Today, in an unprecedented outcome in the history of congressional action on the Farm Bill, the full House rejected the bill advanced to the floor by House leadership. The HSUS and a large coalition of organizations opposed the bloated, regressive potpourri of agriculture-related measures for a wide variety of reasons. Even though the bill did include the HSUS-backed proposal to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, The HSUS opposed the bill because of the noxious “King amendment,” authored by Rep. Steve King, R- Iowa, that would have repealed dozens of state laws on animal protection. In addition, Republican leaders denied lawmakers the opportunity to offer three key animal protection issues on the floor for votes – one banning barren battery cages for laying hens, a second to crack down on horse soring, and the final one to stop the slaughter of American horses here at home and in neighboring countries. The vote was 195 in favor, and 234 against.
Unless the House leadership twists arms, and replays the vote next week, this Farm Bill is dead and the Agriculture Committee will have to start the process again – or cobble something together behind-closed-doors (an increasingly common slap at open democratic decision-making) – if it wants to renew a substantial number of American agricultural policies.
In the other chamber, in a second major win for animal protection today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment, offered by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to bar the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at horse slaughter plants in the United States. This comes just a week after the House approved an identical amendment by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Bill Young, R-Fla., to do the same thing.
We don’t know what House Republican leaders will do on the Farm Bill, now that the House has rejected it. But we do know, whether it’s on the Farm Bill or in the form of independent legislative proposals, the American people want reform on animal welfare. Hens should not be confined in cages and hardly be able to move. Walking horses should not be subjected to torture to have them perform better in shows and win prizes. And no American horses should be funneled into the slaughter pipeline for human consumption. Finally, the states should have a right to adopt policies to protect animals and not have their own deliberative processes undercut by the federal government on agriculture policy.
It was an important day for animal protection in Washington. Stay engaged, and if you do, we’ll see positive outcomes for animals.