VTDigger | Bob Galvin: Unholy alliance fights humane treatment of farm animals

In the EATS Act, China plays a big role in prodding American lawmakers to unwind the popular votes of the American public.

Reposted from: https://vtdigger.org/2023/08/14/bob-galvin-unholy-alliance-fights-humane-treatment-of-farm-animals/

August 14, 2023

Recently, I celebrated the monumental Supreme Court win allowing states to grant farm animals room to move and turn around, rather than be intensely confined.

The win came from a high court ruling in NPPC v. Ross that pitted industrial-scale pork producers against California voters, 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. The will of the voters won against the pork industry, which did not think states should be able to tell farmers their pigs must be able to literally have room to turn around.

But this fight isn’t over.

Facing defeat in a fair democracy, pork producers are now demanding that Congress jam the EATS Act (H.R.4417, S.2019) into a massive farm bill, gutting the implementation of Prop 12 and a similar amendment in Massachusetts.

The EATS Act is the brainchild of disgraced former Iowa Rep. Steve King who was voted out of office largely because of his racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Now his legislation is being carried by his protégé in Iowa, Rep. Ashley Hinson.

If passed, the EATS Act will strip local and state control so that local governments in Vermont cannot pass progress laws such as environmental protections and laws that are best suited for their communities.

It’s a shameful power play by lawmakers bowing to the National Pork Producers Council and its partners, including Smithfield Foods, a multibillion-dollar business owned by the Shuanghui Group of China, a country with zero animal welfare standards and that is building high-rise factory farms for pigs.

This unholy alliance lost big in our courts, and in the court of public opinion. Now it wishes to strongarm the public by nullifying votes and court rulings. This is not how America works, and every citizen can help stop this affront to our freedoms and values.

Prop 12 is a significant win protecting states where Americans and their state lawmakers have chosen to ban gestation crates. It’s been a long fight for kinder business standards that respect the values and will of the voters.

The battle has been well covered in the media, with pundits and scholars dissecting commerce law, states’ rights, and more humane treatment of farm animals.

But one thing that has been sorely missing is the fact that a foreign country, China, is attempting to erode American democracy. It is China, through Smithfield, that is appealing to Congress to overturn the votes of American voters that establish minimum space allotments for mother pigs.

While the NPPC is based in Des Moines, Iowa, its biggest member is Smithfield Foods, which produces one in six piglets in the United States. It controls the lives of 1 million of America’s 6 million sows — about 16 percent of production.

The Shuanghui Group, better known as the WH Group, purchased Smithfield Foods in 2013 for $4.72 billion. It was the largest-ever Chinese acquisition of an American company. Smithfield has 146,000 acres of land, making the Luohe, Henan province-based company one of the largest overseas owners of American farmland.

The link between the Chinese government and the Smithfield acquisition is well-established. The president of Shuanghui, appointed to his position by the government, said about government support of the deal that “the Chinese government has been supporting us with preferential policy, as well as investment. For instance, the Bank of China has shown great support both financially and politically”.

When the Shuanghui Group took over Smithfield in that multibillion-dollar sale, it was taking over a company that had previously said it would phase out the gestation-crate system.

That announcement from Smithfield came in 2007, just after voters in Arizona had approved a ballot measure to ban the confinement of breeding sows and veal calves in crates. Seeing that landslide vote as a marker of a new mainstream sensibility, Smithfield pledged to end the use of gestation crates under its control within a decade.