Hartford Courant | Angela Li: The fight for a fair and equitable food system

Reposted from: https://www.courant.com/2023/08/18/angela-li-the-fight-for-a-fair-and-equitable-food-system/

August 18, 2023

As state director for Animal Wellness Action, I celebrated the monumental win that liberates Connecticut and all states to freely grant farm animals room to move and turn around, rather than be extremely confined.

The win came from a high court ruling in NPCC v. Ross that pitted industrial-scale pork producers against the voters in California, who in 2018 won a citizen-led Proposition 12 to ban sales of eggs from hens that are extremely confined in cages or pork from pregnant pigs held in gestation crates. Not a single Supreme Court justice among the six conservatives and three liberals on the bench voted to allow the pork industry to override the will of the voters.

It has been a long fight for kind and decent business standards that respect the values and the will of the voters. Prop 12 is truly a significant win that protects the 11 states where Americans and their elected state lawmakers have already voted to ban gestation crates.

But clearly, this fight ain’t over.

Facing defeat in a fair democracy, pork producers are now demanding that our U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees jam the EATS Act H.R. 4417 and S. 2019 into a massive farm bill before the year is up, gutting the implementation of Prop 12 and a similar amendment in Massachusetts right out of the chute.

This is a shameful power play by lawmakers bowing to the National Pork Producers Council and its partners, including Smithfield Foods. A multi-billion-dollar business, Smithfield Foods was purchased by Shuanghui Group of China, better known as the WH group, in 2013 — the largest-ever Chinese acquisition of an American company.

China, a country with zero animal welfare standards that builds high-rise factory farms for pigs, is attempting to erode American democracy. It is China, through Smithfield, that is appealing to Congress to overturn the will of American voters that establishes minimum space allotments for mother pigs. With Smithfield controlling one million of America’s six million sows (about 16 percent of production), the U.S. is turning into China’s factory farm.

Because this unholy alliance lost big in our courts, and in the court of public opinion, they now wish to strongarm the public, pretending our votes — and the many court rulings — never happened. Talk about foreign involvement in American democracy.

It is never a small matter for Congress to nullify statewide ballot measures that are expressions of popular will. In this case, to do so would mean overturning not only food safety and clean water laws, but also state laws related to food procurement standards that give incentives to women, veterans, Black, Indigenous, and other minority-owned businesses.

We need support to stop the EATS Act and to continue our fight for a fair and equitable food system. This is not how America works, and every citizen in every state can help stop this affront to our freedoms and our values. Go to animalwellness.org and sign a petition.

Congress should oppose the EATS Act on its face as an overreaching, intrusive exercise of federal authority in American agricultural policy and an attack on states’ rights. And it should run fast and far away from the EATS Act as lawmakers come to understand China’s role in prodding American lawmakers to unwind the popular votes of the American public.