In another move that is sure to cause controversy, the Trump administration has effectively withdrawn an Obama-era rule that would have strengthened animal welfare requirements on “certified organic” meat.
The decision was announced Monday and comes just a short time before the ruling was to be enacted in May, The Hill reported.
Since November, the decision to reject or embrace the former administration’s decision had been put off, though White House officials now insist they had made the right call, claiming the rule exceeded the Department of Agriculture’s statutory authority.
Officials also claimed the rule could have had a somewhat negative effect on the National Organic Program’s voluntary participation.
“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said Greg Ibach, the USDA’s under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
“The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers,” he added.
The rejected rule, which had been finalized by the Obama administration in April 2016, largely dictated how National Organic Program handlers and producers were required to treat their animals to ensure the welfare of all livestock and poultry.
Livestock would be provided access to an outdoor area year-round, and poultry would have been required to be housed in spaces big enough for the birds to move about freely and without issue, with the ability to not only stretch their wings but to stand normally and engage in other normal behaviors.
By withdrawing the rule, the USDA admitted that the only congressional authority their Agricultural Marketing Service has is “to regulate aspects of animal care that relate to the ingestion or administration of nonorganic substances,” according to The Hill.
“It’s rare in this day and age to have any influence on regulations and a common goal,” said Albert Straus, who was the first certified organic dairy farmer west of the Mississippi. “I felt that the proposed rule is something we’ve worked on for years that was a consensus of the industry,” he told The New Food Economy in December, when the Trump administration proposed withdrawing the rule.
And Straus isn’t the only one who is sure to be disappointed, as farmers within the Organic Trade Association echoed similar disapproval.
Withdrawing the rule “is a subversion of comprehensive federal animal welfare standards approved by the USDA,” said Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.
“And it will prove crippling to family farmers all across the nation who treat their animals well and want to be able to market their products under an authentic ‘organic’ label,” he told Civil Eats.
However, though many people throughout the nation decried the ruling’s rejection, other groups — like PETA — claimed it wouldn’t have helped in the first place.
“While this rule will provide some animals with a modicum of relief, the stark fact remains that animals on organic farms can still be intensively confined and subjected to forced impregnation, the loss of their babies, mutilation without pain relief, and a painful, terrifying death,” PETA reported.
“There are no federal laws protecting animals on farms, and one behind-the-scenes exposé after another has revealed that even with some standards in place, animals suffer terribly.”
PETA made this statement despite the fact that the vocal activist organization has come under fire for their own habits of euthanization and hypocrisy, with eyewitnesses within PETA having documented just how atrocious some the most humane “organic” farms actually are.
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