Almira Tanner

Published on:

August 27, 2020

Five reasons why a moratorium is the right next step in our fight to #CancelAnimalAg

If you’re reading this, I likely don’t need to tell you that something is deeply wrong and unjust about animal agriculture. This industry tortures and kills trillions of animals each year, forces marginalized people to work in unsafe and traumatizing environments, and is a leading contributor of greenhouse gases, ocean dead zones, and pandemic-causing zoonotic diseases. We need to completely abolish animal agriculture and transition to a more just, plant-based food system, but it’s not going to happen overnight. 

So what step should we take right now? Below, I share five reasons why we should be asking for a statewide moratorium on the expansion and construction of new factory farms and slaughterhouses.

But first, what is a moratorium? A moratorium is a temporary prohibition of an activity. We’ve had moratoriums on evictions, debt repayments, offshore drilling, and even on the death penalty in California. A moratorium on farms and slaughterhouses wouldn’t ban them or prohibit them from operating, but it would halt any new facilities from opening and would prevent the expansion of any existing ones. 

Here’s why this is important 

  • It would directly impact animals. Despite all the new plant-based products going to market, humans kill and eat more and more animals each year. As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, slaughter is the weakest link in the fragile web of animal agriculture. By preventing the expansion or construction of new slaughterhouses, we’d put a stop to this growth and prevent future generations of animals from being exploited and killed. But California is moving in the opposite direction. Yosemite Foods, a pig slaughterhouse, just opened this year in Stockton with the financial support of the state. Another slaughterhouse is being proposed in Sonoma County and over 100 new CAFOs have been constructed in California since 2016. We need to stop this expansion immediately, not dig ourselves into a bigger and bigger hole. As the #1 state in the country for agriculture, stopping the growth in California would have ripple effects across the country.
  • It sends a strong symbolic message. Direct impacts are critical, but symbolic victories have their place in social movements, too. Symbolic victories play an important role in signaling where the general public stands on an issue. When a government declares a climate emergency, even if nothing else changes yet, it lets people know that the issue is important and warrants attention and resources. By enacting a moratorium, the government would let Californians know that something is wrong with animal agriculture, something that warrants taking a statewide “time out.” It also gets the public accustomed to the idea that we might be without this industry in the future. A moratorium doesn’t ask for reform or bigger cages or slightly less traumatic deaths. This is not about small welfare improvements. We’re setting ourselves up for abolishing animal agriculture by stigmatizing the entire industry. 
  • It’s immediate. A moratorium could go into effect right now. There’s no waiting until 2024 or 2025 like other legislation being discussed this year. The urgency of a moratorium parallels the animal, climate, and public health emergencies that we’re in right now due to animal agriculture. 
  • We have allies in other movements. Our allies in other social justice movements might not yet be on board with the idea of shutting down all farms and slaughterhouses (we’ll get there), but they do see that something is deeply concerning with our current system. Animal agriculture impacts marginalized human populations through the destruction of rural communities, the exploitation of workers, and the acceleration of climate change. We’ve seen support for this moratorium from anti-racist, environmental, economic justice, and public health organizations. And we know that we’re stronger when we work together. By building a strong coalition around this demand, not only are we more likely to succeed, but we can lift up all peoples and ensure that nonhuman animals’ perspectives are also brought to the table. 
  • The time is right. As I write this, we are six months into a historic pandemic caused by a zoonotic disease, and wildfires, fueled by climate change, are raging in California prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to declare yet another state of emergency. We need long-term solutions to these crises so they don’t keep happening year after year. And people are ready for change. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren proposed the Farm Systems Reform Act at the federal level which includes a moratorium on large CAFOs. Counties in other states ranging from South Dakota to Arkansas and Utah have moratoriums affecting some elements of animal agriculture operations. The American Public Health Association even recommends a moratorium on large CAFOs. In some ways, this is not a radical ask. It is not radical to ask that we stop building the very facilities that are threatening life on this planet as we know it. This could be the year where we stop making the problem worse and finally start working on solutions. 

Is a moratorium enough? No. Nothing will be enough until we abolish this entire industry and all animals live under the protection of an animal bill of rights. A moratorium wouldn’t stop the exploitation and killing of animals who live on existing farms and are killed in existing slaughterhouses. It wouldn’t even necessarily be forever. But I believe that when we, as a society, stop and really reflect on the destructive nature of animal agriculture, we will realize that this moratorium should never be reversed. And that instead, we should start making a plan for how to dismantle this current system and replace it with a just alternative. That is why a moratorium would be a powerful step along our roadmap to liberation. If you agree, please take action today. Sign up to join the DxE network and, if you’re in California, email Gavin Newsom and let him know what you think!