Amy O’Brien

Millions of animals are subjected to needless torture, abuse, and suffering every year. Yet, there is currently no federal animal cruelty statute. All 50 states have criminal laws that protect against animal cruelty; however, these state laws do not protect animals that are being abused across state lines. Lawmakers have recently recognized the inadequacy of the current federal regime in protecting animals from harm. As such, in late January 2019, two Florida legislators (Rep. Vern Buchanan (R–Longboat Key) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton)) re-introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (“PACT”) Act to Congress.

The PACT Act, which was originally introduced in 2017, amends the Animal Crush Video Prohibition (“ACVP”) Act, passed in 2010. The ACVP made the creation, sale, and distribution of animal crushing videos illegal. The PACT Act defines “animal crushing” as “actual conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury . . .” Yet, the physical act of crushing the animals remains legal under federal law. The PACT Act, however, goes further by amending the federal criminal code to make it “unlawful for any person to purposely engage in animal crushing in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Although the PACT Act seeks to protect “all animals” from cruel and inhumane treatment, the Act makes specific exceptions for “the slaughter of animals for food; hunting, trapping, fishing, and sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by Federal law, predator control, or pest control; [and] medical or scientific research,” among other exceptions. Consequently, should the PACT Act be adopted by Congress, the most tortured animals in the country will, once again, remain unprotected by federal law.

The abuse inflicted on industrial agriculture and laboratory animals is neither surprising nor unfamiliar. Over nine billion animals are farmed annually in the United States for human consumption. These animals—including chickens, turkeys, cows, goats, sheep, and pigs—are subject to horrifying and inhumane conditionsfrom birth to death. Pregnant sows live in cages so tight they cannot turn around, dairy cows suffer from scarred and swollen utters as a result of massive milk production, and egg hens are confined to small cages inside warehouses with no access to space or sunlight. Unfortunately, inside science and medical laboratories, the scene is similarly bleak. Testing often involves inflicting harm on animals without the use of pain-relieving drugs and slowly dosing them with various medications to measure their long-term effects. It is clear that the harm being inflicted upon farm and laboratory animals falls within the definition of “crushing” under the proposed PACT Act; however, the federal government remains unwilling to extend any legal protections to these similarly deserving animals.

Current federal legislation, including the Animal Welfare Actand Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, offer little protection, specifically excluding farmed animals and certain species such as birds, mice, and rats. An important question to ask is whythe federal government is so reluctant to protect the animals we eat and rely on for scientific advancement. It is not for lack of legal authority. Under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to enact laws pertaining to the movement of interstate commerce. Therefore, animals sold, transported, or used for any purpose across state lines are subject to federal oversight. Farm and laboratory animals clearly fall within this constitutional requirement. Yet, the political influence of agricultural lobbyists and the meat industry plays a huge role in deterring the legislature from taking any affirmative action to protect farm animals. Meanwhile, the contentious moral debate between saving human lives through ongoing scientific research and protecting the animals that suffer as a result halts any potential legislation in its tracks.

Although the PACT Act is a necessary piece of legislation to protect many animals from abuse and mistreatment, more must be done on the federal level to protect the vast majority of animals in the country that are exempt from its protections. The realities of the torture being inflicted on farm and laboratory animals must be realized, and these millions of animals must be afforded the same federal legal protections that the PACT Act seeks to provide to other non-exempt animals.

2 Responses

  1. What we need is enactment of the Farm Animals Anti-Cruelty Act originally introduced in 2008 by former Congressmen Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Jim Moran (D-VA). This bill went a long way in providing basic humane treatment of farm animals raised for food. At the time, I was special advisor to Congressman Shays and spearheaded the political/legislative effort while the actual bill was drafted by esteemed law professor David Favre.

  2. What about the Veterans administrations using of Dogs for insidious deadly experiments that are always fatal???????????

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