New York Assembly Bill 8163 would ban farm animal cruelty in NY
Proposed in May of 2009, and sitting in the Agriculture Committee of the New York Assembly, AB8163 if passed, will phase-out pig gestation crates, veal crates and hen battery cages by 2015, and it would prohibitsany person from tethering or confining any pig during pregnancy, any calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen who is kept on a farm in a manner that prevents such animal from lying down, standing up and fully extending its limbs and turning around freely. Violations of the law will be punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed one year and/or fines up to $1,000.
Harsh confinement within confinement crates and cages deprives calves, pigs and chickens of the ability to engage in natural behavior. Animals confined in such circumstances experience extensive and significant physical and psychological trauma. Nationwide, about one million calves raised for veal and six million breeding sows (female pigs) suffer nearly their entire lives inside tiny crates so small the animals can't even turn around. Veal factory farmers separate calves from their mothers within the first few days of birth and cram them into individual crates or stalls, tethered by their necks. Inside these enclosures, the calves can barely move.
Gestation crates board pregnant pigs for nearly their entire four-month pregnancy. These tiny metal crates are not even large enough for the pig to move or perform natural behaviors such as cleaning themselves or simply turning around.
Battery cages used to confine hens make it impossible for them to spread their wings or turn around. This severely restricts the hen's ability to engage in basic natural activities including stretching their wings, turning around, perching and dust-bathing. Cage-free systems would enable hens to lay their eggs in nests, walk, and spread their wings, all of which would significantly reduce the suffering, stress and injuries associated with severe crowding in cages.
This ban is not without precedent. In 2002, Florida voters banned gestation crates in a 55-45% vote. In 2006, Arizona voters banned both gestation crates and veal crates in a 62-38% vote. In 2007, the Oregon legislature banned gestation crates and in 2008, the Colorado legislature banned both gestation crates and veal crates. Last November, California voters passed Proposition 2 which banned gestation crates, veal crates and battery cages by a 63.5-36.5% vote. And in May of 2009, Maine banned both gestation and veal crates, effective 2011. The entire European Union has also banned both veal crates and gestation crates, effective 2007 and 2013, respectively.
Other states considering bans this year include Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Read the entire New York bill here . . .
Assembly Bill 8163 Faces An Uphill Battle
The ban is not presented as a statewide proposition. New York does not permit either ballot initiatives or statewide propositions. The bill must pass both houses of the state legislature and the Governor. Public support for the ban is widespread. Legislative support is weak.
The legislation was introduced by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) in May of 2009. and quickly gained 15 other sponsors, primarily from New York City and its suburbs. Then it was was referred to the Assembly's powerful Agriculture Committee. The Agriculture Committee bill is made up of 23 Assembly Members, primarily from upstate New York. Two of the downstate sponsors of the bill (Linda Rosenthal and Alan Maisel, D-Brooklyn) and one upstate sponsor (John McEneny, D-Albany) sit on the Agriculture Committee.
The Committee is chaired by Assemblyman William Magee (D-Nelson). Its ranking Republican is Clifford Crouch (R-Guilford). According to the New York Farm Bureau (a trade group representing New York farmers' and ranchers' economic interests), it believes that Magee and Crouch will not support the legislation. New York Farm Bureau Government Relations Director Julie Suarez says, "New York agricultural producers shouldn't be too worried." And according to Farm & Dairy News, with Magee and Crouch in charge of the Agriculture Committee, New York farmers may "breathe a sigh of relief."
Assembly Members Magee and Crouch Represent the Interests of Big Agribusiness
It is no wonder that factory farms and big agribusiness think that they can relax and let Magee and Crouch take care of them. Agribusiness has taken care of Magee and Crouch for many years. The New York Farm Bureau has been paying thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the "Friends of Bill Magee" and to the "Friends of Cliff Crouch." Magee and Crouch have also taken money from Monsanto. Crouch's campaign is fed by the American Rendering Company, and both Magee and Crouch are happy to take money, lots of money, from a New York Law firm named Bond, Schoeneck & King. The firm boasts twelve attorneys in its Agribusiness department and is a registered lobbyist for companies involved in livestock waste management, seed distribution, and big dairy. Why do lobbyists give contributions to legislators? It is certainly not because legislators vote against their interests.
There is wide support for passage of this legislation.
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York evaluated the proposed legislation after its introduction in May of 2009. Its Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals (LIPTA), speaking for the New York City Bar Association recommended passage of AB-8163. LIPTA said, "[t]he changes proposed by this piece of legislation, which allow for a gradual phase-out of these confinement methods between now and January 1, 2015 would require relatively modest changes, but would result in an alleviation of the needless discomfort and suffering of calves, sows and hens which would otherwise be kept in these extreme confining conditions." The report also noted that the "prohibiting producers from keeping calves, sows, and hens in these extreme conditions would result in more humane treatment of these animals, by reducing the physical stress attendant to such confinement." To read the entire report, click here.
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production recommends the phase-out within ten years of all intensive confinement systems that restrict natural movement and normal behaviors, including swine gestation crates, restrictive swine farrowing crates, cages used to house multiple egg-laying chickens (commonly referred to as battery cages) and the tethering or individual housing of calves for the production of white veal. The report stated, "[i]ndustrial livestock productions systems have often deleteriously affected the welfare of virtually every species of farm animal in the United States, including all forms of poultry (chickens, turkey, ducks and geese), dairy cows, veal calves, swine sheep and lambs, and raise serious ethical questions regarding the way in which these animals are treated. Read either the Executive Summary of the Report or the Complete Report (these are large files).
The bill is also supported by the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary.
So what happens next? The New York Assembly is not currently in session and will not be back in session to address this bill until January, 2010. Resistance by the chair of the committee and the ranking minority leader may doom this bill. In the few months between now and January, the public needs to organize its support and communicate that support loudly and clearly to the Committee members and other assembly members. Without a citizens' movement, the likelihood of passage is remote.
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