March 27 2024 11:24 AM

It is so important that we engage with policymakers to ensure animal agriculture’s voice is heard in discussions that could impact the way farmers and ranchers do what they do.

Animal rights groups are increasingly using legislative campaigns to further their agenda to eliminate animal agriculture and consumer choice. These groups are using the legislative process to introduce bills and attempt to push them across the finish line. They’re also using ballot campaigns and local initiatives to force change. However the groups choose to achieve their goal, they all seem to agree that legislative initiatives are a key tactic.

One of the most notable ballot measures to pass in recent years was California’s Proposition 12 which set certain animal housing requirements for farmers and ranchers within California and those that wished to sell their products in the state. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was a primary proponent of the measure and is continuing to promote similar pieces of legislation in other states. This was noted at the 2023 Animal & Vegan Advocacy Summit when Kate Brindle, senior specialist of farm animal protection animal policy at HSUS, stated the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 12 “essentially gave a judicial green light so that we can keep working in the legislatures to free animals from suffering and extreme confinement.”

We predicted this as a trend to look out for in 2024, and we’re seeing it come to fruition already as several legislatures are battling similar initiatives. In Maryland, HSUS announced it would spend six figures advocating for a cage-free egg bill. The group estimates that the bill would impact 2 million birds in the state and another 4 million birds outside of the state since Maryland imports more eggs than it produces. If it passes, the group claims this will be “the most influential piece of animal welfare legislation ever passed in Maryland, just based on the sheer number of animals impacted,” highlighting HSUS’ true intentions to interfere with interstate commerce. Illinois, New York, and Oklahoma are facing similar bills this year.

Other groups are focused on their goal of establishing legal personhood for animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), for instance, advocates for “courtroom animal advocate programs” that “allow legal practitioners — supervised law students or volunteer lawyers — to advocate for animal victims in criminal cruelty cases.” New Jersey and New York are both facing bills to grant legal personhood to animals in 2024.

ALDF is also behind several bills and petitions to outlaw octopus farming in Hawaii, Washington, and California to prevent allegedly “cruel” practices. These bills are primarily preventative as there’s only one known octopus farm in the U.S., in Hawaii, that has been permanently shut down. Similarly, several bans on fur farming and trading have been proposed in states including Illinois, Rhode Island, and Washington. While these bills do not directly impact animal agriculture, it’s important to be aware of them as they could set a dangerous precedent on banning certain types of farming.

These bills are a vital reminder of the importance of proactively (and sometimes reactively) engaging with policymakers and other influencers to ensure animal agriculture’s voice is at the table in discussions that could impact the way farmers and ranchers do what they do. Sign up for the next class of Animal Ag Allies to become an empowered communicator for agriculture and to learn how to handle contentious issues like these. For more information on legislation impacting animal agriculture, visit the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s legislation map. We will also be discussing legal and legislative issues at the 2024 Stakeholders Summit, set for May 8 and 9, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. Register here!

Emily Ellis

Emily Ellis is the manager of communications and content at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In her role, she works to execute the Alliance’s issues management and communications strategy.