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Steve King Wants to Force States to Hurt Animals—and People

King’s amendment, if passed, wouldn’t just affect animal protection laws; it could also preempt countless laws meant to protect consumers.

 "The Animal Welfare Act, doesn’t provide any legal protections for the more than 9 billion animals raised and killed for food in the U.S. each year." (Photo: file)

"The Animal Welfare Act, doesn’t provide any legal protections for the more than 9 billion animals raised and killed for food in the U.S. each year." (Photo: file)

You may not know that Rep. Steve King (R-IA)—notorious for his racist tirades, denial of climate change, and ardent opposition to marriage equality—hates animals. He has historically opposed legislation prohibiting dog fighting, puppy mills, and the sale of dog, cat, and horse meat. A proud bully of vegetarians, King has defended exotic wildlife hunters and the slaughter of threatened polar bears.

Now, King is trying to gut the few protections that exist for farmed animals in the U.S.— trampling states’ rights in the process. 

King’s recent amendment to the farm bill, identical to his proposed Protect Interstate Commerce Act, HR 4879, aims to strip states of their time-honored right to set standards on the sale of agricultural products, including animal protection standards.

If the amendment makes it into the final farm bill, it would nullify popular laws in Massachusetts and California that ban the sale of eggs from hens cruelly confined in battery cages and force California to allow the sale of foie gras, a cruel “delicacy” made by force-feeding ducks and geese. King’s amendment would also overturn laws in hundreds of counties and municipalities that restrict the sale of dogs from puppy mills, and it could force Virginia and other states to allow the sale of dog and horse meat.

Very few laws in the U.S. protect farmed animals, and even these laws aren’t free of loopholes. U.S. law permits farmed animals to be routinely abused, mutilated, confined in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, and slaughtered by the billions.

King’s amendment, if passed, wouldn’t just affect animal protection laws; it could also preempt countless laws meant to protect consumers. According to the Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Program, laws prohibiting the sale of expired infant formula and the sale of baby food in containers with intentionally added bisphenol-A are among the hundreds that could become even more difficult to enforce if the King amendment were signed into law.

Very few laws in the U.S. protect farmed animals, and even these laws aren’t free of loopholes. U.S. law permits farmed animals to be routinely abused, mutilated, confined in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, and slaughtered by the billions. The most significant piece of federal animal welfare legislation, the Animal Welfare Act, doesn’t provide any legal protections for the more than 9 billion animals raised and killed for food in the U.S. each year. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, enacted in 1958, is hardly better. It requires that livestock be “rendered insensible to pain” before slaughter—but birds and fish are excluded, so more than 99 percent of animals slaughtered for food receive zero protections under the act.

King’s amendment is an assault on animals and Americans, but we can stop it. A large and diverse coalition of over 170 groups, including Mercy For Animals, Farm Aid, United Farm Workers, Food and Water Watch, and Center for Food Safety, are dedicated to defeating the amendment and are urging people to take action by calling their U.S. representatives and telling them to oppose King’s anti-animal agenda.

Billions of lives are on the line—both human and nonhuman—and they need all of us to speak up.

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Elizabeth Enochs

Elizabeth Enochs is a California-based writer and journalist from a small town in Missouri that you've probably never heard of. Liz writes about everything from public health to animal welfare. You can read more of her work over at AlterNet, Bustle, Girlboss, The Dodo, Mercy For Animals, and a few others.

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