Lawsuit: Should Farmers Be Allowed to Define Animal Cruelty?

Animal rights activists have filed suit against Washington’s King County to dispute a state-wide law that essentially allows farmers to decide what treatment is humane and what is not.


In a press release, the Northwest Animal Rights Network declared that “Foxes should not be guarding the henhouse” and argued that the law is against the state constitution. The suit focuses on a handful of clauses in a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals law from 1994 that the group believes are particularly vague.

Language like “accepted husbandry practices,” “the customary use or exhibiting of animals,” and “accepted veterinary medical practices” leaves the decision of what exactly is “accepted” to those who reep the benefits from animal agriculture. The animal rights activists want more specific language that forbids abusive practices.

“What geographical, philosophical, scientific, medical, or moral standard, if any, is applied in making such decision?” the release reads (pdf).

The lawsuit continues by listing dozens of typical farming practices that, while perhaps “accepted,” are not humane. The list includes castration and debeaking without anesthesia, veal crating, grinding baby chicks alive, and branding, among other practices.

“You look at a little chick having its beak burned off without anesthesia, and I don’t think anyone would argue that that’s not cruel,” said Adam Karp, an attorney representing the group. “If we were to do it with a dog or cat, we’d have an uproar.”

Photo Credit: friedelfreiraum on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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