One of the many amendments currently part of the House Farm Bill has animal rights activists howling in protest. The measure sponsored by Iowa Congressman Steve King would prevent one state from imposing animal care standards that would restrict interstate movement of agricultural products. “It’s one of the most destructive and far-reaching anti-animal welfare provisions we’ve seen in decades,” Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the HSUS, told TIME. The amendment, officially known as the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, is not included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill, but the Humane Society worries it may be incorporated into the final bill as the House and Senate move toward conference negotiations.
The measure is in response to California’s Proposition 2 which places restriction on the cage sizes for egg-laying chickens. Proposition 2 also stated that eggs shipped into the state from other states must also comply with those standards. King maintains this is a violation of interstate commerce.
Indiana State Veterinarian Dr. Bret Marsh says Indiana crafts its animal care standards with interstate commerce in mind, “In Indiana as we put together animal care standards, we are cognizant as to what is going on in other states so we don’t impede the ability of people to trade across state lines and even internationally.”
HSUS has used ballot initiatives to pass restrictive animal care laws in California, Florida, and Arizona. Marsh says this approach has the risk of interrupting the flow of agricultural products across state lines. In an op-ed for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, King argued that his amendment will protect producers “from an emerging patchwork of state regulations” that create a burdensome trade barrier for farmers. “California, as one of our nation’s most populated states, with its millions of consumers, is forcing producers around the country to comply with their unreasonable and arbitrary standards,” King said of California’s chicken cage regulations.
Pacelle claims that, “It could nullify laws to crack down on extreme confinement of animals on factory farms, on standards for puppy mills, on prohibitions on the sale of shark fins and much more.” King amendment supporters say this is an exaggeration and would not be the result of the measure’s adoption. Marsh says, when knowledgeable professionals are put in charge of animal care standards, this would not be the case. Marsh says that in Indiana, for example, the Board of Animal Heaths is in charge of setting animal care standards, “Our board is made up of veterinarians and professionals who are in this business and know the implications of policy decisions.” Adoption of the King amendment would protect the interstate movement of agriculture products.