THE BLOG
08/20/2013 02:39 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2013

Unfit for a King Amendment

You may have heard recently about Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King's callous remarks comparing immigrants to "drug mules." Leaders in his own party condemned him. "Hateful," said House Speaker John Boehner, while Majority Leader Eric Cantor called King's remarks "inexcusable."

Well, it turns out that King isn't just anti-immigrant, he's also anti-mule.

Congressman King -- long-known as an opponent of animal welfare -- slipped an amendment into the House version of the federal farm bill that would, in effect, repeal state laws protecting farm animals from cruelty. The notorious "King amendment" would essentially ban states from having any rules on how agricultural goods sold in the state are produced. Protections for rural communities, animal welfare, and food safety could all be thrown out the window. Stephen Colbert had a particularly biting, to the point segment on King's amendment in which he hilariously outlines the very real threat it poses to important state laws banning some of the most inhumane factory farming practices.

I've covered the insidious King amendment on my nightly 7 p.m. EST show on CNN's sister network HLN, where I've also examined the underlying issue, namely the extreme, institutionalized cruelty inflicted on 9 billion farm animals raised and killed for food every year in the United States. Chickens are crammed into cages so small they can never stretch their wings. Pigs are kept in gestation crates the size of their bodies, never able to turn around. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see how this constitutes torture for any sentient being.

Rep. King suggests those of us who feel the extreme confinement of farm animals in giant warehouses is morally wrong are somehow radicals. He has the audacity to call the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) one of the "radical organizations" pushing for better treatment of farm animals. It would seem, in his mind, compassion to animals is somehow Un-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Americans are decent, kind people and -- now that the hideous cruelty of factory farming is coming to light -- more and more Americans are standing up and saying: stop. No more! That's why Californians passed Prop 2 several years ago requiring farm animals be given enough room to stretch their limbs and turn around. Is that such a radical thing to ask? Prop 2's accomplishments would be wiped out if the King Amendment becomes law. King himself implies that's his objective noting, "California will only allow eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. The impact of their large market would compel producers in other states to invest billions meet the California standard of 'means of production.'" King adds he wants to stop "radical organizations" from "creating a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise." To that I say, really? America's agriculture industry is going to die if chickens are given room to turn around and spread their wings? Nah!

Why Rep. King is so against states' rights is unclear, but fortunately his amendment is opposed by a wide coalition of animal welfare, environmental, and food safety groups, with good reason. Wayne Pacelle, President of The Humane Society of the United States ominously warns, if the King amendment becomes law it would have the effect of wiping out "every state, county or local law that creates any standard or condition relating to an agricultural production activity -- so we'd have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection or public health."

The good news, though, is that the Senate version of the farm bill contains no similar provision. When the two congressional chambers go to conference next month to produce a final farm bill, it's imperative that King's reckless amendment be deleted from any final farm bill package. People with a heart need to start calling their representatives in Congress now!

Lawmakers in Washington have a lot to think about while they're on recess this month, especially when it comes to agricultural policy. While there are many important issues contained in the farm bill, removing Steve King's ill-conceived amendment should be a no-brainer for all members of the Congress.