An interesting study about ordinances governing backyard poultry ownership in Colorado was recently published, titled “A Method for Guarding Animal Welfare and Public Health: Tracking the Rise of Backyard Poultry Ordinances” (the “Report”).

The Report “tracks the development of municipal ordinances, with attention to provisions for animal health and welfare and significant concerns for public health.”

Public and animal health officials, as well as large commercial poultry operations, have been concerned about the spread of infectious, contagious diseases, such as avian influenza virus from small backyard flocks where owners are unaware of and not familiar with the typical biosecurity measures that are generally recommended in animal agriculture.

USDA has published a number of guidance documents for people interested in raising poultry for their personal consumption of eggs.

In “Biosecurity for Birds,” USDA explains:

Raising backyard poultry is a growing trend across the United States. It is very important for all backyard poultry owners to know the signs of two deadly poultry diseases, as well as the basic ‘biosecurity’ steps you can take to protect your birds. APHIS runs the Biosecurity for Birds campaign to help raise awareness among backyard, hobby and pet bird owners.

On the other hand, animal rights activists often blame commercial agriculture for the spread of avian influenza.  See, e.g., An HSUS Report: Human Health Implications of Intensive Poultry Production and Avian Influenza, and Avian Influenza Just One Marker of Sickness in Industrial Agriculture .

The fact is that avian influenza is most often spread from wildlife to privately owned domestic flocks, regardless of the size of the flock.  Therefore, for animal and public health concerns, statutes and regulations̶̶-federal, state, or local-should provide for the health and welfare of laying hens as well as ensuring quality standards for eggs.

Federal and state laws govern standards of egg quality relating to the prevention of contamination with Salmonella.  As the Report discusses:

The federal regulations include requirements related to egg handling and storage prior to point of purchase by consumers, as well as testing for Salmonella on farms that have more than 3000 hens and implementation of biosecurity programs on those farms to control egg safety risks. For poultry meat safety, USDA inspects live birds and carcasses at federally inspected slaughter plants (i.e., plants that process meat for export or interstate commerce) to ensure that they are free of disease, and also evaluates conditions at those plants to ensure that they are sanitary and following ‘good commercial practices.’

However, as the Report states, local ordinances that permit ownership of backyard poultry usually do not include provisions related to either the health or safety of the hens.

[B]ackyard birds may pose significant risks to the general public. The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI, H5N1) in Egypt offers a shocking example. The majority (107/112) of Egypt’s clinically confirmed HPAI cases of human infection from 2006 to 2009 are linked to close contact with diseased backyard birds resulting in 36 deaths and human-to-human spread. In addition, the 2002 California outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) originated in backyard flocks. The outbreak spread into commercial operations and resulted in depopulation of over 3 million birds, costing taxpayers $161 million. (citations omitted).

The Report, analyzing backyard poultry ordinances in Colorado, found, in part:

  1. The most common guidelines for poultry ordinances pertain to housing design and placement, the sex of birds, and total number of birds allowed, including specific space requirements for birds, in come cases.
  2. Ordinances commonly required housing to be predator resistant, easily cleaned, and maintained regularly to prevent the development of pests, rodents, or odors that would cause nuisances.
  3. In urban locations, the number of birds permitted was often limited to between 4 and 6 birds per lot.
  4. Ventilation requirements were often not included in ordinances.
  5. Roosters were commonly prohibited.

Notably, the Report stated that “[r]egulations pertaining directly to animal health and welfare were rare.”

The Report concluded that ordinances should include these provisions.

[O]ur study indicates that there are fewer guidelines for the health and welfare of backyard poultry than their commercial counterparts. Regulation is important in disease prevention. Fragmented oversight of animal welfare and health creates policy blind spots critical to shared human and animal health.

I concur.

New Jersey proposed bills S2037 and A1050 would revise the State’s “equine animal activities law in accordance with recommendations of New Jersey Law Revision Commission to clarify responsibility and liability issues.”

The New Jersey Law Revision Commission issued its final report on May 22, 2014 in which it:

[r]ecommend[ed] . . . modification of current statute to address an issue raised by the 2010 New Jersey Supreme Court in Hubner v. Spring Valley Equestrian Center[, 203 N.J. 184 (2010)]. The Court found that the Act’s assumption of risk provisions conflicted with the exceptions to limitations on operator liability. Accordingly, the Act’s assumption of risk provisions have been consolidated and new language emphasizes affirmative duties and responsibilities of equestrian activities operators and participants.

The bills incorporate the Commission’s recommendations which clarifies the responsibility of both the equine operator and participants, similar to sections in sister laws governing skiing and rollerskating.

It looks like this is the second legislative session these bills have been introduced to the New Jersey Legislators.

Historically the equine industry in New Jersey has had a significant economic impact in the State. The Commission, citing reports from Rutgers Equine Science Center stated

[t]he New Jersey equine industry, which is home to 42,500 horses, is valued at $4 billion…producing an annual economic impact of approximately $1.1 billion…and 13,000 jobs. Horses are found on 7,200 facilities in every county statewide which maintain open space of 176,000 acres, which in turn provides an enhanced quality of life for New Jersey residents. Horse operations tend to be more sustainable than other types of agricultural businesses, making the horse industry critical to the growth and land-use strategy of the state.

These statistics were reported in a comprehensive report published by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 2007.

The report included the direct and indirect economic impact related to equine activities.

It would be helpful to receive an update from that now decade-old report, but that should not hinder the movement of these bills through the legislative process until they are hopefully passed and enacted.

This is the time of the year than many consider donating to a worthy cause.  Here are a few organizations that exist to help unwanted, aged and retired horses find homes and veterinary care.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition “is a broad alliance of equine organizations that have joined together under the American Horse Council to educate the horse industry about the problem of the unwanted horse.”

The Unwanted Horse Colaition:

grew out of the Unwanted Horse Summit, which was organized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and held in conjunction with the American Horse Council’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in April 2005. The summit was held to bring key stakeholders together to start a dialogue on the plight of the unwanted horse in America. Its purpose was to develop consensus on the most effective way to work together to address this issue. In June 2006, the Unwanted Horse Coalition was folded into the American Horse Council and now operates under its auspices.

Another nonprofit, A Home for Every Horse,

created in 2011, is the result of a partnership between the Equine Network, the nation’s leading publisher of equine-related content, and the Unwanted Horse Coalition. The AHFEH program helps connect rescue horses in need of homes with people looking for horses. Registered 501(c)(3) rescue organizations can list their horses for free on, the world’s largest horse marketplace, where they can be seen by 300,000 visitors each month.If that is the case for you, I invite you to consider donating to the Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines, a nonprofit that has been dedicated to providing a home to horses that have no other home.

Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines “is the oldest non-profit horse sanctuary in United States and provides a haven for horses of all breeds, sizes, and walks of life. The residents of the 300-acre farm are primarily retired horses—aged 20 or older—many with chronic health issues. Upon arrival, all veterinary care, farrier care, dental care, food, bedding, and shelter is provided for the rest of the horse’s life.

Ryerss Farm’s mission includes:

caring for aged, abused or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture.  The horses at Ryerss are never worked, go to auction or are used for experiments.  They simply spend their days grazing and enjoying life with their friends, as part of the herd.

Ryerss Farm received the 2017 Lavin Cup, an award “[k]nown as the American Association of Equine Practitioner [AAEP]’s equine welfare award . . . [which] recognizes a non-veterinary organization or individual that has distinguished itself through service to improve the welfare of horses.”

As AAEP noted:

Ryerss’ legacy began in Philadelphia in 1888, established by Anne Waln-Ryerss who was a passionate advocate for the city’s abused and neglected horses. The first horse arrived on the farm in 1889 and Ryerss’ early residents were old hunters, ponies, workhorses, and retired horses that used to pull Philadelphia’s fire engines. Ryerss is open to the public daily and receives approximately 5,000 visitors each calendar year.

The Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign was established by Merck Animal Health and the American Association of Equine Practitioners Homes “to help the overburdened equine rescues and retirement facilities provide healthcare so they can rehabilitate, revitalize and, ultimately, re-home America’s unwanted horses.”

Through the Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign ” qualifying equine rescue and retirement facilities can receive complimentary equine vaccines for horses in their care, protecting the horses’ health and making them more adoptable.”

For veterinarians and equine rescue organizations who want more information about this program, please visit The Unwanted Horse website.

For the third time, New Jersey state agencies have concluded that the New Jersey Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), described as “wannabe cops,” by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation report aptly titled “ Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 years later.”

Some of the highlights of the report, available here, include a summary of the report previously completed in 2000:

Nearly two decades ago, the State Commission of investigation conducted an inquiry into the activities and financial practices of the various Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New Jersey.  The investigation’s final report, completed in 2000, exposed a range of waste, abuse and malfeasance so widespread as to render many of these entities incapable of fulfilling their primary statutory obligation: the enforcement of state laws designed to prevent cruelty to animals.

Along with uncovering substantial – in some cases criminal – wrongdoing, the investigation also revealed that New Jersey remained mired in an archaic legislative scheme allowing unsupervised groups of private citizens to enforce animal cruelty laws.  These volunteers are empowered to carry weapons, investigate complaints of criminal and civil misconduct, issue summonses and effect arrests.  The Commission further found that some of these SPCAs became havens for gun-carrying wannabe cops motivated by personal gains, or the private domain of a select few who discarded rules on a whim.

The Commission concluded that the delegation of such broad power to private citizens may have been understandable, indeed, a necessity in the 1800s when the laws creating the New Jersey and county SCPAs were written.  That arrangement, however, is not workable in the highly stratified and professionalized law enforcement system of the 21st Century, and the Commission recommended turning over the enforcement role to government.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

As the State Commission on Investigation recently found:

[t]he NJSPCA  – even though operating as a not-for-profit organization – is also supposed to be the steward of substantial amounts of public monies in the form of fines collected through animal cruelty violations and donations from citizens . . . Unfortunately, the Commission found that the altruistic mission of the organization became secondary to those who controlled the NJSPCA and subverted it for their own selfish ends and self-aggrandizement. The findings of this inquiry make plain that permitting a part-time policing unit staffed by private citizens to serve as the primary enforcers of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws is illogical, ineffective and makes the entire system vulnerable to abuse.  Moreover, the government apparatus to perform this function is already in place-in the form of municipal and county animal control officers working in coordination with local police.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

The Commission concluded that the NJSPCA is an organization that:

  • Fails to consistently respond to serious allegation of animal cruelty complaints-its core mission-in a timely manner and keeps records that are so sloppy it was often impossible to determine specific action taken on cases.

  • Spends more money on legal bills – racking up more than $775,000 over the past five years – than for any other expense, including funds that directly support animal care.

  • Circumvents the spirit of a 2006 law to establish effective and transparent governance at the NJSPCA by adopting bylaws that exclude the board of trustees – which has three members appointed by the Governor – from having any supervision of its law enforcement activities.

  • Remains a haven for wannabe cops, some of whom believe they may exercise police powers beyond enforcement of the animal cruelty statutes, such as conducting traffic stops.

  • Allows nearly a third of its approximately 20 humane officers to carry firearms despite the fact that those individuals do not hop up-to-date authorization to do so from the New Jersey State Police, which by law, must be renewed every two years. They are also exempt from the requirement to obtain a firearms permit.

  • Lacks the ability to estimate how much revenue it is entitled to receive from animal cruelty fines – a major source of its funding – and has no apparatus to collect these monies.

  • Allows top-ranking members access to certain questionable perks, such as care for personal use, and other beneficial benefits – at the expense of unwitting donors, and tolerates blatant conflicts of interest that profit its key officials.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: New Jersey’s SPCAs 17 Years Later, SCI, October 2017.

Unfortunately, the report did not comment on NJSPCAs presumed failure to notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture when complaints regarding livestock or poultry are received, as required by law, in order to ensure that infectious, contagious diseases in animals that may appear to have been treated cruelly, are properly handled to protect human and animal health.

For those interested in testifying about this report and potential legislation to make a real change in the State’s enforcement of its animal cruelty law, on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am:

The Senate Economic Growth Committee will take testimony on the recent report released by the State Commission of Investigation regarding the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  In addition, the committee will discuss legislative reform to strengthen the enforcement of New Jersey’s animal cruelty laws. Individuals presenting written testimony are asked to provide 10 copies to the committee aide at the public hearing.

On October 12, 2017 Nestlé USA announced that by 2024 they would

“strive to source all of the broiler chickens we use as ingredients for our U.S. food portfolio from sources meeting a higher standard of animal welfare, building on our global Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare.”

More specifically, Nestlé has committed to sourcing from farmers who raise chicken with slower growth rates, good leg health, reduced stocking rates, and further compliance with standards approved by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit “registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and brings together a diverse group with the common goal of improving farm animal farm animal welfare standards around the world.”

Nestlé acknowledges that this commitment is “complex,” “require[s] investment and time, and the transition over the next seven years must be done in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

There are six different levels or steps in GAP standards, that increasingly require significant investments by farmers who must modify their existing housing facilities and decrease the number of animals that can be raised in the existing space.

One of the concerns about laws that require changes to husbandry standards for farm animals are the related costs.  For example, California’s 2008 ballot initiative, Prevention of Farmed Animal Cruelty Act (“Prop 2”), funded in large part by the Human Society of the United States, requires egg-laying hens, veal calves and hogs to have sufficient room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely in their enclosures.

Despite the passage of Prop 2, HSUS is once again leading the effort to require additional changes to the law in California.  The recently proposed initiative would prohibit all sales of veal or pork in California unless produced in a manner that complies with California’s law.

The proposed initiative would also require that all eggs produced and sold in California must come from cage-free birds as of December 21, 2021.  The farmers in or outside of California who had modified their former housing systems to be in compliance with Prop 2 will now have to make additional significant investments in their housing systems again.  Such required continual modifications of animal housing facilities are not cost-effective nor sustainable.

Perhaps this is the point, since the goals of HSUS and many other animal rights organizations are to eliminate animal agriculture entirely.


As reported by Texas Department of Agriculture the following needs for livestock have been identified:

Donation of Hay and Feed:
The Department is currently working with Texas A&M AgriLife for donations of animal hay and feed. If you would like to donate hay, please call, text or email the TDA staff listed at the number listed below and let us know where the closest drop off location is for you. In your message, please provide your name, phone number, location and type of hay or feed to be donated and whether you have transportation.

Please note that we do not have transport but we are maintaining contact info for hay donors in the event we get offers for transport or others in your area who may be able to pick up hay. If you have transportation services that you can offer to help bring hay to the Coast from throughout Texas, we need your help! Please give us a call.

If you have pasture, please contact us with your information to be put in our database for those who need help. If you are in need of pasture space, please contact us and we can provide information for someone with pasture who may be closest to you and provide assistance.

Water Troughs
If you have water troughs to donate, please contact us for donating those as well. Several of the supply points are in severe need for those.

Contact Jessica Escobar at (512) 803-7847 or if you can help.

Southwest FarmPress reports that hay drops are underway to reach cattle that are lost, stranded, or unable to be reached by ranchers “where flood waters remain standing in fields and roads are still closed and impassable.”

Fortunately, aviation units from the Texas National Guard, from Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi and other states are responding, loading bales of hay and  launching what promises to be the largest air drop of hay in history, an attempt to provide rescue food for livestock until waters finally recede and herds can be collected, treated, and moved to safety.


Choppers have been flying non-stop as state animal biologists and state animal health veterinarians with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) attempt to identify where small groups of animals are stuck in mud or stranded in water from aerial photographs, from satellite photos and by using UAV (drone) fly-overs.

Still, the loss of livestock, yet to be determined, is expected to be devastating.


Reports from two animal-related trade organizations provide insight into the current status and goals of animal rights organizations intent on eliminating the use of animals by humans, without regard to how humanely those animals are treated.

Based on these revealing comments from activists it remains vitally important that the public is exposed to the differences between animal rights activists and animal-related industries whose goals are to ensure that animals under the care of humans are treated humanely.

Members of the National Association for Biomedical Research and the Animal Agricultural Alliance attended the 2017 Animal Rights National Conference held on August 3-6 in Alexandria Virginia.

As advertised on the website

The Animal Rights National Conferences have been organized since 1981 by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) with some breaks between 1987 and 2000, then every year since 2000. They are typically co-sponsored by more than a dozen national organizations.

Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) is a national non-profit organization working to end the use of animals for food through public education and grassroots activism. We believe in the inherent self-worth of animals, as well as environmental protection and enhanced public health.

Speakers at the conference talked about the “Power of confrontation in advancing animal rights,” and alleged abuses of animals used for all human purposes including: animals in Entertainment (circuses, rodeos, zoos, aquariums), animals in science (education, product testing, drug research),animals in Fashion, Companion animals, food Animals, and animals in the wild.

Kay Johnson Smith, Animal Agriculture Alliance president and CEO described this year’s conference:

The speakers at this year’s Animal Rights National Conference made their goals clear – ending all forms of animal agriculture, regardless of how well animals are cared for . . . Their persistent focus on pressure campaigns targeting restaurant, retail and foodservice brands is of great concern to the Alliance and our members. We encourage anyone with a vested interest in producing, processing or selling meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, to read this year’s report and hear how determined these groups are to eliminate food choices and make our society vegan.

The alliance reported that speaker encouraged attendees to protest and conduct rescues from farms without permission, and that “[b]reaking the law can often be a good thing to do.”

The Alliance also reported that one speaker, David Coman-Hidy with the Humane League encouraged attendees to damage the reputation of food companies.

Consistent with previous years, another key message from conference speakers was for attendees to focus efforts on eliminating farms of all types and sizes, not only the large-scale, modern operations (declared to be “factory farms”) that have historically been targeted.

National Association for Biomedical Research reported about the following speakers and their comments at the conference, intent on eliminating the use of animals in research:

  • Justin Goodman, lobbyist for the White Coat Waste project (WCW), an animal rights group that promotes itself as a fiscally conservative consumer watchdog group, spoke about WCW’s “defund” campaign to “take money away so [research institutions] can’t buy the animals to do the testing.” He continued to focus on making sure universities and other institutions that conduct animal research “don’t get their money.” 

  • Michael Budkie explained [Stop Animal Exploitation Now] SAEN seeks to end animal research by “hanging them with their own paperwork.” We understand this to mean the group attacks the reputations of research institutions and individual scientists by deliberately misusing or mischaracterizing written statements provided by the institutions to government agencies like the NIH and the USDA.

  • Speaking again on behalf of SAEN, Michael Budkie explained his approach to stopping animal research by targeting researchers: “We like to paint them as idiots. They are criminals. SAEN’s job is to let people know animal research is meritless. We will ruin their reputation and credibility. We are coming after them…It becomes news and we’re changing public opinion of what labs do.”

  • A celebrated figure in the animal rights world, Richard Couto conducts undercover investigations of factory farms and food enterprises that use animals. He gains access by working as an employee while filming and documenting abuse for later use in criminal prosecutions of his erstwhile employers. Joined by other so-called “undercover investigators,” they encouraged attendees to join their ranks by stating, “anybody in this room has what it takes to be an undercover investigator.”

Clearly, the goals of animal rights organizations, on display at this conference, should concern those who are involved in animal-related industries where animals are owned and cared for by humans.

Sometimes it is important to set the record straight.

That is the case here.  New Jersey stood at the forefront in the country of establishing humane standards of care for livestock and poultry for the state.   In 2003, when the rule was originally proposed, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture explained that they were “adopt[ing] ‘standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock,’ as well as ‘rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.'”  35 N.J.R. 1873(a)(2003, as mandated by N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1.

While the rules require minimum standards of care,  the Department acknowledged that “many responsible New Jersey farmers meet or exceed” those standards.  The standards were developed in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Station, and involved hundreds of hours of meeting with subcommittees established for each livestock group.  Committee members included state and federal animal health officials, academicians, subject matter experts, farmers, transporters and members of the N.J.S.P.C.A.  As the Director of the Division of Animal Health at that time, I chaired those meetings.

The N.J.D.A., the N.J. Ag. Station and N.J. Farm Bureau had approached legislators requesting the amendment to the animal cruelty statute (N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1) that mandated the creation of these regulations out of concerns that there was no uniform guidance to either professional or volunteer law enforcement officials who were enforcing animal cruelty statutes with uneven hands across the state.  These rules were necessary to provide:

[r]egulatory authorities charged with the enforcement of animal cruelty rules  . . . measurable standards to help them do their jobs effectively and assist in the training of new inspectors.  These defined standards provide authorities with a baseline to use to determine when animal cruelty occurs.  Application of these standards uniformly, across the State will standardize the criteria under which animal cruelty cases are judged.  35 N.J.R. 1873(a)(2003.

In addition to specific standards for the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing and sale of: (a) cattle; (b) horses; (c) poultry; (d) rabbits; (e) small ruminants; and (f) swine, they also established “procedural rules for investigation and enforcement actions and [the] use of proper biosecurity protocols.”  Id.   Biosecurity protocols are critical when investigating complaints about animal care “to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious agents on or off farm premises.”  Id. 

Furthermore, because the cause of livestock illness many not be immediately apparent, it is important that any individual who performs investigations be familiar with clinical signs of disease and report any cases of livestock disease or death to the  . . . NJDA as required under N.J.A.C. 2:2-1.5.  Id.

As previously described here, New Jersey was one of the first states to establish comprehensive humane standards of care for livestock and poultry.  At the time, Colorado was one of the few states that had standards for livestock, although not at comprehensive as those drafted by New Jersey.

Well after the rule was adopted and survived legal challenges, the regulations and process used to draft the standards was shared with other states, including, for example, Ohio.  Ohio’s standards were recently heralded as a model to follow for the formation of livestock codes in other states. 

While I agree that the process used and resulting standards adopted in Ohio are a great model, it is important to remember that both started right here in the “Garden State!”


The recent horrific attacks in Syria reminded me of the concerns following 9/11 about potential attacks on livestock and poultry.  Those concerns rose to the highest echelon in our government and others, exemplified by the first International Symposium on Agroterrorism, held in Kansas City, Missouri on May 5, 2005.

I attended that meeting and was awestruck by the opening video-a poignant memorial to the farmers and others involved in agriculture from across the country, highlighting their back-breaking work that feeds and clothes everyone in the United States, and much of the world.  I would love to see that video again-if anyone has a link, please share.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III greeted the attendees, describing the unique challenges involved in distinguishing intentional acts of agroterrorism from natural disease outbreaks:

This distinction is important. If a car bomb explodes outside of a building, we know the attack was intentional. But if a cow contracts Foot and Mouth Disease or a soybean plant exhibits rust, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the attack was intentional or occurred naturally.

Director Mueller highlighted the federal, state and local public-private efforts then recently adopted and deployed to investigate a potential threat:

Several months ago, the State Department received an anonymous tip that an unknown individual had threatened to introduce a virus to a large pig farm in Kansas. The State Department passed this information to the Secret Service, which notified one of its agents in Kansas. This agent was part of the FBI’s local Joint Terrorism Task Force. Together, we got the investigative ball rolling.

We coordinated with a local veterinarian, the USDA, and the FDA to assess the threat. Working with INS and local law enforcement, we found this man and questioned him. As it turns out, he had recently returned from South Africa, and it was possible that he could have transported a virus with him.

In the end, this investigation turned out to be a poison pen letter. The man we questioned had no intention of spreading a damaging virus. But because of our established networks, we were able to quickly assess the threat and move to prevent any attack.

In 2008, the FBI, Department of Justice and USDA published the “Criminal Handbook for Agroterrorism,” which “represent[ed] a joint effort of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Division; the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; the Department of Homeland Security; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General.”

The handbook was considered important since “[a]n attack against the food or agriculture sector . . . requires a high level of cooperation . . .  to identify . . . the threat, prevent . . .the spread of the disease or further contamination of a food product, prevent . . . public panic, and apprehend . . . those responsible. Lack of mutual awareness and understanding, as well as the absence of established communication procedures, could hinder the effectiveness of joint law enforcement investigations. Due to the continued likelihood of attacks against the U.S. food and agriculture sector, the effective use of all resources during an incident will be critical to ensure an efficient and appropriate response.”

Protecting the food supply in this country remains a priority of the FBI, according to Mollie Halpern (not a relative), explaining:

One way the FBI ensures the safety of the nation’s food from farm to fork is through agroterrorism workshops. Our 56 field offices across the country host these workshops, which bring together the public and private sector—such as farmers, law enforcement, federal regulatory agencies, and academia. Supervisory Special Agent Kelly Decker says outreach, liaising, and awareness are the best defenses against agroterrorism.

USDA has continued its efforts to protect the nation’s food supply.  The Office of Inspector General at USDA published a report in March 2017, “Agroterrorism Prevention, Detection, and Response

“to evaluate if USDA’s [Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Coordination’s] OHSEC had developed and communicated effective plans and procedures to prevent, detect, and respond to agroterrorism threats.”

The OIG recommended:

Development and implementation of written processes to effectively oversea USDA’s agroterrorism prevention, detection, and response activities;

Development and implementation of a comprehensive process to track USDA’s compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-9; and

Improvement of the process used to create the Sector Specific Plan (SSP).

The recommendations were largely accepted and will hopefully be completed before they are needed.


I recently reconnected with colleagues at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture in Columbus, Ohio on April 6, 2017 where a special session was held, titled “Animal Care Standards: How Laws, Commitments, & Public Perception Have Changed the Landscape.”

A special shout out to the attending former and current State Veterinarians, including Dr. Glauer-State Veterinarian Ohio (ret.), and Dr. Tony Forshey-State Veterinarian Ohio.  State Veterinarians are a state animal health officials charged with protecting the health and well-being of animals in their state.  I served as the New Jersey State Veterinarian for nearly a decade.

Also attending were presenters, including: (1) Dr. Janet Helms, National Director of American Humane; (2) Chelsea Good, J.D., VP government and industry affairs, Livestock Marketing Association; (3) Candace Croney, Ph.D., Director, Center for Animal Welfare Science, Associate Professor, animal Behavior and Wellbeing, Purdue University; (4) Judge Linda Chezem, Indiana Court of Appeals (ret.) and others representing retail, private and public organizations.

One topic discussed was how governmental and private animal care standards of care benefit animals and consumers.  There is some concern that consumers, unfamiliar with the different certifying standards available, may be confused by labeling at the point of sale.  This is compounded by the fact that most consumers are unfamiliar with animal agriculture―fewer than 2% of the US population is directly involved with animal agriculture facilities that provide food and fiber to the rest of the US population and much of the rest of the world.

One of the longest standing third-party certification program, American Humane Certified™, was established by American Humane.  This nonprofit was “f]ounded in 1877 . . . [and] is committed to ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals.”

As described on its website “The American Humane Certified™ program is a voluntary third party animal welfare audit program that is rapidly setting the standards for the way that food animals are raised in the U.S.

The American Humane Certified™ Animal Welfare Standards are species-specific and grounded on solid scientific research. The standards were created with input from renowned animal science experts and veterinarians and are frequently reviewed by our Scientific Advisory Committee to reflect current research, technological advances, best practices, and humane handling methods. Our Animal Welfare Standards were built upon the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which require that an animal be healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express normal behavior, and free from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. American Humane Certified producers are audited for their compliance to the standards.”

There are numerous private and publicly available standards of care for livestock and poultry, but American Humane’s emphasis on obtainable, scientifically-sound practices and its commitment to partnering with livestock producers to provide consumers with safe, healthy, and humanely raised animals sets it apart from many others.

The challenge for livestock producers is to make sure that consumers can rely on labeling or standard certifications to insure that the animals raised are treated humanely and that the food produced is healthy and safe.