COMMUNITIES, AND FAMILY FARMERS.

  67. Sandra Jayne says:

    To U.S. Department of Agriculture:

    Please uphold the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule which affects the well being of tens of millions of animals each year.

    Our decency and humanity define us all and the Department of Agriculture can be the face of that humanity.

    Please, please do the right thing so that we can show our country men and women and the world that we do have a heart and do care about the treatment of our animals.

    Sandra Jayne
    Kennesaw, GA

  68. Juanita Bunch says:

    I demand real organic food. No more poison from big ag. Move forward not backwards. Stop making Americans sick. We need a usda that works.

  69. Juanita Bunch says:

    I want the usda to keep Obamas organic rules.

  70. Holly Stults says:

    Sad to read that this fake regime is not protecting the integrity of the Federal Farm organic animal welfare rule. Everything to destroy President Obamas’ legacy never to improve anything. We must protect the welfare of all the animals and all the farmers. Remember to vote Democratic if you want to see improvement without constant fighting for our inalienable rights.

  71. Albert Torcaso says:

    We must treat animals with dignity and with a humane practice.

  72. Jane Allen-Jauch says:

    Jane Allen-Jauch
    Madison, WI

    I know that the current ‘organics rule’ is not being strictly adhered to, especially on large commercial farms, however I DO SUPPORT keeping the rule in place.

    I strongly support the welfare of ALL ANIMALS. Chickens should BE outside, and not just have a glimpse of the out of doors. Animals need to be humanely raised and killed.

    SHAME ON the 45th president for trying to do away with this rule!

  73. Mark D Glidden says:

    Please do not weaken the USDA Organic rules regarding animal welfare. This is a very important part of the Organics rule and if anything it should be strengthened to ensure good treatment of the animals, not weakened

  74. Evy Dudey says:

    I understand the Organics rule regarding animal treatment is in review. This is a very important part of the Organics rule. Please do not weaken the USDA Organic rules regarding animal welfare, If anything the protections should be strengthened to ensure good treatment of the animals, not weakened

  75. Eric kraft says:

    Dear USDA please follow the direction of Humane Society and others that are fighting for proper treatment of animals used in agriculture!

  76. Debby Thurman says:

    I was wondering if there was a way to get my Cat (female) spayed where it is not going to cost a lot of money? I am on a fixed income and can not afford to go to our Vet’s office. They want $380.00 and she would have to stay over night. She is about 3 years old and her breed is a Tiger Tabby. If you can please send me some places that would be able to help me. Thank you for your co-operation.

    • Cheryl Cuttineau says:

      That is outrageous. You are being ripped off and youbshould have NOTHING to do with the greedy crooks who are taking advantage of you. There are plenty of low cost spay services around, and some organizations will even pay your bill if you are elderly or under-income. Your local humane society or another animal hospital can refer you. Good luck!

  77. Dorothy Lebovitz says:

    People with Chronic Lyme Disease need to eat organic food to heal or stay alive. Tortured animals have high Cortisol levels that harm LD patients.

  78. Tyra Golter says:

    As consumers we need to know “what” we are purchasing under the organic label. More and more consumers want to purchase organic food and in doing so we believe that the anilas are raised with a better quality of life. These standards guarantee this making it worth our while to spend a bit more for the welfare of the animals and our own health.

  79. Concerned says:

    You comment that all cruelty is man made. Have you never seen a dozen or more sheep killed at once by dogs, coyotes, or other animals who don’t even eat what they kill? Or a cat torment a mouse for hours? Food animals are killed quickly and humanely as possible.

  80. Suzanne S. says:

    Unfortunately, I did not see this email in time to send a comment to the US Dept. of Agriculture but, in any case, am angry to hear that it is working to undermine these rules that were passed after so many years of research and information-gathering from relevant groups, including both genuine organic farmers and consumers.

    Since attempting to oppose these Rules is clearly contrary to the interests (and express wishes) of consumers, true organic farmers, and, of course, the animals who are protected by the practices and protections laid out in the Rules, it, unfortunately, makes it pretty clear just whose interests the employees of this Agency are working to protect.

    Good luck and thank you to Wayne P. and the entire Humane Society team for the work you do to fight for a more humane, compassionate society.

  81. Cheryl Cuttineau says:

    I totally support the humane practices of family farms and the organics industry. I am now mostly vegan but when I do buy eggs they come from free range chickens,NOT the cruel and barbaric factory farms that are an offense to all sentient beings.

  82. Anna Manevich says:

    Pass the OLPP already. Current government actions condone big ag practices and labeling that continuously mislead consumers.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.