USDA Issues Major Animal Welfare Standards for Organic Farms

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May 12 update: This week, USDA delayed this animal welfare standards rule for the second time and is now asking the public to comment on the protections—again! Please submit a comment here before the deadline on June 9.

Suggested sample comment language: Secretary Perdue, as an American, I demand the organic animal welfare rule go into effect immediately. The final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule was the product of years of inclusive deliberation on the part of farmers, consumers, retailers and policy makers. The final rule evens the playing field for farmers, brings the organic standards in line with consumer expectations, and will improve the lives of some 50 million animals each year. Any effort to derail this rule sends a clear message that USDA is willing to sell out consumers and farmers to support Big Ag.

In its last major move under the Obama administration, last week the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced comprehensive new animal welfare standards governing organic farms.

The sweeping changes are important not only for improving the required standards of care for animals, but also for ensuring that consumers are getting more accurate information about the organic products they’re buying. Time and time again, COK investigations have revealed horrific cruelty on factory farms. Even when it comes to organic foods, there have been no guarantees that animals experienced better treatment — despite the fact that consumers believe stronger welfare standards are in place when they see “organic” labeling.

To be implemented in stages over the next one to five years, these rules are set to improve the lives of millions of pigs, cows, chickens and other animals. As stated on the USDA’s website, this rule, which applies when the “USDA Organic” seal is marketed on products:

  • establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic chickens
  • more notably, for outdoor spaces, it clarifies that it must include soil and vegetation
  • adds humane handling requirements
  • and clarifies humane slaughter requirements.

Specifically, animals must be given enough space to lie down, turn around, stand up and stretch their limbs. The guideline will also prohibit the tail-docking of cattle; the transportation of sick, injured, or lame animals; and the beak-cutting of chickens. It will also set minimum space requirements for egg-laying hens, and require that animals are provided adequate outdoor access.

Though there will be many challenges and uncertainties for animals ahead, as a new administration takes over, this news from the USDA is an encouraging step in the right direction for farmed animals who are suffering day in and day out.

And while we are encouraged to see the federal government establish this rule, the most effective way we can express our compassion for all animals is by leaving them off our plates — and it’s easier than ever before! Start today at

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