PACT Act Branded in the Books


By Kayla Sargent

With the stroke of President Trump’s pen, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act become law on Monday, November 25.  The Act will make certain acts of animal cruelty a felony nationwide.  Specifically, intentional “crushing” – defined as crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling, or otherwise causing serious bodily injury – will now be unlawful, as will the creation and distribution of “crush videos.”

Currently, the Act exempts conduct that is “customary and normal veterinary care, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practices.”  There are also exceptions for the slaughter of animals for food, hunting, fishing, trapping, predator control and humane euthanasia.

“It’s a narrowly tailored bill and it very specifically exempts livestock production and slaughter of animals for food,” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said.

Some groups find the Act concerning as “customary and normal” could be open for interpretation.  Protect the Harvest said common livestock practices like utilizing squeeze chutes, branding, neck roping, ear tagging and even vaccinating could be considered acts of crushing, burning, suffocating or impaling animals.

“In someone’s uneducated ‘customary and normal’ interpretation, many everyday actions could be a felony under this law,” Protect the Harvest wrote.

Similarly, The Cavalry Group, an organization that rallied over 80,000 emails to President Trump and his legislative advisor urging against the PACT Act, said the passage is a “dangerous precedent.”  Of major concern to The Cavalry Group is the “vague language and definitions which will become a gateway for future amendments.”  According to the group’s Facebook post, since it is an Act rather than a bill, it can be “easily amended.”

Lane said the threat of the PACT Act as it is currently written is not of major concern.  He said any practices that are currently taking place on farms and ranches and “in the realm of standard” should be exempt.

“This is not a bill that will be the weapon that takes us down,” Lane said.

NCBA chose not to rally against it for several reasons, the main being the group didn’t view it as “threatening.”  Lane added that “it’s not a good look for the cattle industry to go out and fight this, it just wasn’t the fight to pick.”

This certainly doesn’t mean NCBA won’t “keep an eye on it,” Lane assured.

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) will also be carefully monitoring the PACT Act to ensure the exemptions remain in place.

“If the exemption is ever threatened, USCA will join our colleagues in the livestock and agriculture sectors, hunting and trapping industries, and veterinary medicine representatives to safeguard our livelihoods and protect our ability to do our jobs safely, efficiently, and affordably,” USCA Director of Policy and Outreach Lia Biondo said.

Multiple animal rights’ activist groups lobbied on behalf of the PACT Act.  Upon passage, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) thanked supporters in a press release with a single-click option to donate more money to the cause.

“The passage of the PACT Act is a fantastic example of what can happen when people get political for animals,” Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson said.  “We hope to build off this bipartisan momentum to continue passing bills that provide long-awaited protections for animals.”

Past HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle founded the Humane Society Legislative Fund and later, Animal Wellness Action (AWA), an organization dedicated to lobbying for legal standards to prevent animal cruelty.  Pacelle developed the concept of the PACT Act five years ago, according to an AWA press release.

About a week after the PACT Act cleared the House and Senate, Pacelle’s AWA and Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF) announced the creation of a National Veterinary Council.  The council is to bring together volunteer members to “extend the reach of the organization’s programs and priorities and more meaningfully place veterinarians at the forefront of the animal protection movement.”  The members will share collective experience with companion animals, farm animals, horses and wildlife.

“Veterinarians have the training and practical experience not only to help animals, but also to guide political leaders, corporations and average citizens to do better when it comes to individual and institutional treatment of animals,” Dr. Annie Harvilicz, AWF founder and practicing veterinarian in Los Angeles, said.  “Our veterinarians have the experience and ability to push forward our campaigns to combat factory farming, puppy mills, horse abuse, and so many other problems.  They’ll also be on the frontlines in programs to help animals directly – both for regular care and in crisis circumstances.”

Members on the newly created Council include veterinarians from Orlando, Florida; Los Angeles, San Diego and Marina Del Rey, California; Exeter, Rhode Island; Washington D.C.; Hastings, Nebraska; and Rye, New York.

AWA failed to respond to request for comment on the PACT Act and the National Veterinary Council by time of press.

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