Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Congressional Bid to Stop Taxpayer-Funded Animal Abuse, Safeguard Farm Animal Welfare Launched by Congressman Cohen and 42 Representatives

February 12, 2015
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a Humane Society “Humane Champion,” is leading a delegation of 43 members of Congress in an effort to stop taxpayer-funded animal abuse and inhumane testing at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska. According to a recent New York Times exposé, MARC’s profit-motivated research programs have caused great suffering to its animals, which have been subjected to illness, pain, and premature death for decades. Congressman Cohen is also a cosponsor of Representative Earl Blumenauer’s AWARE Act, which would close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that exempts MARC from adhering to federal animal welfare standards.

“The Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska has been operated at taxpayer expense for the purpose of increasing production and profits for the meat industry, benefits that have been questionable at best, even by many within the meat industry,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Taxpayer dollars have been used in ways most taxpayers would abhor.  Animals have needlessly suffered and died in ways that are unspeakable.  We cannot as a government, as a nation, stand idly by and allow this to continue.  Our humanity is diminished when we not only allow but actively sanction and financially support such abuse.” 

The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 was aimed at preventing animal abuse, but exempted farm animals researched for the benefit of the agriculture industry. This loophole has allowed the MARC to continue and expand its research programs, which have virtually no oversight and incredibly lax welfare standards that have already led to the easily preventable starvation of more than 6,500 animals and unnecessary disease and injury to other animals.

“People are becoming more aware and concerned each day about where their food comes from and that meat and other animal products be obtained in a humane manner.”  Congressman Cohen continued, “42 other members of Congress have joined me in asking Secretary Vilsack to immediately stop the research done at the MARC facility.  It is my hope that Secretary will take immediate action.”

To address these and other problems, in a letter sent this week Congressman Cohen and 42 other Members of Congress have urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to halt research at MARC, review their procedures, and implement new animal welfare procedures that voluntarily comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Joining Congressman Cohen’s call to immediately halt MARC research until the implementation of new animal welfare protocols are:

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam-AL), Michael Capuano (MA-07), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), David Cicilline (RI-01), Katherine Clark (MA-05), John Conyers (MI-13), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Ted Deutch (FL-21), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Jim Himes (CT-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Eddie Bernince Johnson (TX-30), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Nita Lowey (NY-17), Stephen Lynch (MA-18), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jim McNerney (CA-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Charlie Rangel (NY-13), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), Peter Welch (VT-AL), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and John Yarmuth (KY-03).

The text of Congressman Cohen’s letter follows, while a pdf copy is available here:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As you are aware, on January 19, 2015, the New York Times published the article, “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit.” The article highlights the experimentation done on farm animals at taxpayer expense at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. Cows, sheep and pigs have undergone torturous experimentation and have suffered painful, often fatal, neglect including starvation. The research in question has been done to maximize profits for agribusiness but at a terrible cost and with no real benefit. The experimentation has been for naught and the animals have suffered and died needlessly. The taxpayers have paid nearly $200 million between 2006 and 2015 for research at the MARC facility, research done for the benefit of private entities but which has not even produced meaningful and useful results.

While we appreciate that you have directed USDA staff to create and deliver an updated Animal Welfare Strategy plan within 60 days, we urge you not to wait to stop the research at MARC. The American public is increasingly aware of where its food comes from and is concerned about animal treatment, especially in the production of food.  The call for more humanely produced food becomes louder each day. We are writing to urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately stop animal testing at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska until a full review is completed and new animal welfare protocols are implemented.

Further, we are asking the USDA to voluntarily comply with Animal Welfare Act standards as has been done by many other U.S. Government departments and agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and The National Institutes of Health.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,