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Our Fight for Farm Animals

Protesters with Save Forests Eat Plants Sign

From birth until slaughter, farm animals are exploited in a system in which they have minimal legal protection. Despite science that shows farm animals to be sentient, emotional beings, cruel industry policies continue to prioritize profits over compassion. We’re working hard to change that.

Since our founding in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has advocated for the protection of farm animals and the promotion of plant-based living through ballot initiatives, state and federal legislation, litigation, petitions for agency rulemaking, and corporate and consumer outreach.

Protesters with Save Forests Eat Plants Sign

VICTORY! North Carolina’s ‘Anti-Sunshine’ Law Struck Down

Anna and Maybelle pigs at Farm Sanctuary

North Carolina’s “Anti-Sunshine Law” was one of a growing number of “ag-gag” laws passed by state legislatures across the country that are designed to prevent undercover investigators from exposing unsafe practices and animal welfare violations conducted by employers.

Farm Sanctuary worked with a coalition of animal protection, consumer rights, food safety, and whistleblower protection organizations to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law and are glad to see it struck down today by a federal judge.

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Active Lawsuits

Vertical explainer photo 1 - Pigs in a holding area at a slaughterhouse

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals for The Guardian

Farm Sanctuary v. Perdue

In February 2020, Farm Sanctuary and a coalition of animal protection groups sued Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA for failing to protect pigs who are too sick or injured to walk at slaughterhouses. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Rochester, New York, challenges the agency’s denial of Farm Sanctuary’s petition to ban the slaughter of “downed” pigs as well as the agency’s failure to follow Congress’s mandates regarding these animals under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The slaughter of downed pigs presents serious risks to animals and to food safety. Downed pigs are more likely to be inhumanely handled, including being excessively electro-shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved, and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move, and they are at a heightened risk of carrying a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, swine flu, and Yersinia. The lawsuit continues Farm Sanctuary’s efforts to put an end to the intolerable cruelty we see inflicted on animals too sick or injured to stand and walk. These efforts to protect downed animals began with the 1986 rescue of Farm Sanctuary’s original resident, a downed sheep named Hilda, and were followed by a successful, decade-long campaign to ban the slaughter of downed cows.

The USDA moved to dismiss the case, and we submitted arguments and declarations to support our position that the suit should move forward. We await the judge’s decision. The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, and Mercy For Animals. They are represented by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.

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Pigs in a holding area at a slaughterhouse

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals for The Guardian

Farm Sanctuary v. Perdue

In February 2020, Farm Sanctuary and a coalition of animal protection groups sued Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA for failing to protect pigs who are too sick or injured to walk at slaughterhouses. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Rochester, New York, challenges the agency’s denial of Farm Sanctuary’s petition to ban the slaughter of “downed” pigs as well as the agency’s failure to follow Congress’s mandates regarding these animals under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The slaughter of downed pigs presents serious risks to animals and to food safety. Downed pigs are more likely to be inhumanely handled, including being excessively electro-shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved, and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move, and they are at a heightened risk of carrying a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, swine flu, and Yersinia. The lawsuit continues Farm Sanctuary’s efforts to put an end to the intolerable cruelty we see inflicted on animals too sick or injured to stand and walk. These efforts to protect downed animals began with the 1986 rescue of Farm Sanctuary’s original resident, a downed sheep named Hilda, and were followed by a successful, decade-long campaign to ban the slaughter of downed cows.

The USDA moved to dismiss the case, and we submitted arguments and declarations to support our position that the suit should move forward. We await the judge’s decision. The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, and Mercy For Animals. They are represented by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.

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A group of pigs at a farm looks over a railing

Photo: Mark Agnor/shutterstock.com

Farm Sanctuary v. USDA

Farm Sanctuary sued the USDA in December 2019 as part of a group of advocacy organizations challenging the agency’s decision to eliminate limits on slaughter speeds and reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses, exposing pigs to greater suffering and flouting federal humane slaughter, meat inspection, and environmental protection laws. Previously, a slaughterhouse could kill a maximum of 1,106 pigs per hour, but the agency revoked that limit. Allowing slaughterhouses to kill an unlimited number of pigs every hour is expected to result in the deaths of approximately 11.5 million additional pigs every year according to USDA estimates. High-speed slaughter is also linked to increased humane handling violations, including failure to properly render pigs unconscious before they have their throats slit and are dropped into scalding tanks. The lawsuit also challenges the USDA’s decision to remove and relocate federal inspectors in slaughterhouses even though the agency has long asserted that its inspections are the most effective way to protect against disease epidemics that could devastate animal populations and threaten public health.

The lawsuit challenges the USDA’s action under the Administrative Procedure Act, Federal Meat Inspection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, and the case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Animal Equality, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, the Center for Biological Diversity, Mercy For Animals, and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save. They are represented by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Broiler chickens being collected for slaughter.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

AWI v. USDA

In 2018, the Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary sued the USDA in federal court for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the treatment of animals in U.S. slaughter plants. Relying on a 2016 amendment to FOIA that requires federal agencies to proactively post frequently requested records, the lawsuit asks the USDA to proactively post records generated under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act—records that are frequently requested by animal protection groups. These records expose inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter plants across the country, including incidents of workers throwing chickens and improperly stunning pigs and cattle, and transporters abandoning trucks full of animals for hours in hot weather. The agency’s continued failure to timely provide records of enforcement undermines our efforts to protect farm animals from cruelty, and proactively posting animal handling records would increase transparency and oversight. The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

Cows at a feed station

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / Eyes On Animals

NAMI v. Becerra and NPPC v. Ross

After successfully advocating for the adoption of California’s Proposition 12, which voters overwhelmingly passed in late 2018, Farm Sanctuary came to the law’s defense by intervening in support of the state in two lawsuits brought by meat industry groups challenging the law. Prop. 12 criminalized some of the worst forms of cruel confinement that animals experience on factory farms in California and banned the sale of certain animal-derived products in California. Despite the state’s well-established authority to ban the sale of cruelly produced products within its borders, the industry groups challenged Prop. 12 as an unconstitutional restriction on interstate commerce under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The two suits were brought by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), respectively.  Farm Sanctuary intervened in both suits as part of a coalition of animal protection groups, and federal judges agreed with our arguments in both cases. NAMI’s request for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law was denied, and our motion to have the NPPC suit dismissed was granted. Both industry groups are appealing, and their respective appeals are pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Broiler chickens in transport to slaughter.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Farm Sanctuary is suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to challenge its irresponsible response to bird flu that incentivizes the cruel confinement of birds in factory farms and increases the risk of disease outbreaks. Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals joined the federal lawsuit, which was originally brought by the Humane Society of the United States, filing an amended complaint in Los Angeles on July 27, 2020. During a 2015 outbreak of Highly Infectious Avian Influenza (“bird flu”), approximately 50 million chickens and turkeys in 15 U.S. states were killed in an effort to contain the disease, and USDA spent approximately $200 million to reimburse companies for the mass killing (the entire response effort cost taxpayers roughly $850 million). Rather than developing a plan to prevent future outbreaks, the USDA encourages factory farms to confine animals in stressful, overcrowded conditions that are ideal for the spread of disease. When infections proliferate, taxpayer funds are used for the “depopulation” (mass killing) of birds through grossly inhumane methods, and their bodies are buried in unlined pits or incinerated. This lawsuit seeks to require the USDA to consider a plan to prevent another bird flu outbreak by tying federal funds to the adoption of production systems that would give birds more space and reduce the likelihood of a disease outbreak. The suit also demands that the agency be required to take an in-depth look at the disastrous environmental consequences of its short-sighted plan by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Three activists with signs at Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals

2020 Advocacy

Notable Actions

January 27, 2020

Animal Welfare

On January 27, 2020, we responded to the USDA’s request for comments on their updated guidelines regarding “free-range” labeling claims. We explained that “free-range” labeling claims are misleading and we urged the USDA to require better conditions for birds raised under the “free-range” label. We encouraged our supporters and members of the public to comment too. Read the comments.

February 12, 2020

Animal Welfare: Hawaii

On February 12, 2020, we submitted testimony to the Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment urging committee members to support a bill (SB 3153) that would prevent inhumane confinement of animals on factory farms. The Hawaii Senate passed the bill and sent it to the House, where it is awaiting consideration by the House Agriculture Committee. Read the testimony.

February 13, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition: California

On February 13, 2020, Farm Sanctuary sent a letter to California State Senator Nancy Skinner expressing support for her resolution urging the federal government to stop promoting the consumption of cows’ milk through federally supported school meals. The resolution asks Congress to ensure that school students can access substitutes for cows’ milk without having to provide documentation from a doctor or parent/guardian. Read the letter.

February 2020

Animal Welfare: Maine

In February 2020, we asked our supporters and members of the public to urge their Maine state representatives to support a bill (LD 2084) that would ban the sale of eggs and egg products statewide that come from hens who are forced to spend their lives confined in cages.

February and March 2020

Animal Welfare

In February and March 2020, we encouraged our supporters and members of the public to speak out against slaughterhouse cruelty by writing to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and urging him to direct the USDA to establish humane handling regulations for the more than 9 billion birds slaughtered each year in the U.S. Read our article.

March 16, 2020

Environmental Concerns: California

On March 16, 2020, Farm Sanctuary wrote to the Chair of the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee, Laura Freidman, asking her to support passage of AB 2566, a California Assembly bill that would require the State Air Resources Board to track greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of animal products and develop effective strategies to address the climate crisis. Read the letter.

April 15, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition

On April 15, 2020, Farm Sanctuary, along with a coalition of 50+ groups led by Center for Biological Diversity and Brighter Green, asked Congress to direct COVID-19 relief funding to support independent and small to mid-sized farmers producing climate-friendly plant-based foods, and to invest in a just and equitable transition to a plant-based agriculture system. Read the letter.

April 16, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition

On April 16, 2020, we asked Congress to increase federal funding for fruits and vegetables in schools, and increase community access to healthy foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter to lawmakers was an effort by a coalition of 176 groups led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read the letter.

April 29, 2020

Animal Welfare

On April 29, 2020, we wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and urged him to use COVID-19 stimulus funding to reform our dysfunctional food system to make it more just, sustainable, and resilient. Instead of bailing out factory farms that have “depopulated” (killed and disposed of) millions of animals as a result of the pandemic, we asked the Secretary to allocate funding to support plant-based agriculture. Read the letter.

May 4, 2020

Animal Welfare

On May 4, 2020, we asked Congress to direct the USDA to reduce slaughter speeds during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect animals and workers, and promote food safety. The letter was an effort by a coalition of animal protection, environmental and workers’ rights groups working to halt high-speed slaughter. Read the letter.

May 15, 2020

Animal Welfare

On May 15, 2020, we asked individuals to urge their representatives to remove factory farm bailout money from the HEROES Act.  Instead of reimbursing factory farms for “depopulating” (killing and disposing of) millions of animals during the pandemic, we called on lawmakers to use the HEROES Act to direct resources to encourage a healthier, more diversified food system—one that helps farmers and producers transition to plant-based agriculture. Read our article.

June 7, 2020

Animal Welfare: Colorado

We supported passage of a Colorado bill prohibiting intensive confinement of hens and on June 7, 2020, we asked our Colorado supporters to write to lawmakers and urge passage of the bill (HB20-1343). The measure was signed into law on July 1, 2020.

June 9, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition

On June 9, 2020, we submitted comments on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, urging the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to recommend increased consumption of whole plant foods and discourage the intake of meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods. Read the comments.

June 10, 2020

Plant-Based Nutrition: California

On June 10, 2020, we submitted comments urging the Los Angeles, California, City Council to adopt a resolution requiring city agencies to study the risks posed by live animal markets and produce a report that may serve as a first step in addressing the inhumane treatment of animals and threat to human health posed by the city’s live markets. The resolution was adopted the same day. Read the comments.

June 22, 2020

Animal Welfare

On June 22, 2020, we asked our supporters and members of the public to write to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and urge him to stop the slaughter of sick and injured animals.  We asked that the USDA’s ban on the slaughter of downed cattle be extended to protect all downed animals. Read our article.

January 27, 2020

Animal Welfare

On January 27, 2020, we responded to the USDA’s request for comments on their updated guidelines regarding “free-range” labeling claims. We explained that “free-range” labeling claims are misleading and we urged the USDA to require better conditions for birds raised under the “free-range” label. We encouraged our supporters and members of the public to comment too. Read the comments.

Protesters with Save Forests Eat Plants Sign

Thought Leadership

Farm Sanctuary reaches millions of consumers annually through op-eds placed in mainstream media.

  • Hogs at Old Elm Farms near Sycamore, Illinois. Recent breakouts of Covid-19 at several major meat processing facilities have caused a glut of market-ready hogs on farms and a shortage of pork in grocery stores. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    The Guardian

    It’s time to dismantle factory farms and get used to eating less meat / Gene Baur

    Read the Article
  • Coronavirus_Getty

    The Hill

    Coronavirus and the karmic interconnectedness of humans, animals / Gene Baur

    Read the Article
  • The Hill Coronavirus Header

    The Hill

    We have no one to blame for the coronavirus but ourselves / Gene Baur

    Read the Article
  • Cows are milked at Seven Oaks Dairy in Waynesboro, Ga., in March. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post)

    The Washington Post

    The best way to help dairy farmers is to get them out of dairy farming / Gene Baur

    Read the Article
  • NY Daily News Header McDonalds Burger

    New York Daily News

    Burger King is stepping up with a vegan burger; why isn’t McDonald’s? / Gene Baur

    Read the Article
  • They are intelligent creatures with personalities. (Savushkin/Getty Images)

    New York Daily News

    The chicken sandwich wars, and our war on chickens / Gene Baur

    Read the Article

Youth Advocacy

Youth at Farm Sanctuary event

Know a middle or high school student who’s interested in farm animal advocacy? Farm Sanctuary’s Youth Action for Farm Animals resources provide youth activists tools and inspiration, a sense of community, and the chance to connect with like-minded student peers from across the country.

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Youth at Farm Sanctuary event
  • Andy pig in hay

    2019: A Big Year for Animals

    Here are some of the biggest victories and milestones made in the animal protection movement in 2019.

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