Obama Finalizes Animal Welfare Reform Law

As one of his last actions in office, president Obama outlaws tail docking, mulesing, and transportation of sick animals, amongst other cruel practices in the “organic” industry.


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This week, the Obama Administration (through the United States Department of Agriculture) issued a rule that prohibits a host of cruel practices on organic animal farms. The new law prevents farmers from docking cows’ tails, transporting sick or lame animals, and engaging in mulesing—the practice of removing skin from the hind legs of sheep. The rule also clarifies previous requirements for organic chicken farms to allow certain space allocation for birds, including mandatory access to outdoor space for egg-laying hens. While the new rule does not apply to certain animals—for instance, tail docking is still allowed on pig farms—and these reforms are limited to the “organic” sector of the inherently cruel animal agriculture industry, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) CEO Wayne Pacelle believes this action is a major step forward. “The rule is a game-changer for the $40 billion organic market whose consumers often believe that organic farm animals are raised with strong animal welfare standards,” Pacelle said. Last June, president Obama signed the historic Lautenberg Act—revising the archaic 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act—making a new requirement to use non-animal testing for chemicals, and setting a precedent for exploring more relevant forms of testing (including in vitro and silico methods) of substances meant for human use.