Government Corruption and Collusion
In the USA, our political system (of both parties) has been bought by 'Big Ag.'the U.S. government spends up to $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries, with less than one percent of that sum allocated to aiding the production of fruits and vegetables.
State and federal governments get it backward by giving buckets of cash to animal agriculture while providing almost no help to those raising fruits and vegetables.
In addition to subsidies, Americans pay for meat consumption through healthcare costs and climate disruption. As David Simon illustrates in his book Meatonomics, consumers foot an estimated $2 in external costs for every $1 of product the meat and dairy industry sells. In other words, a $4 Big Mac actually costs society $11.
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), states that agricultural subsidies in economically advanced countries such as the U.S. artificially depress international market prices, so much that they induce poorer nations to import food that local farmers could otherwise produce more efficiently. These farmers are then forced to exit the market because they can’t afford to grow local crops, much less put food on the table for their families. The FAO reports that eliminating agricultural subsidies in the U.S. alone would lift millions of people out of poverty around the world.
American meat subsidies have spurred the average U.S. citizen to consume about 200 pounds of meat a year, more than twice the global average and nearly twice as much as Americans ate in 1961.
More than half of the ocean’s surface is being impacted by industrial fishing, an area four times the landmass covered by agriculture, supported by billions of dollars in government subsidies. Countries that provide the largest subsidies to their fishing fleets are Japan, Spain, China, South Korea, and the United States- with an aggregate cost far exceeding net economic benefits. Without these subsidies, the industry would not remain profitable.
When the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA instituted mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions across its agencies, Congress mysteriously defunded the program to track livestock emissions.
Research from the University of Oxford calculates that eliminating animal-derived protein from the global food system would save $1.6 trillion in environmental costs by 2050.
Each year, U.S. Department of Agriculture spends $550 million taxpayer dollars to bombard Americans with advertising urging us to consume more animal foods. Although people in every age group already eat more animal protein than recommended, these promotional programs are shockingly effective at making people buy even more. Slogans like 'Beef, it's what for dinner' and 'Got Milk?' are government propaganda.
A $5 Big Mac would cost $13 if the retail price included hidden expenses that meat producers offload onto society.
Animal food producers impose $414 billion in hidden costs on American society yearly. These are the bills for healthcare, subsidies, environmental damage, and other items related to producing and consuming meat and dairy products.
Industry-backed laws passed in the last 30 years make it legal to do almost anything to a farmed animal. In 1996, Connecticut, for example, legalized maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal—provided it’s done “while following generally accepted agricultural practices.” Since most states have similar exemptions, farmed animals have almost no protection from inhumane treatment.
Why not end these subsidies for meat production and do more to point consumers in the direction of healthy, sustainable plant based foods? We can be fairly confident that such a policy would be effective—a subsidy removal by another name (behavioral taxes) has a proven track record of nudging people away from products like sugary drinks and tobacco towards other goods that achieve positive social impact.
"Government subsidies dedicated to the animal-derived food system hugely abet the climate crisis, which is inconsistent with our claimed goals and international commitments—as it should also be to our survival instinct. Despite how our elected officials and hopefuls currently protect their constituents’ cognitive dissonance and the industry’s profit margins, it is wholly unrealistic to address climate change without considering the impact of the food industry.
Remove taxpayer dollars from animal agriculture, allowing the price of meat to rise to a level representative of the actual cost of its inputs and its wide-ranging externalities. Such a policy would allow freedom in both production and consumption, while organically driving demand for healthier and sustainable fruits, vegetables, and other plant based foods. In so doing, everyday Americans can make an empowered choice to combat the looming threat of mass hunger, poverty, and extinction of species in our lifetimes—and avoid leaving future generations an unsolvable crisis and unlivable home." ~Colombia University, Journal of International Affairs
A large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that individuals whose diets consist of a lower proportion of government subsidized foods were healthier and had a lower probability of being obese. A related commentary was entitled: 'How Society Subsidizes Big Food and Poor Health.'
Following years of intense lobbying by the meat industry and in spite of opposition from citizens groups, the USDA elected to allow some poultry plant employees, rather than USDA inspectors, to decide whether their products are safe for consumption. At the same time, the agency reduced the number of trained inspectors in plants nationwide.
The federal crop insurance program may be encouraging farmers to plant crops that aren't drought resistant. The insurance program encourages them to plant the same crops year after year, regardless of crop yield. As a result, it keeps them from switching to drought-resistant crops. This worsens drought in the Midwest. Between 2006 and 2015, the Midwest was in an extended drought.The drought is forcing farmers to drain the groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer eight times faster than rain is putting it back. At the current rate of use, it will dry up within the century. Scientists say it would take 6,000 years for the rain to refill the aquifer. Corn for cattle feed is the most significant culprit.
The government should not be a risk manager for the farming industry. Agriculture must be subjected to economic forces just like other industries. We don’t go out of our way to subsidize our almost 28 million small businesses, even though more than 500,000 close their doors every month. Consumers deserve to vote with their dollars, knowing that the vote will not be negated by their own hard-earned tax dollars.
Ag-Gag Laws: What are they trying to hide from us and why?
Over the past decade, the animal-agriculture industry has been behind the introduction of "ag-gag" bills in more than half of all state legislatures across the USA. These dangerous bills are designed to silence anyone from simply revealing the truth about what takes place on farms that are supported by our tax dollars.
Agribusiness leaders want to hide the suffering of the animals they kill and of the workers who kill and butcher them. They want to hide the frantic pace of production that churns fecal matter into ground meat. They want to hide lagoons of hog offal that pollute groundwater with the insecticides, antibiotics, and vaccines used to fatten hogs, herds, and profit margins. It's understandable why they would want to hide such horrific practices. What is less understandable, and inexcusable, is how our government representatives colludes with this industry against the best interests of the people, to hide the truth.
Ag-gag laws pose a threat to a wide spectrum of values and issues Americans care about. Social issues potentially negatively impacted by ag-gag laws include, but are not limited to:
Ag-gag laws are also troublesome because they are passed in direct opposition to the will of the people. Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans favor humane treatment of farm animals. A 2012 poll conducted for ASPCA by Lake Research revealed that 94% of the general American public agrees that "from every step of their lives on a farm—from birth to slaughter—farm animals should be treated in a way that inflicts the least amount of pain and suffering possible." The same poll also revealed that 71% of American adults support undercover investigative efforts to expose farm animal abuse on industrial farms, and that 64% oppose making such investigations illegal.
In 2011, an undercover investigation at an Iowa Select Farms found employees smashing piglets onto the concrete floor. Another undercover investigation that year at an Iowa Hormel Foods supplier documented employees “beating pigs with metal rods” and “sticking clothespins into pigs’ eyes and faces.” Instead of creating laws or task forces to make sure these kinds of abuses didn't happen, the Iowa legislature instead passed a law banning the collection of evidence of crimes like these.
We should be allowed to see how our food is made.
We should be able to bear seeing how our food is made.
If the conditions in which we raise animals for slaughter are so awful they can't be seen, then they should be reformed, not hidden by the force of the state.
-Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) January 4, 2019
This video by the Humane Society of the United States was made in Iowa in 2010, and depicts abuses at Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises. It would have been illegal to film after 2012, when the state’s ag-gag law was enacted. The investigation found cages with weeks-old decomposed hen carcasses, live hens with severe infections and abscesses, and hens suffering uterine prolapses (a consequence of the strain of laying far too many eggs), including a hen whose internal organs became caught in the floor of the cage. Importantly, these are not the result of a few maliciously cruel slaughterhouse workers. These things occur routinely on factory farms — they’re systemic problems, not one-off individual ones.
Ultimately, though, ag-gag laws aren’t the real problem — they’re a symptom of it. The problem is that what goes on on our farms is so horrifying, and so unconscionable to the typical consumer, that agribusinesses have turned to trying to hide it. People want affordable meat. and dairy, but at least claim to not want animals treated cruelly. Right now, the industry is trying to provide the meat and hide the cruelty. It is fair to expect a food system that doesn’t have to hide its conduct from its customers.
Ag-Gag laws are so egregious that a broad coalition of groups have spoken out against them, and even went as far as to create a 'Statement of Opposition' which you can read below.
We, the undersigned group of civil liberties, public health, food safety, environmental, food justice, animal welfare, legal, workers’ rights, journalism, and First Amendment organizations and individuals, hereby state our opposition to proposed whistleblower suppression laws, known as “ag-gag” bills, being introduced in states around the country. These bills seek to prevent investigations of farms that reveal critical information about the production of animal products
These bills represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values shared by all people across the United States. Not only would these bills perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, they would also threaten workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, law enforcement investigations and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. We call on state legislators around the nation to drop or vote against these dangerous and un-American efforts.
American Civil Liberties Union
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Amnesty International USA
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animal Welfare Institute
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
A Well-Fed World
Best Friends Animal Society
Buckeye Forest Council
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Effective Government
Center for Food Safety
Center for Justice & Democracy
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana
Clean Water Network
Compassion In World Farming
Compassion Over Killing
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Consumer Federation of America
The Cornucopia Institute
Defending Dissent Foundation
Earth Policy Institute
Environmental Integrity Project
Equal Justice Alliance
Farm Animal Rights Movement
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Food and Water Watch
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Food Empowerment Project
Government Accountability Project
Green Environmental Coalition
Hoosier Environmental Council
Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
Human Rights Watch
Illinois Environmental Council
In Defense of Animals
International Fund for Animal Welfare
International Labor Rights Forum
League of Humane Voters
Mercy For Animals
National Consumers League
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
National Employment Law Project
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Press Photographers Association
National Young Farmers’ Coalition
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest
New England First Amendment Coalition
Ohio Environmental Council
Organic Consumers Association
Public Justice Center
R Street Institute
Slow Food USA
Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
Southern Poverty Law Center
Stewards of the Land
Student Action With Farmworkers
STOP (Stop Foodborne Illness)
T. Colin Campbell Foundation
The Farmworker Support Committee
The Humane Society of the United States
Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry
United Farm Workers
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities
Western Watersheds Project
Whistleblower Support Fund
Youth for Environmental Sanity
To read more or to see where your state stands, click here. Want to see what they want to hide from us about how pigs are raised? Click here to see this award winning video called 'Undercover at Smithfield Foods'.
Not sure what's wrong with dairy? Click here. Watch the movies Earthlings or Dominion to better understand the full scope of the problem.
Revolving Doors, Corporate Welfare, Misinformation
For decades, the federal government has enabled our dairy industry by subsidizing the excess production of cow’s milk even as American consumers drink less of it and we face a glut of 1.4 billion pounds of cheese in storage. Our milk supply is outpacing demand, but dairy farms continue to receive government support, which promotes further wasteful overproduction.
The dairy industry is among the most entrenched lobbies in Washington, and it wields undue influence in garnering government funding. It has also benefited from the revolving door between government and big business. Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, a state whose dairy farmers produced 562 million gallons of milk in 2015, and former agriculture secretary, now heads the U.S. Dairy Export Council, which works to maintain agribusiness profits through trade policies and tariffs that promote U.S. dairy exports around the world.
A dairy program created milk surpluses, which in turn encouraged state price fixing that generated massive cheese stockpiles, in turn triggering giveaways to the poor. The federal government killed off cows even as it continued to subsidize milk.
When the dairy industry has a surplus (which is almost always), the USDA funnels its products into school lunches and food assistance programs. Milk and cheese become staples in schoolchildren’s diets, but not because of their nutritional value. Despite milk being linked to rising rates of disease in children, dairy has been weaved into the American family by the USDA as a form of corporate welfare.
- In 2016, the dairy industry asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a staggering $150 million to buy their excess cheese. A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union said they were disappointed to receive “only” $20 million. Surely there are better ways for the government to spend “only” $20 million of taxpayer money than buying cheese Americans don’t want and won’t buy. The USDA should not pick winners or losers. The government should not distort the market or continually prop up non-competitive businesses.
The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote a 27-page expose entitled: Betrayal at the USDA: Sidelining Science and Favoring Industry. Although the report focuses on the current US Administration, the problems have been persisting for decades. Conflicted USDA officials tilt decision making toward agribusiness. Officials on the USDA staff come overwhelmingly from agribusiness. If you've been blindly following USDA guidelines, this report is well worth a read.
Sonny Perdue, the current director of the USDA, has impeded the Department’s mission to serve the public interest in many ways, including by bringing in a crew of former executives from global pesticide giant Dow Chemical to run key agencies. Perdue appointed the head of field sciences at Dow’s agriculture division, Scott Hutchins, as Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics. As the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out, Hutchins joins former Dow AgroSciences lobbyist Ted McKinney, who was confirmed last year as USDA Under Secretary for Trade, and former Dow VP Ken Isley, who was appointed (without need for Senate confirmation) to head the Foreign Agricultural Service. Perdue also added Rebekah Adcock, a lobbyist at the pesticide group CropLife America, to lead the Department’s deregulatory team.
Lest you think voting Democrat will solve the problem, Barack Obama appointed Islam “Isi” Siddiqui from the nation’s most powerful agrichemical lobby group and made him our chief negotiator on ag issues in global trade talks. This was a major coup for Big Ag. Obama also appointed Roger Beachy, long-time president of the Danforth Plant Science Center, as chief of the USDA’s newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). And what did we get with the appointment of Beachy? The Danforth Plant Science Center, nestled in Monsanto’s St. Louis home town, is essentially Monsanto's NGO research and PR arm. So essentially, the public face of Monsanto’s research efforts now has his fingers on the USDA’s research purse strings.
Inhumane, Indiscriminate, Taxpayer Supported, Killing on Public Lands
(to protect cows owned by private ranchers)
photo by USDA of Wildlife Services killing a wild wolf by shooting her from a helicopter.
Wildlife Services is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture which specializes in killing wild animals that threaten livestock—especially native animals such as coyotes, wolves, and cougars. Since 2000, the agency has killed at least two million mammals and 15 million birds.
Wildlife Services uses poisoned bait, neck snares, leghold traps (which are banned in 80 countries), aerial gunning, and cyanide traps to go after animals that have attacked, or allegedly attacked, livestock grazing on public lands.
According to Christopher Ketchum, a former fellow at MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Program, who has spent years investigating Wildlife Services:
The public needs to be outraged, needs to take action. That means creating a countervailing public interest to the dominant special interest of the livestock industry.
Kowtowing to livestock owners grazing on public lands is bad government policy, Statesman Journal, Aug. 28, 2020
The secretive government agency planting 'cyanide bombs' across the US, The Guardian, June 26, 2020
USDA’s ‘Wildlife Services’ Killed Nearly 1.5 Million Native Animals in 2018 - YubaNet.com, June 4, 2019
A judge ripped this federal agency’s justification for killing thousands of wild animals - Washington Post, June 25, 2018
'Cyanide Bomb' that killed dog, poisoned owner placed illegally by Wildlife Services - Fox 13, Mar. 21, 2017
The case for mass slaughter of predators just got weaker - National Geographic, Sept. 1, 2016
‘Secret’ Federal Program Admits Killing 3.2 Million Wild Animals in U.S. Last Year Alone - EnviroNews, June 27, 2016
The Rogue Agency: A USDA program that tortures dogs and kills endangered species - Harper's Magazine, March 2016
Critics see overkill at Wildlife Services - Jackson Hole News, Feb. 24, 2016
There's a reason you've never heard of this wildlife killing agency -
Reveal | The Center for Investigative Reporting, Feb. 4, 2015
Exposed: U.S.' Secret War on Wildlife - VoiceAmerica interview with Brooks Fahy, Feb. 24, 2014
Congressmen question costs, mission of Wildlife Services agency -
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 4, 2014
Congressmen ask Inspector General to make audit of Wildlife Services a top priority - Letter from Peter DeFazio and John Campbell, Sept. 20, 2013
"Agriculture's Misnamed Agency" - New York Times editorial, July 17, 2013
Agriculture's Misnamed Agency - The New York Times, July 17, 2013
Hundreds of family pets, protected species killed by little-known federal agency - FOX News, Mar. 13, 2013
Animal torture, abuse called a 'regular practice' within federal wildlife agency - FOX News, Mar. 12, 2013
The Controversy over the Federal Government's 'Predator Control' Program - HealthNewsDigest.com, Nov. 17, 2012
American Society of Mammalogists letter recommends redirecting Wildlife Services operations - Mar. 21, 2012. Sample Comment: "We see from WS a heavy and inflexible emphasis on lethal control and a lack of scientific self-assessment of the effects of WS’s lethal control programs on native mammals and ecosystems."
Taxpayers Subsidizing Wildlife Extermination Program, Probe Shows - Kansas City Star, Aug. 18, 2011
Poison Traps Kill Unintended Victims - High Country News, Mar. 13, 2000