Machipongo, Va. Feb. 16 /PRNewswire/ United Poultry Concerns has written to Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell urging him to veto Virginia Senate Bill
1026 and House Bill 1541 when these bills come to his desk as legislation awaiting his signature. The bills seek to reduce the already weak
welfare provisions for Virginia’s farm animals to a level that would permit egregious cruelty without penalty to the owners of farm animals.
Farming interests in the state will be free to starve and otherwise mistreat, neglect and abandon their animals as revealed in recent cases of horrific
cruelty to pigs by Smithfield Foods in Waverly, Virginia and to thousands of “organic” egg-laying hens by Black Eagle Farm in Nelson County
whose management starved the hens in its care repeatedly in 2009 before sending them to slaughter.
SB 1026 and HB 1541 seek to amend the Code of Virginia relating to the care of agricultural animals by reducing current requirements to provide
adequate food and water down to a provision that owners need only provide their animals with food and water sufficient “to prevent
emaciation” and “to prevent dehydration.”
The proposed law seeks to weaken penalties from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 4 penalty with a token $250 fine. Even this nominal penalty would be
waived to allow an owner to withhold food, water and shelter from farm animals if such denials of basic sustenance and care were deemed
“customarily withheld, restricted, or apportioned pursuant to a farming activity.” Nothing would protect farm animals from being deprived
of food and water to the point of prolonged, pathological suffering and in many cases death resulting from legalized neglect and mistreatment. This is
the purpose of the proposed law, and it is unacceptable.
The proposed law amounts to total legal and moral abandonment of farm animals in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There will be no standards of
accountability whatsoever for owners of farm animals in the state. It will be legal for owners to starve their animals to the point of
“emaciation” and to deprive them of water to the point of “dehydration.”
“The proposed legislation has been pushed through the Virginia legislature without being adequately addressed,” says United Poultry
Concerns president Karen Davis. “We are urging Governor McDonnell to veto any bill that would strip farm animals of all protections and allow
their owners to mistreat them with impunity.”