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MO Lawmakers Considering Animal Rights Legislation

Animal welfare advocates say regulation of factory farms is needed to protect public health, the environment and the animals themselves. (National Institute of Health)
Animal welfare advocates say regulation of factory farms is needed to protect public health, the environment and the animals themselves. (National Institute of Health)
May 11, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - It's been a busy year for animal-rights advocates in Missouri.

They've been fighting nearly two dozen bills, all being considered in this last week of the legislative session. Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, said most are aimed at deregulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. According to Baker, the legislation puts big-business interests over public health, the environment and animal welfare. He said eight of the bills would strip county health boards of their authority to regulate CAFOs.

"In addition, there's about four or five bills that would allow shell corporations to come in with no assets and get licenses to operate CAFOs," he said. "This means that they're not held liable if there's environmental damage as a result, or public health concerns as a result of the CAFO operations."

Proponents of the legislation say Missouri will miss out on economic development if big production facilities decide to set up shop in neighboring states because of what they see as too much county regulation.

Local Missouri residents have fought against huge hog farms in the state, mostly because of the smell and fears of soil and water contamination. Baker said they're also concerned about how the animals are treated.

"These hogs are kept in gestation crates and they can't even turn around, they're so packed in there, and that's how they spend their lives," he said. "They don't receive adequate veterinary care. If an animal becomes ill, it's just a product. They expect to lose a few, and they just have to suffer and die."

Baker said the Missouri Legislature also is considering a bill that would make people personally liable for speaking out against CAFOs.

"There's a similar law in Texas, and that's where Oprah Winfrey got sued," he said. "Obviously, Oprah has the money, and she won and prevailed in court, but it's very intimidating to say you're liable for speaking out against CAFOs."

Winfrey was sued for saying on-air that she'd "never eat another hamburger" after the mad-cow disease scare. Even if lawmakers reject all the pending bills, Baker said, they're likely to resurface during the next legislative session.

The legislation is online at maal.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO