Animals Scored Significant Victories With the 2018 Farm Bill
By Sara Amundson
It is no secret that moving legislation over the finish line in Washington, DC, has not been easy of late. However, members of Congress did come together to pass the 2018 Farm Bill—a massive public-spending package that funds agriculture, conservation and food policy. It was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 20, 2018, just two days before the government shutdown began. While Big Agriculture with its factory farming model is not too kind as a general rule, the Farm Bill did right by animals in several important respects.
First and foremost, animal advocacy groups and concerned citizens successfully worked to remove an anti-animal provision that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) added to the House version of the bill. Of greatest concern to animal advocates was that Representative King's amendment would have nullified thousands of duly enacted laws concerning puppy mills, horse slaughter for human consumption and extreme confinement of farm animals. In its overreach, however, King's measure also threatened to undermine child labor laws and fire-safe cigarettes.
King repeats messages of "pro-states' rights" rhetoric, yet the legislation he introduces year after year threatens those very liberties. Recognizing that Americans care about the humane treatment of animals, Congress wisely opted to reject his dangerous amendment.
The Farm Bill also incorporated legislation addressing pet protection and domestic violence, and the inhumane practice of slaughtering dogs and cats for human consumption, among other things.
The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act will extend current federal domestic violence protections to pets and empower people trapped in domestic violence situations to leave abusive relationships. Currently, only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters provide pet accommodations, which can delay victims from leaving a dangerous environment. Pets can be a source of comfort and support, but tragically, abusers will frequently exploit the emotional bond between a victim and a pet to gain psychological control.
Congress also included elements of The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act in the Farm Bill. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are victims of this brutal global industry every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families and subjected to unspeakable abuse only to end as someone's supper. In November, Humane Society International assisted government authorities in a shutdown of the largest dog slaughterhouse in South Korea. This bill will prevent this appalling practice from taking hold in the U.S., and strengthen the case for ending it worldwide.
There is much more to the Farm Bill, of course, and there are measures in it that give us pause. But in putting the King amendment out to pasture, and in taking up popular measures that had garnered tremendous bipartisan support, Congress has set a standard that we hope will continue in 2019. With the terrible threat of King's measure set aside, and these other priorities made law, Congress should advance a legislative agenda in 2019 that tackles other urgent challenges in humane work, based on the premise that any decent nation is good to the animals in its care.
Sara Amundson is the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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