Good news,bad news for animals on Capitol Hill

Animal welfare advocates today are celebrating the defeat of the massive Farm Bill.

Buried deep in the $940-billion bill, was an amendment that they say would have obliterated state laws protecting production farm animals.

The King amendment (sponsored by anti-animal protection Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa) would nullify state laws involving animals, among them efforts to provide more humane housing for hens and pigs.

Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, explained without a federal ban on the sale of horse meat, every state would have to allow it.

He said such a federal law could extend its authority to puppy mills - including threatening Pennsylvania's landmark puppy mill statute.

As Markarian put it: "The King amendment basically says you can’t have state laws, but we don’t want federal laws either."

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, says the House failed to allow debate on other positive amendments for animals such as language to ban horse slaughter and so-called "soring" of show horses.

The Farm Bill did included a provision to upgrade the federal animal fighting statute, making it a crime to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

The good news - advocates say - over in the Senate the Appropriations Committee approved an amendment, offered by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to bar the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections at horse slaughter plants in the United States.

This comes just a week after the House approved an identical amendment by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Bill Young, R-Fla.

 But it's not over yet. One way or another Congress will need to approve a Farm Bill. The question is, whether the concerns of animal lovers will be heard.