U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced legislation that would require animal agriculture “corporations and industrial operators” to be “more humane” during any depopulation measures under a disease disaster.
Called the “Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act,” the bill would place the liability for responsible disaster mitigation on these entities by requiring them to register with USDA, submit disaster preparedness plans, and also pay a fee for a new fund focused on disaster events. The new fund, known as the High-Risk AFO Disaster Mitigation Fund, would then be used to enforce disaster mitigation plans and ensure that the most humane practices are used if depopulation is necessary.
“We’ve seen multiple recent crises that have shined a light on the threat that corporate meat producers and their web of factory farms represent to workers, animals, the environment, and rural communities,” Booker said in a statement. “Built by agribusinesses, the industrial livestock and poultry system is designed to maximize production—while externalizing risk and liability—to ensure corporate profits even when the system fails.”
Additionally, Booker’s legislation aims to ensure that no inhumane methods in other aspects of the food system are being employed by industrial operators, which he says would be accomplished by halting line-speed increases and meatpacker self-inspection programs for animal slaughter, closing regulatory loopholes to prohibit the slaughter of all downed animals, and requiring more humane treatment of livestock transported for long periods.
The bill also aims to invest resources for higher-welfare slaughter technology in meat and poultry processing facilities and looks to establish a pilot program to train and employ more part-time inspectors for small processing plants.
Shawn K. Stevens, food industry attorney with the Food Industry Counsel, LLC, feels the proposed legislation shifts too much of the burden for responding to crisis scenarios on industry. “In times of crisis, industry and regulators should have the flexibility to work closely and collaboratively to solve whatever challenges are most pressing,” he tells Food Quality & Safety. “If government funding and sharing of cost in the event of a crisis remains available, it will likely ensure a better and more appropriate result for both industry and consumers alike.”