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Dethroning the King Amendment

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Factory Farming & Food Safety page, Politics and Democracy page and our Genetic Engineering page.

Congress may be on recess, but lawmakers face the remaining task of ironing out a final Farm Bill. Key among their decisions will be the fate of a radical and overreaching amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-IA. A long-time opponent of anti-cruelty laws, King has tried to thwart laws cracking down on dog fighting, laws that help pets and their owners during natural disasters, and more. Now he has a provision that could wipe out dozens of state laws on farm animal confinement, puppy mills, horse slaughter, shark finning, and even dog meat.

After just a few minutes of late-night discussion among a small handful of lawmakers, King managed to insert an amendment in the House of Representatives' version of the pending Farm Bill that could nullify vast numbers of state laws protecting animals from cruelty. Ostensibly aimed at erasing California's landmark law requiring better treatment of egg-laying hens, King's amendment would force states to allow commerce of virtually any agricultural product, regardless of how dangerous, unethical or unsafe that product may be.

King's amendment is so sweepingly broad, its impact goes far beyond the animal welfare laws King wants banished from the books. That's one reason a massive coalition of organizations -- representing consumer, sustainable agriculture, environmental, public health, worker safety, and other concerns -- has banded together to demand that King's amendment be kept out of any final House-Senate package. And their voices are being heard.

For example, The Washington Post editorial board condemned King's effort, saying it "hurts chickens -- and Americans." And Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker dubbed the amendment the "Inhumane Farm Bill Measure." Even Stephen Colbert had a humorous take on the issue.

These opinion-makers are joined by other heavy-hitters such as the National Conference of State Legislatures, which wrote senior congressional agricultural leaders urging them to kill King's amendment. The Fraternal Order of Police condemned the amendment too, citing its concern that states must be able to have their own anti-cruelty laws. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and 21 other fire and emergency services organizations also appealed to Congress expressing their opposition, since, tobacco being an agricultural product, King's amendment could nullify state laws regarding fire-safe cigarettes.     

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