Saturday, March 10, 2007

European vs. American animal cruelty legislation

What follows are two blurbs from book reviews by Peter Wenz.

The two books he's talking about are the Peter Singer edited In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave and Sunstein and Nussbaum edited Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions.
The citation for Wenz's review is:
Wenz, P.S. (2007). Against cruelty to animals. Social Theory and Practice, 33(1).

What follows is a contrast of American legislation against animal cruelty, and European legislation about animal cruelty.

Inadequacies of American laws and suggested reforms

David Wolfson and Mariann Sullivan detail the exclusion of most animals from current anticruelty legislation in the U.S. They note that "approximately 9.5 billion animals die annually in food production in the United States" (Sunstein, 206). But the only federal legislation applicable to the killing of these animals, the Humane Slaughter Act, is administered through regulations that "exempt poultry, the result of which is that over 95 percent of all farmed animals ... have no federal legal protection from inhumane slaughter." What is more, "there are no fines available for violation of the statute and significant penalties are never imposed" (208). This is symptomatic. Anticruelty legislation generally allows people to do what they want under a fa├žade of animal protection. For example, legislation enacted in 1877 regulates the rail transport of livestock to reduce cruelty, but it does not apply to transport by truck, and therefore does not apply to the overwhelming majority of livestock transportation. Just as bad, the maximum penalty for illegal animal transport by rail is $500.

Most state laws against cruelty to animals either exempt agriculture altogether-34 of 41 recently enacted statutes-or they exempt common, customary, or normal farming practices. Commonly practiced cruelty thus becomes legal in spite of an anticruelty statute that applies to agriculture. Wolfson and Sullivan provide vivid descriptions of common practices regarding laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves. Jim Mason and Mary Finelli, writing in the Singer collection, provide an even more vivid and complete picture of cruel treatment on factory farms in the United States.

European Union Legislation

Much of what is currently legal in the United States is illegal, or soon will be illegal, in the European Union. For example, Wolfson and Sullivan tell us in the Sunstein volume that current American methods of raising veal calves include feeding them an iron-deficient diet to keep the meat pink and tender. The Swiss outlawed such iron-deficient diets in 1981. They banned all battery cages in 1991. "In 1999, the European Union prohibited all battery egg production from 2012. The system will be replaced by free-range farming, or by 'enriched cages'" that provide each bird a minimum of two-and-a-half times the space commonly allotted in the United States (Sunstein, 222).

In another legal development, the Treaty of Rome, the founding document of the European Community, was recently amended to recognize that animals, including farmed animals, are sentient beings ..., and that all European Union legislation and member states must pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals in the formulation and implementation of the community's policies on agriculture, research, and transport. (223)

The Singer collection includes more information. Martin Balluch reports that battery farming is banned in Austria starting in 2009.

In addition ..., it is now illegal to trade living cats and dogs in shops, or to display cats and dogs publicly in order to sell them. It is illegal to kill any animal for no good reason, even painlessly. Because inability to find a home for healthy animals is not considered a good reason to kill them, kill-shelters are also now outlawed.

A ban on fir farming, which had come into effect in 1998 in six of Austria's nine provinces, is now established on the federal level without any exceptions for free-range farming or the like. (Singer, 161-62). In 2005, it became illegal to use any wild animals in circuses. Only domestic or farm animals may be used.

And again from the States, Senator Chuck Hagel and Congressman Adrian Smith (both from Nebraska) have introduced bills in the Senate and the House for a proposed "CAFO TAX Credit Act."

* S285: CAFO Tax Credit Act * * Sponsor: Hagel (R-Neb.) * * Official Title: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a credit to certain concentrated animal feeding operations for the cost of complying with environmental protection regulations. * CAFO Tax Credit Act - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow owners
or operators of a concentrated animal feeding operation a business-related tax credit, up to $500,000 in a taxable year, for the cost of compliance with a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit issued under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Terminates such credit after 2010. (from Congressional Bill Digest).

Hmm. I don't know. My knee-jerk reaction is that far from giving money to CAFO's they should just be shutting the damn things down. But.... if the tax credit (and legitimate enforcement of environmental laws) stops crap like this, then maybe that is a good thing.

Funnily enough - no news service in the U.S. mentioned this bill at all. I could only find the above blurb from the Congressional Bill Digest. But... the Hindustan Times is ALL over this story! : )

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