Yesterday, August 24, was the 48th anniversary of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a groundbreaking law establishing minimum standards of treatment for animals... Well, some animals.
You see, while some animals used for research, as pets, or for exhibition are considered worthy of minimal legal protection (and to be clear, the AWA protections leave lots of room for improvement), animals used for food, like farm animals, are explicitly left out. Other federal statutes, like the 28 Hour Law and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act cover livestock transportation and slaughter, but both exclude birds, and there are no federal laws at all governing the conditions in which farm animals are raised.
The big question is: why?
Do the over 9 billion animals farmed in the United States each year require less protection? No. Should we allow them to endure extreme cruelty during their lives just because they're destined for slaughter? Certainly not.
If anything, considering how many farm animals there are and the direct link between farm conditions and food safety, farm animals require more attention, and their conditions more scrutiny. As the products of agricultural corporations, farm animals are among the most exploited and abused animals in the world.