Decision Maker

Tom Vilsack

  • Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Thomas James "Tom" Vilsack is an American politician who has served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture since 2009. A member of the Democratic Party, Vilsack served as the 40th Governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007.

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Petitioning Tom Vilsack

USDA: Stop labeling factory farm chicken as “humanely raised”

My name is Craig Watts, and I’m a farmer for one of the biggest chicken companies in the United States -- Perdue. After 22 years under contract, I couldn’t stay silent any longer about the so-called “humanely raised” and “cage free” chicken consumers often pay a premium for at the supermarket. Consumers were being hoodwinked, so I joined forces with Compassion in World Farming to open the doors of my chicken houses to the world. Consumers were right to be outraged, and this is a chance to take action. Please sign our petition asking the USDA to stop putting their stamp of approval on factory farmed meat.  When the USDA Process Verified label appears on chicken, we should feel good about buying it for our families, right? These chickens are verified by the USDA to be “humanely raised” and “cage free,” but that does not have any real meaning. If you want proof, look no further than this video The Washington Post says “flies in the face of Perdue's marketing, and … undermines the credibility of labeling that has been vetted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”  Nearly all chickens raised for meat, including those in the USDA’s Process Verified Program, live in dimly lit barns with no access to natural light. With 30,000 birds crowded into one house, each chicken has less than a single square foot of space. The chickens are genetically bred to grow so big, so quickly their legs often cannot support their own unnaturally large weight. Last year, Perdue was sued for false labeling and agreed to remove the word “humane” from its chicken packaging. So why is the USDA still verifying these chickens, and others raised in similar conditions, as humane? The cage free claim is also misleading because no meat chicken in America is ever raised in a cage.  There is nothing humane about factory farming. The solution lies in consumers demanding transparency and accountability from the industry and the government.  Compassion in World Farming has attempted to work with the USDA on this issue, and two prominent US Senators recently urged the USDA to update their labeling policy to ensure meaningful animal welfare claims. Despite these efforts, the USDA has done nothing. It’s time for consumers to let their voice be heard. Please join me and Compassion in World Farming in asking USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to stop verifying factory farmed chicken as “humanely raised” and “raised cage free.” Consumers deserve better.

Craig Watts and Compassion in World Farming
121,856 supporters
Petitioning Tom Vilsack

Lonely Minnie Deserves Sanctuary!

Minnie, an Asian elephant held captive by R.W. Commerford & Sons in Goshen, Connecticut, lives alone. Her companions Beulah and Karen passed away in 2019 leaving Minnie as the sole elephant living in a dismal barn on the Commerford property. Since 1976, Minnie has been forced to appear in weddings, films, circuses, and as a photo opportunity for paying customers. She is also used to give rides, despite the fact that she has a history of behavior that puts both employees and the public at risk. Minnie has been deprived of her ability to lead a normal, natural life appropriate to her species.     In 2018, CompassionWorks International documented an appearance by Minnie at The Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts. We found pronounced swelling in her jaw and an abnormality in her gait that could indicate a spinal deformity or injury in her neck. These issues were formally reported on October 31, 2018 to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Despite compelling video and photographic evidence, they failed to do an inspection of Minnie until more than four months later. Similar examples of inaction by the USDA to respond to formal complaints have resulted in the deaths of elephants prior to the needed and requested welfare check, as was the case for the deceased elephant Anna Louise. CWI calls on the newly reinstalled U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to strengthen enforcement of the AWA and to take immediate action for lone elephant Minnie. The USDA has cited Commerford & Sons more than 50 times for failing to adhere to the minimum standards required by the AWA. How many more citations and deaths need occur before the USDA takes action? It is time to respond appropriately to repeat offenders by revoking exhibitor licenses and removing animals from their possession. For her physical, emotional, and psychological health, solitary Minnie must no longer be used as a money-making prop by Commerford & Sons and sent immediately to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee or to PAW’s ARK 2000 facility in California where she can receive expert veterinary care and the company of other elephants. Both sanctuaries have offered a home for Minnie at no charge to Commerford. Please sign and share to #SaveMinnie.

CompassionWorks International
38,240 supporters
Petitioning Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator USDA APHIS (Deputy Administrator)


  "SORING" Tennessee Walking Horses is animal cruelty and a crime. These noble horses are the ONLY breed in the WORLD shown in heavy Stacked Shoes with Chains on their legs. Over 50% of the Horses inspected by the USDA Vets at the 2014 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee were "SORE". “Soring” is the illegal and cruel practice of using chemical and mechanical methods to create pain in a gaited show horse€™'s front legs to exaggerate their animated step.   The Horses are forced to perform the CRUEL and unnatural high stepping "Big Lick" gait".   The rich and influential people HURTING these Horses have now used political influence to force the USDA into making a Rule Change. Under the 2014 "SCAR RULE",  if a Horse had "SCARS" on both front legs,  it was disqualified from showing.   The 2015 "SCAR RULE" permits certain "SCARS" to be on the Horses front legs, and still allows them to show.    In plain English, the 2015 "SCAR RULE" says "if you can push on the SCAR with your fingers and spread or flatten it out, then it isn't a SCAR." These "SCARS" result from "Training" the "Big Lick" Tennessee Walking Horse by putting harsh burning chemicals on their front legs, and then putting Chains on top of them. The flesh is injured, and "SCARS" develop.  A salicylic acid mix is used to try and burn off the "SCARS". The new 2015 "SCAR RULE" change will HURT the Horses. Sound Horse organizations FOSH (Friends of Sound Horses) and AAWHA (All American Walking Horse Alliance)  protest and object to the new 2015 USDA "SCAR RULE" change. The 2015 "Big Lick" Show Season starts at the Mississippi Charity Horse Show on March 26 - 28 in Jackson, Mississippi.  Last week, UMMC (University of Mississippi Medical Center) cut ties with the event, and refused to accept donations due to the controversy surrounding the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses. Now is the time to let the USDA know that the American Public opposes the 2015 "SCAR RULE" change. Horses should NOT be HURT and "SCARRED" for the sake of rich people enjoying institutionalized animal abuse in the name of family entertainment. This cruelty to horses should definitely not be in the view of families and children There's not much time, so let's please all stand up for "The Horses". Please Sign this Petition, and an automatic email will deliver your message to: • Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture• Kevin Shea, Administrator -USDA APHIS• Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator - USDA APHIS "The Horses" are depending on US to protect them.

Joanna Blue
11,077 supporters
Petitioning Tom Vilsack

Finalize The Federal Rule To Abolish "Big LIck" Animal Cruelty To Tennessee Walking Horses

Please SIGN this Petition to ABOLISH “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty to beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses. The welfare of "The Horses" should be above Politics. Over 95% of the persons 'commenting'  are "FOR"  the proposed Federal Rule which will abolish "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses. CCABLAC joins with Tea Party Conservative Republican Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), both large animal vets,  in urging U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack,  and U. S. President Barack Obama,  to act expeditiously to do all things necessary to finalize the proposed Federal Rule.  On October 24, 2016, Reps. Yoho - Schrader, along with 179 other Congressmen, signed a Letter making it clear that the ONLY EQUINES that the proposed Rule would affect are: Tennessee Walking Horses, Racking Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses The "Comment" period ended on October 26, 2016, with a total of                   73,933 Total Comments: FOR:         70,292 (95%)AGAINST:   3,641 (5%) Once done, the Federal Rule abolishing "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty will be published in the Federal Register as part of the Horse Protection Act of 1970, as amended, and it will be become law. "WE, The People" - CCABLAC (Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty) has led the fight against abolishing "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty. Over 200,000+ signing Change.Org Petitions, and 26 peaceful public protests from the Gulf of Mexico at Panama City Beach, Florida to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. After you SIGN, please SHARE the petition with your friends and family via email, Facebook, and Twitter!    Your PETITION Signatures and Comments will be delivered to the proper officials. "WE, The People", CCABLAC (Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty)  

Mary Smith
10,908 supporters
Petitioning Tom Vilsack


Representative Yoho, As the Sponsor of the House PAST ACT (Prevent All Soring Tactics),  would you please ask U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as a special favor,  to please allow America's Tennessee Walking Horse,  Gen's Ice Glimmer, to be transported and presented for educational purposes across America so people can learn about Big Lick Animal Cruelty. The Horse Protection Act restricts the transport of "Scarred" TWH to certain events, i.e., horse shows, sales, expos, horse park events.   The USDA enforces the Horse Protection Act. To educate the public,  Gen's Ice Glimmer, #24704770, Blood Type # TWT050457, wants official permission from the USDA to travel to Vet Schools, College Campuses, Horse Shows, Horse Parks and Horse venues.   Glimmer will be presented so the public can see his permanent Big Lick scars, and also the natural gait of a flat shod Tennessee Walking Horse.   On April 5, 2013,  Glimmer was tortured on the main campus of MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) by a Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Judge.  The show was named MTSU Walking For Education Horse Show, and it was held at the Tennessee Livestock Center. Almost 11,000 people have now signed a Change.Org asking MTSU President Dr. Sidney A. McPhee to sever all ties with Big Lick Animal Cruelty, and to ban Big Lick TWH from MTSU property.   These people are from every state and over 85 foreign countries. Please read about Glimmer's story here: Dr. Yoho, when you have a chance,  Gen's Ice Glimmer, #24704770, Blood Type # TWT050457,  would sure like to meet you in Washington,D.C.,  and thank you for everything that you and all the Congressmen are doing to help his brothers and sisters who are still living in pain every day.   Glimmer also wants to meet and thank all the USDA APHIS Administrators and Vets who strongly enforced the HPA "Scar Rule"and disqualified 35% of Big LickTWH inspected at the 2015 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. When would be a good time for you?

Citizens Campaign Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty
2,375 supporters
Petitioning People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Tom Vilsack

Raise the requirements for animals used for testing

Sadie Schnierow and Riley Weiss Every day millions of animals are kept in unfitting environments to be tested on. These animals are kept in cages that are too small and in harsh and unnatural environments. They watch their families go through dangerous and often deadly testing and then go through it themselves. Furthermore, this testing is often inaccurate for multiple reasons,  making it somewhat unnecessary. Testing laboratories are great in number and have low standards that need to be dramatically raised. Unfortunately, results and efficiency are put before the animals’ welfare in many research laboratories. Animal testing takes place all over America with a whopping number of research facilities numbering over 1,000 that are rarely inspected. With animal testing on such a large scale and with such low standards, the standards need to be raised. The AWA itself was put forth by the secretary of agriculture and has over time been amended to include a larger range of animal testing subjects. It is the only federal act that discusses animals used in research and was passed in 1966, a long time ago. Despite this lack of government action, there are still federal and non-federal organizations trying to fight for higher standards. The AWA is upheld by two main committees; the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Other committees or organizations like the Committee on Animal Research, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, and PETA also contribute to taking action on the subject of animal testing. In the USDA’s annual report, it was found that 76,000 animals used by researchers are hurt while they are being used. These results are trying to be avoided by using IACUCs. Any licensed facilities are required to have an “Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee” (IACUC) which oversees the care and use of animals within that facility. IACUCs are required to have a minimum of three members made up of a vet from the facility and someone not connected to the facility in order to represent the “general community” Facilities using vertebrates for testing that are funded by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), are responsible for following the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the PHS Policy). The standards set to “protect” animals are set very low to not interfere with scientific research. In fact, it is not even required to give animals pain-relievers after the torture that is done to them. The animals that the US uses for “science” can be electrocuted, blinded, poisoned, or even cut up alive. Our current laws in the US allow researchers to burn, shock, poison, isolate, starve, drown, brain-damage and addict animals to drugs. Currently, standards are set by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA. The AWA is rather alone in setting these regulations and rules. There are just 2 official government committees covering this topic and no other laws or acts setting standards. The standards set by the AWA are as such: First, you are not able to use animals for the creation or testing of biological cures or treatments unless you have a proper warrant. However, this only applies to living organisms classified as animals under the “Animals Experiment Regulations,” in the AWA. This shockingly does not include rats, mice, fish, amphibians and some birds. The act was later amended in 2002, but still purposely excluded farm animals, mice, birds, and amphibians. There was another amendment added in 1985 which introduced a minimum standard of treatment towards lab subjects. Research facilities were required to create an Animal Care committee including a member of the public to secure the minimum living standard. These standards included institutional approval as well as proper handlers for the animals. Although once again, facilities that tested on animals excluded from the Animals Experiments Regulations, were not restrained by these requirements. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was put forth by the secretary of agriculture originally to set up dog and cat licensing and create registration for laboratory research facilities. It was not put forth in order to conduct how animals are used in laboratories, but rather to set standards about their living standards and how they have been obtained. Breeding facilities and animal dealers were kept track of and needed proper licensing. It was also implemented in order to establish an inspection system, but the current system is rather slow and ineffective. Currently, there are 70 inspectors to complete the inspection of around 1,000 facilities. Furthermore, 4,000 separate inspections need to be conducted by the same 70 inspectors making this system unreliable and ineffective. It was mentioned earlier that biological testing on animals can often be inaccurate, one of the main reasons for this is because of animal stress, which isn’t good for the animals or for humanity. According to scientist Dr. Jarrod Bailey, animal stress can be a result of unnatural environments, prevention of natural behavior, and exposing them to dangerous and experimental products. If an animal is highly stressed during an experiment, the test results may not be accurate or valid. This means that biological products that are successfully tested on animals, may not be suited for human use and can have dangerous consequences. The standards set to “protect” animals are set very low to not interfere with scientific research. In fact, it is not even required to give animals pain-relievers after the torture that is done to them such as being electrocuted, blinded, poisoned, or even cut up alive. Our current laws in the US allow researchers to burn, shock, poison, isolate, starve, drown, brain-damage and addict animals to drugs.

Sadie Schnierow
1,333 supporters