Today, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), introduced The AWARE Act to ensure that farm animals used in agricultural research at federal research facilities be included in the definition of “animal” under the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act ensures that certain minimum standards of humane care are adhered to in federal and private research facilities. However, the Act defines “animal” in a way that egregiously excludes farm animals used in agricultural research. Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick will speak with leaders from the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) at a press conference today.
“It is time to put a stop to this horrible misuse of taxpayer funds,” said Representative Blumenauer. “When USDA research facilities experiment on farm animals, they should be held to the same standard as federal research facilities conducting lifesaving disease research with the same kinds of animals. This bill is common sense for taxpayers, for researchers, and for the humane treatment of animals.”
“As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we felt a responsibility to present the AWARE Act as a legislative fix that holds the USDA to the same humane standards that countless research facilities across the country are held to,” said Representative Fitzpatrick. “If we expect staff in these facilities to recognize their professional and legal obligations to safeguard the welfare of animals – we should set the bar at an equal, or higher, level for the federal government. “
A January 20, 2015 front page article in the New York Times, “Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry,” examined horrendous abuses at one such facility - the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. In the last 30 years, over half a million animals have been housed at the center. The center’s experiments have included trying to increase the number of twin births in cows and expand the litter sizes of pigs, without consideration of animal health impacts, and trying to breed “easy care” lambs that are born in open fields without human assistance – all with horrifying, and often unsuccessful results.
According to the New York Times, at least 6,500 animals are known to have starved to death at this facility alone. Unknown numbers have died from negligence such as easily treatable infections, exposure to bad weather, or attacks by predators. In just the last 10 years, this single center has cost nearly $200 million with taxpayers footing the bill for this shocking abuse of animals.
“The abuses that the New York Times exposed at the U.S. Meat Research Center are unacceptable in a civilized society,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Congress needs to pass the AWARE Act so that taxpayers aren’t paying for this kind of diabolical animal abuse.”
“Allowing animals to be tortured in the interest of creating bigger profit margins – especially at taxpayer expense – is reprehensible, and we’re grateful to Representatives Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick for working hard to get USDA out of the business of animal cruelty and back to the job of animal welfare,” said Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Congress’s swift bipartisan introduction of legislation reflects a strong commitment to ending animal cruelty wherever it happens.”
The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).