Animal activists always seem to have something going on, with no shortage of organizations to carry out their agendas. Last Sept. 2, an incoming petition to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asked for a notice conveying that:

 1) State government officials are not categorically preempted from enforcing state anti-cruelty laws by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, or the Poultry Products Inspection Act; and 

2) FSIS personnel should cooperate with state government officials in the enforcement of state anti-cruelty laws and improve clarity and frequency of communication (i.e., Letters of Concern (“LOC”)) to those officials.

The petition was filed by a Virginia-based group called Animal Partisan.  Another non-government group, Animal Outlook, has since endorsed the contents of its petition.

“We fully endorse these requests and the legal bases articulated in the Petition,” the Animal Outlook comments say.  “We write, in addition, to emphasize the importance of enforcing state laws in protecting farmed animals and to elaborate on our relevant experience as an organization. Animal Outlook, despite conducting investigations and reporting iron-clad evidence of animal cruelty, is frequently unwilling by law enforcement officials and prosecutors to enforce state anti-cruelty statutes in the face of perceived preemption concerns — effectively nullifying these important laws. But when state prosecutors do fulfill their duties to enforce state anti-cruelty laws, they are often successful in protecting farmed animals — and FSIS can make a nationwide impact by supporting these efforts.”

Animal Outlook goes on to say, “In light of our experience, the requested notice is necessary to reduce confusion about well-settled legal doctrine, empower state prosecutors and law enforcement officials to enforce state anti-cruelty laws, and enable states to serve their constitutional role in protecting farmed animals.”

The petition claims to correct a “systematic failure” in enforcing state anti-cruelty laws when state prosecutors are unwilling to act.

“Unfortunately, many state government officials mistakenly believe that the USDA has sole and complete jurisdiction over any animal welfare issue related to agriculture and, therefore, over the enforcement of state anti-cruelty laws as applied to farmed animals,” the petition continues. “This has created the pervasive myth that federal statutes like the FMIA, HMSA, and PPIA preempt any enforcement of state anti-cruelty laws in cases involving farmed animals. Consequently, when concerned parties seek recourse for animal cruelty inflicted on farmed animals, they are frequently met with resistance from prosecutors and law enforcement officials who believe that state anti-cruelty laws do not apply to farmed animals.”

The petition is assigned to the FSIS  Office of Policy and Program Development for review.

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