Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida/National News

Animal Advocates Closely Watching Farm Bill

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Animal-rights advocates are perched on the edges of their seats as members of the U.S. House and Senate evaluate legislation to replace the Farm Bill that expires in September.

Two measures that directly affect animal welfare are part of the package. Both House and Senate bills include a version of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would make it a crime to attend or bring a child to a dog fight or a cockfight.

Florida law prohibits attending or participating in animal fighting, but Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said the northern part of the state is a "gateway" for the activity.

"There are people who will move fighting birds from Florida into Alabama because the penalties are so weak," Pacelle said.

The maximum penalty in Alabama for participation in cock fighting is $50.

The House version of the Farm Bill also includes an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Pacelle predicted it would mean misery for many animals - including calves, pigs, chickens, puppies and even sharks - by tossing out state animal-welfare laws.

"If there's a state standard that says that the animals should be able to lie down, turn around, stand up and extend their limbs, that could be nullified by Steve King's amendment," he said. "He even opposed efforts to include pets in disaster planning."

To cut costs, factory farm operators often don't give individual veterinary attention to ill or injured animals. Instead, workers kill sick pigs who won't be able to make it to the slaughterhouse or simply leave them alone to die. In one investigation, workers were videotaped killing sick pigs by repeatedly slamming them against the concrete floor. (PITA)

King has said he believes the wide variety of state animal-welfare laws makes it difficult for food producers to comply with them and restricts commerce.However, Pacelle said the King amendment could nullify hard-won rights for animals in 34 states and has broad implications for food safety and environmental standards.

Despite complaints that cockfighting is part of the national heritage of some cultures, Pacelle said the legislation making it illegal to attend is not discriminatory.

"Unfortunately, people of many different backgrounds have engaged in animal fighting," he said. "But every poll we've conducted shows the vast majority of people of every background - white, black, Latino, Asian - they all overwhelmingly oppose animal fighting."

Pacelle noted that even Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback once convicted for illegal dog fighting, lobbied Congress in support of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act last year.


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