“Should laws criminalizing animal abuse apply to animals raised for food?” The answer is yes, and yes especially because farm animals are generally now under the control of business corporations. State and federal criminal law have proved critical in modifying corporate policy and practice in other areas, a current example being worker safety. Criminal liability today would include criminal liability of the corporate entity itself, and would thus also introduce the most effective regulation of individual handling of farm animals—regulation by the corporation, which has methods and resources public agencies cannot match. We have a background public policy of humane treatment of sentient creatures, with a long history and sufficiently broadly sourced in enacted law to be called quasi-constitutional. Both state and federal courts frequently refer to it as general public policy. The earliest criminal animal protection acts in Anglo-American law, in 1641 in Massachusetts and 1822 in England, were directed specifically at the suffering of farm animals. But while protection of animals from cruelty was developing in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into a basic public value, farm animals, with few exceptions, were being moved outside legal protection—either through their exemption from the definition of animals protected, or through the exemption of cruel practices in farming from the definition of cruel practices. At the same time, individual and family farming was being replaced by large-scale corporate processing organized along industrial lines. The result of this combination is a crisis of suffering in the United States, a crisis in the way there are crises of mass human suffering around the world today.
Animal Cruelty Laws and Factory Farming,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol106/iss1/6