Animal Agriculture, Human Rights, Right to Food, Right to Water, Right to a Safe Environment, Right to Land, Farming, Food Security, Animal Protection, Food Sovereignty, CAFO

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The host of negative effects of animal agriculture on the immediate environment, workers, and local communities are well-documented, yet little is known about the global repercussions of animal agriculture, especially on human rights guarantees. This contribution attempts to begin filling this soaring gap. It examines the nexus between industrial animal agriculture (with a focus on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)) on the one hand, and specific international human rights violations on the other hand. Our emphasis is on the role of government in producing these violations, rather than on the agribusiness itself. Laws originally designed to govern small family farms—so-called “farmers’ rights” laws, including right-to-farm laws and exemptions from environmental and animal law—now protect corporate giants, many of which are multinationals. Governments enacting and upholding farmers’ rights shield agribusiness activities that are damaging to the environment and humans’ livelihoods from regulation. While they are prima facie at liberty to do so under domestic law, their laws are subject to the scrutiny of international law, particularly the human rights regime that promises to put a halt to the ongoing insulation of animal agriculture. The human rights perspective adds valuable dynamics to the ongoing debate, is novel in application to the issue, and opens new pathways for academic inquiries and legal strategies because—unlike nuisance laws, environmental laws, and animal protection laws, which de facto exempt the issue from judicial scrutiny—these laws can be used to hold governments accountable. The human rights discourse also gives rise to community empowerment and innovative forms of advocacy and forges connections between the different social justice issues implicated in animal agriculture. Finally, we show how scholars, researchers, stakeholders, and the public concerned about human rights issues can bring animal agriculture into the conversation and prompt their governments to address the issue proactively.