There’s so much positive change afoot for animals, but it’s also true that we are more or less always in the throes of battle as a movement, with tough fights being waged right now and many more looming in the months and years ahead.
This week, with City Clerk Susana Mendoza leading the charge, Chicago’s city council voted 49 to 1 to restrict pet stores from selling dogs from puppy mills, requiring instead that they adopt the Petco and PetSmart models of featuring dogs, cats, and rabbits from shelters and rescue groups. The locally-based Puppy Mill Project, Best Friends Animal Society, and The Humane Society of the United States all supported the measure. USDA inspection standards for puppy mills are inadequate and there is no program in the marketplace to ensure that dogs sold in pet stores come from breeders that meet higher animal care standards. That means that many dogs sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, and the option of restricting the sale of dogs is the best way to dry up this inhumane sector of the pet trade. Now 47 cities have similar standards, including many of the biggest.
To the north, in an expected but still stunning move, Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council has stipulated that no new gestation crate facilities can be constructed there after July 1, 2014, and that continuous confinement in crates must be phased out within 10 years. This came after vigorous campaigning by Humane Society International/Canada, and after eight major food retailers said they would phase out their purchases of pork from suppliers that confined breeding sows in gestation crates by 2022.
Unfortunately, on the down side of things, yesterday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and four state Attorneys General – Luther Strange from Alabama, John Bruning from Nebraska, Greg Pruitt of Oklahoma, and Jack Conway of Kentucky – joined the effort by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to subvert states’ rights and to nullify a California law requiring that shell eggs sold in the state must come from laying hens that are able to “stand up, lie down, turn around, and freely extend their limbs.”
What’s the common explanation for the intervention of the Governor and AGs? They all hail from states with vociferous, uncompromising agriculture interests, mainly the pork and cattle industries. These same agriculture groups have thus far stymied the effort in Congress to pass national, uniform legislation to give laying hens more space and to give consumers more information about production methods for the laying hens. And they’re also behind the big push for ag-gag laws to prevent the public from learning anything about what goes on in their operations.
So what’s the common denominator? These folks don’t want to see legislation to enforce a minimum standard of care for animals. Not at the state level. Not at the federal level. They think they have the situation entirely under control, leaving animals at the absolute mercy of those who somehow think it’s acceptable to confine animals so severely that they cannot move.
Who wants to be part of an industry so misaligned with the values of consumers and responsible for so much misery and privation for animals? And who wants to stand up for that kind of industry? Every one of these parties is on the wrong side of history. The Chicago anti-puppy mill ordinance, and the new anti-gestation crate policy in Canada, are signs of shifting public opinion that favors a just standard for animals. Of course, though, there will always be people, interest groups, and industries that stand in the way, often for transparently political reasons. But they are not only obstructing moral progress, but economic progress, even as they say exactly the opposite.