We’re celebrating a major victory in our fight to protect animal welfare and food safety, Filene!

The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruled yesterday that Idaho’s “Ag-Gag” law is unconstitutional, overturning the law in a landmark victory for free speech, animal welfare, and food safety!

We are all vulnerable when unjustly stripped of the right to bear witness and expose illegal and unethical behavior going on in industrial animal agriculture, one of the nation’s most powerful industries. This ruling affirms our right to report such abuse in order to protect animals and our health.

While Ag-Gag laws are overwhelmingly opposed by the public, and nationwide thirty-two similar Ag-Gag measures have been successfully stopped, unfortunately, legislatures beholden to Big Agriculture interests have pushed through similar laws in seven additional states beyond Idaho.

This Idaho decision is the first step in defeating similar Ag-Gag laws across the country, and CFS will continue to challenge these laws, too.

While much discussion around Ag-Gag laws focuses on animal welfare, the laws also seriously threaten our food safety, by making unlawful investigative activities that could keep contaminated food off the market. 1 in 6 Americans are sickened each year, and thousands tragically perish annually, from ingesting foodborne pathogens – and beef, poultry, and eggs are some of the worst offenders.

We’re working to change this broken and harmful animal factory system, and we’ve had several successes recently:

  1. In May 2015, four Washington State mega-dairies agreed to implement sweeping changes in their operations following a series of successful lawsuits brought by CFS and Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) against the dairies alleging that their mismanagement of manure contaminated water supplies in the Lower Yakima Valley, Washington community and violated federal environmental law.
  2. The settlement followed a January 2015 ruling in the Eastern District of Washington finding that the millions of gallons of manure stored in unlined lagoons and dumped onto crop fields contaminated the soil and aquifer below. Under the terms of the settlement, the dairies will provide clean drinking water to a large number of residents with polluted water and drastically change their operations in ways intended to stop future contamination to the area’s water supply to protect public health and the environment.
  3. In October 2013, in response to a lawsuit filed by CFS, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and seven other groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for the withdrawal of 98 out of 101 arsenic-based animal drugs. And in April 2015, FDA moved to withdraw the last arsenic-based feed additive approved for use in chicken and turkey.

We’re going up against the biggest food manufacturers in the world, and we’re winning. But we have more work to do and we must remain vigilant.

CFS is also involved in groundbreaking cases yet to be decided:

  • CFS is part of a coalition of nonprofits currently challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s failure to address air pollution from animal factories that contribute to significant human health problems, including asthma and heart attacks; endanger animal health; intensify the effects of climate change; and cause regional haze and “dead zones” in waterways.
  • CFS is also part of a coalition of nonprofits currently challenging EPA’s 2012 withdrawal of the CAFO reporting rule – a provision of the Clean Water Act that allows EPA to gather basic information on an industry. After initially proposing to collect this information from animal factories, EPA flip-flopped and has refused to do so, under industry pressure. We believe the public has a right to basic data on animal factories, such as location, size, and manure storage methods. Without a transparent system, the public is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of these facilities.
  • CFS, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club have also filed a lawsuit against FDA for approving 18 ractopamine-based drugs without examining the environmental and public health risks of their use. Ractopamine is fed to pigs, cattle, and turkeys to cause rapid weight gain. An estimated 60% – 80% of pork sold in U.S. supermarkets comes from pigs treated with this controversial drug.

We still have a long road ahead of us to stop these harmful animal factories, but today we celebrate a hard-fought win!

Thanks for all of your amazing support,

Paige Tomaselli, Senior Attorney
Center for Food Safety


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