On the animal rights revolution in organic farming.
Organic food shoppers have become accustomed to looking for green-and-white “USDA Organic” stickers on the products they buy, but they are not always familiar with the rules and standards that lie behind these labels. For example, many people believe that animals that produce organically-certified meat, eggs, and dairy products live very different lives than those on conventional farms. They would be surprised to learn that the rules dealing with animal welfare are ambiguous. This may be about to change significantly—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently considering a proposal that would transform the treatment of poultry and livestock on organic farms.
Many would be surprised to learn that, when it comes to organic certification, the rules dealing with animal welfare are ambiguous.
As published in the Federal Register, the proposed rules are wide-ranging. Among other things, they would increase the minimum size of dairy cow pens, require farmers to allow chickens to roam freely on soil and grass, and prohibit certain physical alterations, such as poultry debeaking and the removal of tails from cows and pigs.
The president of the ASPCA, an animal welfare organization, has asserted that the new rules would “make ‘organic’ mean something” by forcing farmers to “deliver on its humane promises.” But not everyone is cheering the proposal. Some farmers have argued that it would drive up the cost of organic foods, increase livestock disease exposure, and add to the risk of foodborne illnesses. There are also concerns that senators from agricultural states might vote to de-fund the new rules, blocking their implementation.