Shortly after the government reopened on January 25, U.S. representatives Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, introduced the PACT Act—a bipartisan bill designed to ensure that the most-shocking abuses, such as burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, and crushing animals are felonies under federal law. The PACT Act builds on existing legislation that outlaws videotaping of such cruelty and would make these abuses punishable by fines and up to seven years’ jail time. “This is common sense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws,” Deutch said in a statement. “We’ve acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos; now it’s time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well.”
The PACT Act is certainly a step in the right direction, and we applaud Reps. Deutch and Buchanan for their compassionate bill. But the proposed law fails to protect the billions of animals who are mutilated, confined, and slaughtered in the U.S. annually. In fact, the PACT Act specifically exempts “standard” agricultural or animal management practices and the slaughter of animals for food, so it effectively excludes farmed animals from any of the act’s protections.
When it comes to animals raised for food, legal loopholes abound. The most significant piece of federal animal welfare legislation to date, the Animal Welfare Act, excludes farmed animals from all legal protections. “Extreme animal abuse persists in our food system because not a single federal law protects farmed animals during their lives at farm facilities,” Kenny Torrella, Mercy For Animals’ director of communications, explained in the New York Daily News. “And most state anti-cruelty laws exempt ‘standard’ factory farming practices, many of which are just as shocking as the abuses the PACT Act would criminalize.”
Indeed, a standard pork industry practice is to kill sick piglets by grabbing them by the hind legs and smashing them headfirst into concrete. It’s called “thumping,” and it’s been well-documented by MFA undercover investigators. Mass suffocation is an accepted practice for killing sick chickens in factory farms. And male chicks, who are considered useless to the egg industry, are literally ground up alive.
Chickens raised for meat endure horrific abuse at farm facilities as well. They’re bred to grow so large so fast that many cannot even walk without pain, and they’re crammed by the thousands into dark, dirty sheds. Many die on slaughter-bound transport trucks, where they’re packed tightly together and exposed to extreme temperatures.
And during hurricane season, animals commonly drown or starve to death by the millions in factory farms. When Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina last year, 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs were killed. Confined in cages and crates with no chance of survival, the animals were abandoned. Unlike companion animals, who by law must be included in government evacuation plans during natural disasters, farmed animals are afforded no legal protections.
There’s no question that the PACT Act is a win for companion animals, but it’s a loss for animals living in factory farms. Pigs, cows, and chickens are intelligent and sentient beings, and they deserve the same protections as the dogs and cats we love and adore.
Luckily, you can take a stand against animal cruelty simply by refusing to accept it. As consumers, we can use both our wallets and our voices to influence corporate policies and change our nation’s food system. Please check out ChooseVeg.com to learn more about compassionate plant-based eating, and visit our corporate engagement page to find out how you can help MFA pressure food companies into eliminating cruel practices from their supply chains. You can also share videos from MFA’s undercover investigations to help inform your social network.