Promising abolition of live exports, King Charles III of U.K. demonstrates why EATS would be the shits for poultry, pigs, & cattle
LONDON, U.K.; WASHINGTON D.C.––Kings of England, Scotland, and Wales have not had a say in the passage of United States legislation since 1776, when the Thirteen Colonies and Vermont gave the British Crown the boot.
That much said and recognized, King Charles III of the United Kingdom had quite a lot to say, albeit indirectly, about the EATS Act now before Congress, in his King’s Speech to Parliament of November 7, 2023.
The walking dead
The EATS Act, short for Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act, S. 2019 in the U.S. Senate and HR 4417 in the House of Representatives, has appeared to be going nowhere since the respective Senate and House versions were introduced in June 2023, with nine Senate co-sponsors and 15 House co-sponsors.
All 24 co-sponsors are Republicans.
Normally speaking, legislation with only 24 co-sponsors between both houses of Congress, all from one party which has a majority only in one house, would be dead as a doornail in committee practically on arrival, especially after similar bills failed in five successive Congressional sessions.
Uniquely tenacious zombie
The EATS Act, however, is a uniquely tenacious zombie, having picked up significant support from several Senators and Representatives of significant seniority in farm states since the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2023 upheld the constitutionality of California Proposition 12, approved by voters in 2018.
What the Supreme Court said, in gist, is that yes, individual states have a constitutional right to regulate agricultural practices, including how farmed animals are treated, and further have the right to exclude from commerce within state borders any products that are not produced in accordance with state law.
That scares the pig, chicken, and cattle slurry out of Big Agribusiness, especially the Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods empire and several other giant conglomerates whose profits depend in large part on using mass production methods that undercut local farmers by treating animals even more like inanimate machines.
Not that there are any saints for animals in agribusiness at any level. This is precisely why California Proposition 12 was drafted and passed by ballot initiative, along with similar laws now in effect in several other states that encourage farmers to allow pigs and chickens to be able to stand up and turn around, allow dairy cows to keep their tails, and so forth.
This is where King Chuck of England came in during his November 7, 2023 King’s Speech to Parliament, giving voice to one of the more influential concerns that caused the citizens of the United Kingdom to vote on June 23, 2016 to become the first and only nation to leave the European Union, effective on January 1, 2020.
The European Union in effect has an EATS Act. Animal welfare issues that affect commerce among the 27 member nations are regulated by the European Union, not by each individual member nation. No nation may adopt production standards that exclude the animal products and byproducts of any other nation.
A matter of degrees
Fortunately, the European Union standards for farmed animal welfare are generally higher than those prevailing in the U.S., albeit more to protect traditional small-scale farmers who lack the resources to practice factory farming on the U.S. scale than to protect farmed animals.
This is also a matter of degrees, not absolutes.
Veal and foie gras production, developed in western Europe, are as atrocious in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Scotland, and Hungary, to cite just five offending nations, as anywhere in the U.S.
Factory-style pig and dairy production are as prevalent in Europe as anywhere else. The European pig industry is dominated by Smithfield subsidiaries in Germany, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. They smell much like those here.
Within the United Kingdom and Ireland, both of which are island nations, the conditions endured by calves and lambs who are exported by ship to be fattened and killed on the European mainland have appalled citizens for decades.
Jill Phipps, a 31-year-old British anti-live export protester who was crushed by a cattle truck on February 1, 1995, leaving an infant son, is remembered within the United Kingdom not just as an animal rights activist, but as a martyr to a popular cause.
Live export to be banned
Thus King Charles III announced in his annual King’s Speech that as David Hughes reported for The Independent and The Northern Farmer, “The export of livestock for slaughter and fattening will be permanently banned,” under pending legislation.
The proposed Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill, Hughes detailed, “will ban the export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.
“Live exports will still be permitted in some circumstances, including racehorses being allowed to move for breeding and races.
“Possible as result of Brexit”
“If the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill passes,” Hughes added, “it will prevent animals being sent to the continent for slaughter from England, but the U.K. Government plans to work with the administrations in Scotland and Wales to make this apply across Great Britain.”
Especially relevant to the EATS Act, Hughes explained, is that passing the proposed Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill “is possible as a result of Brexit,” the exit from the European Union, “which allows the U.K. to break away from the European Union’s rules governing live animal exports.”
In other words, Brexit at last gave the United Kingdom the freedom and authority to regulate animal welfare that U.S. states already had, as demonstrated by California et al and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harvard Law School says
“States long have had authority to regulate the health, safety, and moral aspects of goods sold within their borders, regardless of their state or country of origin,” opens a Legislative Analysis of S. 2019/H.R. 4417, published in July 2023 by the Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School.
(A free download is available at https://animal.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/Harvard-ALPP-EATS-Act-Report.pdf.)
“The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act (EATS Act),” the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program warned, “fundamentally would transform the current balance of regulatory authority between the 50 States and the federal government by eliminating virtually all state and local legislative powers to impose standards or conditions on the ‘preharvest’ production of agricultural products entering their own borders, including regulations related to food safety, disease and pest control, and government procurement.”
Makes lack of legislation permanent
The EATS Act incorporates one ominous exception, noted by the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program:
“The EATS Act would prevent state and local governments from regulating the ‘preharvest production’ of imported ‘agricultural products’ except to the extent that those products already are regulated in the place of production. The legislation further states that if there are no federal, state, or local regulations in the state of production for any given agricultural products, that lack of regulation becomes a new regulatory ceiling for any state or locality importing those products from that jurisdiction.”
In short, the EATS Act would permanently exempt animals from any sort of legal protection in any use or production method not already covered by law.
Nazis & Communists
Concluded the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program, “The EATS Act defies basic notions of federalism and would circumvent decades of settled constitutional jurisprudence.
“The EATS Act purports to do what courts interpreting state laws have refused to do: declare by fiat that states cannot impose public health and welfare standards for agricultural products, even in the absence of conflicting local, state, or federal laws and regulations.”
That should scare the hell out of anyone but a Nazi or Communist, the Nazi, Soviet, and Maoist contributions to factory farming having long been ignored by western agribusiness pundits who tend to claim that every mechanized, systematized form of atrocity to animals was invented, patented, and marketed here, for profit.
Even capitalist pigs did not think of everything that goes into factory farming as currently practiced, from gestation stalls to castration without anesthetic to scalding the hair off of animals who have often been insufficiently stunned and are not dead yet.
“Top priority to defeat”
“Our nearly 7,000 farmer and rancher members and supporters at the Organization for Competitive Markets and Competitive Markets Action and others across the country have made the EATS Act our top priority to defeat and prevent from being included in the upcoming Farm Bill,” lobbyist Marty Irby told ANIMALS 24-7 on November 8, 2023, representing both Competitive Markets entities.
Congressional action on the 2024 Farm Bill, Irby explained is likely to be deferred until as late as August 2024, just before Congress breaks in preparation for the November 2024 national election.
Bargaining chip or worse
What that means, though, is not that nothing is happening behind the scenes.
While the EATS Act does not have sufficient Congressional support to pass by itself as a free-standing measure, it does have quite enough support from ranking Republicans to become a bargaining chip during the next ten months of negotiations over what will go into the Farm Bill in final form.
In final form, the 2024 Farm Bill will, like every Farm Bill, be an encyclopedic compilation addressing everything under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released in final form too close to passage for anyone to actually read the whole thing, picking up every nuance of a multitude of last-minute amendments.
“Pork barrel” politics
Traditionally the last-minute amendments are where ranking members of the Senate and House of Representatives pack in “pork,” or economic favors to high campaign donors and other influential constituents, to ensure political favor during the pre-election home stretch.
Last-minute amendments are also where measures with very little overt support from anyone often are tucked in through voice votes, with quorums barely present and hardly anyone on the House or Senate floor awake enough to intercept dirty tricks.
Last-minute “dirty trick” amendments have many times undone “victories” claimed by animal advocacy groups earlier in the legislative process.
For instance, Jesse Helms, formerly U.S. Senator from North Carolina, deceased in 2008, slipped a stealth amendment into the 2002 Farm Bill that permanently excluded rats, mice, and birds from protection under the Animal Welfare Act, after the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the language of the act covered rats, mice, and birds.
Wayne Pacelle, then legislative director for the Humane Society of the U.S., now heading Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, became aware of the Helms amendment and tried to rally last-minute opposition, but unsuccessfully, with most animal advocates already persuaded by fundraising appeals that the issue had been settled in the animals’ favor.
Two years later, Conrad Burns, formerly U.S. Senator from Montana, deceased in 2016, slipped a stealth amendment into the 2004 Farm Bill, just ahead of the Congressional recess for Thanksgiving, that would have allowed the Bureau of Land Management to sell wild horses to slaughter.
ANIMALS 24-7 noticed and sounded the alarm to animal advocacy organizations by fax, email, and telephone, only to find that with a single exception, Chris Heyde of the Animal Welfare Institute, none of the major Washington D.C.-based animal advocacy organizations even had anyone in their offices until five days later.
Calls were literally being answered by janitors.
Heading ’em off at the pass
Special legislation amounting to locking the barn door after the horse was stolen fortunately stopped the horse massacre that Burns hoped for from happening.
Since then, animal advocates have ensured that every Farm Bill has included language prohibiting the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses, meaning that horse meat cannot be sold for human consumption.
What Irby, Pacelle, and other animal advocacy lobbyists are trying to do now amounts to heading the EATS Act backers off at the pass and locking the barn doors before the horse is stolen this time.
“Conservative groups against the EATS Act include R-Street and FreedomWorks,” Irby said. “Last month we worked with 16 House Republicans to secure a letter to House Agriculture Committee leaders against the measure.
“Many of these folks,” though scarcely pro-animal, “are concerned about implications and consequences of EATS,” Irby explained, that “further open the door to Chinese control of American agriculture and land acquisition as Smithfield––the world’s largest pork producer, now wholly owned by the Chinese – owns one in every six sows in America.”
“The National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, and National League of Cities,” Irby continued, “have separately urged Congress to reject the EATS Act. The National Governors Association included the exclusion of EATS Act among its Farm Bill priority concerns. Altogether, a diverse set of more than 2,000 entities, including organizations, individuals and more than 1,200 farms across the country, have publicly stated opposition to the EATS Act.
“Pork producers themselves – including Clemens in Pennsylvania, the third largest producer in the U.S.––came out swinging against the EATS Act, along with the pork producers from the Hershey Family, a few weeks ago,” Irby said.
Times of Israel guest columnist Juliet Stein on July 17, 2023 charged that the EATS Act would result in “elimination of the hard-fought state-level kosher laws that our community fought to enact for decades.”
National Dairy Producers Organization board chair Deborah Miles on July 20, 2023 called the EATS Act “a clear and present danger” to the dairy industry as presently structured.
Sid Miller, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, recited Irby, “said it would be ‘bad business’ to put the EATS Act in the farm bill and called the legislation an ‘overreach of government powers’ that goes against states’ rights.
“Former House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway is working on the issue with us,” Irby added. “Conaway was instrumental in preventing a previous and very similar iteration of EATS from being included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Another aspect of EATS resonating with Members of Congress is the [potential] impact on state pesticide laws,” Irby mentioned.
A 110-member coalition of national, state, and local environmental and animal protection organizations on September 19, 2023 “expressed concerns [to Congress] that the EATS Act could preempt state and local pesticide laws,” Irby said.
“If the EATS Act were to pass, it would mean state laws like those that require the pre-harvest treatment of grapes to kill the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a pest which costs grape and wine producers $100 million annually, would become impermissible. It would also mean state and local laws restricting pesticide usage close to schools, which directly protect over 4,000 elementary schools from toxic exposure, would also become impermissible.”
Waiting until nightfall
Signing the joint letter were, among others, the American Bird Conservancy, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Consumer Reports, EarthJustice, Four Paws USA, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and United Farm Workers.
So why, with such broadly based opposition, from practically all directions, is the EATS Act still alive?
Because it is a zombie, waiting until nightfall, when all are asleep, to condemn all farmed animals to eternal damnation under a pitchfork-wielding Prince of Darkness.