Suffering Less Equal
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Jill Howard-Church, Animals and Society Institute (ASI)
May 2014

True abuse is true abuse across the spectrum, whether pet care or animal husbandry. There is absolutely no reason a rancher or farmer should be neglecting, beating or starving an animal.... Farm animals do not live the same lives as urban house pets, but they should be equal when it comes to basic treatment.

There continues to be good news, bad news and so-so news coming out of state legislatures regarding cruelty to animals.

No sooner did South Dakota's governor sign legislation making his state the last in the nation to enact felony provisions for some offenses, Arizona's legislature is trying to weaken its animal protection laws.

Last week, the Arizona House passed a bill (HB 2587) that would make deliberate harm to farmed animals only a misdemeanor on first offense, rather than the felony it is now.

The original version of the bill also would have stripped local police of the power to investigate abuse allegations against farmers, leaving that duty to state agriculture officials, which makes the concept of a fox guarding a henhouse seem like an improvement.

That part, however, was removed from the final House bill, as was a provision that (like other measures making the rounds this year) would have required that any video or photo evidence of farm cruelty be turned over to authorities within five days of occurring, which of course would hinder undercover investigations of chronic abuse.

As amended, the House bill now goes to the Arizona Senate.

Opposition to the bill is coming from both humane and legal circles. Deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Mayer said, "It's fundamentally bad public policy to carve out a separate criminal code for people based on their profession. That's not equal treatment under the law."

The Camp Verde, Arizona, Bugle printed an editorial questioning whether state law should set "two standards for animal abuse." The paper noted:

True abuse is true abuse across the spectrum, whether pet care or animal husbandry. There is absolutely no reason a rancher or farmer should be neglecting, beating or starving an animal.... Farm animals do not live the same lives as urban house pets, but they should be equal when it comes to basic treatment.

It is true that most state statutes (including South Dakota's) exempt many "accepted" or "standard" farming practices from the mere definition of cruelty. For example, burning a cow's skin with a hot iron or cutting off a pig's tail without anesthetic isn't considered cruelty (although the cows and pigs would beg to differ), but doing so to a Golden retriever would be. That's not logical or fair, but such exemptions are also applied to animals used in laboratories, to an extent. But more wantonly egregious acts to farmed animals, such as those routinely discovered during undercover investigations, do fall under most cruelty statutes - and that's what has Big Agriculture worried.

Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other "livestock" have the least legal protection, even though they constitute the vast majority of animals used and killed for any purpose. They are treated individually like the commodities they are classified as collectively, as case after undercover case reveals (the most recent being a turkey farm in Canada).

And just like the "ag-gag" laws recently enacted by several states (including Idaho, where a lawsuit has already been filed to challenge it), bills that seek to ban the documentation and/or thwart the prosecution of farmed animal abuse set a horrible precedent. On such Orwellian animal farms, all animal suffering is equal, but some victims of suffering are less equal than others.


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