Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King worked overtime to build his notoriety this summer. After likening immigrants’ children to drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes” from smuggling marijuana across the border, he amped up his legendary support for animal cruelty.
King added a noxious amendment to the federal Farm Bill that recently passed the House that will nullify state and local farm animal welfare laws, stripping animals of legal protections. “It’s one of the most destructive and far-reaching anti-animal welfare provisions we’ve seen in decades,” said Wayne Pacelle ’87, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S.
The nullification of state and local laws would be particularly devastating to farm animals, which are not included in the definition of “animals” covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act.
King’s amendment, which is called the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act,” creates a federal preemption of state and local laws that govern agricultural production and other industries involving animals. If passed, it would repeal decades worth of laws approved by voters regarding the intensive confinement of farm animals, shark finning, puppy mills and horse, dog and cat slaughter for meat. The amendment’s wording is so vague that experts believe that laws protecting our environment, workers’ rights and food safety could also be at risk.
King cites the Commerce Clause as justification for his amendment. He says that states like California with more rigorous humane treatment laws force producers in other states to “invest billions” to meet California’s standards if they want to sell their products in the Golden State. According to King, this violates the federal government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Under the King Amendment, California’s Proposition 2 — which bans the extreme confinement of laying hens, mother pigs and veal calves, and which was approved overwhelming by voters and passed by a landslide margin in the state legislature — would be nullified because California could then impose its humane requirements on other states’ egg growers that want to sell their products in California.
King has a long history of opposing laws that encourage the humane treatment of animals. He has fought against every federal effort to protect animals that has arisen during his tenure. He fought against national animal fighting regulations (he has said he believes children should be welcome at animal fights), supported the sale of primates as house pets and even voted to deny help for pets caught in natural disasters! If King were indeed our nation’s top ruler, we would have zero laws to protect our creatures.
Treating animals with kindness and decency is a testament to our humanity. The animal protection laws that the King Amendment threatens are good laws to be proud of. We need more and better animal protection laws — not fewer.
Congress will reconvene in September and will decide whether the amendment will be included in the final version of the Farm Bill. Already, 166 members of the House — including all five of Connecticut’s congressmen — and 23 Senators have written to the head of the Agriculture Committee to express their support for the amendment’s removal. Call your congressman and do the same.
For the animals, the environment, public health — and above all for our own consciences — it is vital that Congress send the King Amendment straight to slaughter.
Viveca Morris is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.