Animal Welfare in the US
Animal welfare is an issue that is of major importance to a wide range of people around the world. Despite this fact, there are many areas in the world where animals are not provided with even basic protections concerning their welfare or safety. The United States is a country with a somewhat split approach to animal welfare and the specific protections available depend on the type of animal being talked about. For example, livestock are treated completely differently than typical house pets. What is perhaps most important to recognize is that food animals are often held to much lower welfare standards despite the potential health risk they can introduce to human populations.
Pet Welfare in the United States
Pets are often treated to the highest standards in the United States when it comes to animal welfare. There are a number of organizations dedicated to promoting positive animal welfare legislation around the country and there are a number of laws protecting animals already in place. Due to this, the United States enjoys some of the lowest cases of household animal abuse in the entire world.
Two major issues facing animal welfare in the United States relate to the two most prevalent types of pets: cats and dogs. Dog fighting is still a large underground industry in many areas of the country. Another issue facing general animal welfare is the high prevalence of cats being allowed to roam freely throughout cities. This has a negative impact on the cats as it leads to the development of a number of illnesses. However, it's also dangerous for song bird populations as the cats kill an average of 2.4 billion song birds every year.
Livestock Welfare in the United States
The United States is one of the largest, most productive livestock manufacturers in the world. In fact, the United States exports nearly 2.5 billion pounds of beef alone every year. This high-capacity production model that creates much more meat than Americans can eat leads to a number of unique issues in terms of animal welfare in the United States. The biggest issues are in terms of the health of the animals and the conditions that they are allowed to live in.
Factory-farmed livestock are not really "raised" in a way that would be seen as "traditional" by most farmers. They are raised in very tight, caged-in quarters and very rarely step foot off of concrete surfaces. Since thousands of cows can inhabit a very small area at one time, cleaning waste and keeping a tidy environment for the animals is virtually impossible. For example, cattle are often kept in very tight surrounds, injected with growth hormones and fed nothing but corn in an effort to beef them up faster. Due to a number of important factors, this practice is often kept from public eye and is therefore commonly accepted practice in the United States.
In some states, laws have been put in place that are designed to keep video, photo and audio documentation of animal abuses under wraps. These laws are known colloquially as "ag-gag" laws. Anyone found to be violating these laws by videoing, photographing or otherwise recording factory farm conditions can be charged with a class B misdemeanour. This is in place even if the conditions in the factory farm are found to be substandard or illegal themselves. It should be noted that the practices found at many "factory" farms vary significantly from those used at most grass-fed farm operations. In these operations, animals are allowed to eat natural foods, graze and roam as they more naturally would.
A Complex Issue
Animal welfare in the United States is a very complex, dynamic issue. However, it's a topic that is of growing importance in a society with millions of animal lovers.
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