Farm animal initiative in Ohio builds on California success

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:
COLUMBUS, Ohio–Ohioans for Humane Farms,
a coalition headed by the Humane Society of the
U.S. and Farm Sanctuary, on February 1, 2010
began gathering signatures to place an initiative
on the November 2010 Ohio state ballot which, if
approved by voters, would require the Ohio
Livestock Care Standards Board to ban lifelong
confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and
laying hens.

The initiative would also require that
downed pigs and cattle must be euthanized by
methods approved by the American Veterinary
Medical Association, and would ban transporting
downed cows and calves to be slaughtered for
human consumption.
“The measure directs the Livestock Board
to adopt these standards within six years,” said
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle. “I have encouraged
the Livestock Board,” yet to be appointed, “to
do so immediately, and not to wait for the
six-year clock to run out.”
The 13-member Ohio Livestock Care
Standards Board was created by Issue 2 on the
November 2009 Ohio ballot, an agribusiness
proposal that was put before the voters by the
Ohio legislature. Agribusiness lobbyists hoped
to thwart any attempt by animal advocates to
regulate farming by initiative in Ohio, after a
measure similar to the Ohio proposal was approved
by 63% of the California electorate in November
“In February of last year,” recounted
Pacelle, “I met with the leaders of the Ohio
Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Farm Bureau,
and other agribusiness leaders and asked them to
work with us to find a pathway to improve farm
animal welfare in Ohio. Unlike agriculture
leaders in neighboring Michigan, who sat down
with us and hatched a compromise,” passed in
September 2009, “Ohio’s agribusiness trade
associations refused even to entertain a
Proponents of Issue 2 reportedly
anticipated that an HSUS-backed initiative to
help farm animals would also be on the November
2009 ballot, or at least that HSUS would spend
heavily to try to defeat Issue 2, which
nonetheless would pass handily by appearing to
favor animal welfare.
But instead of fighting Issue 2, HSUS
opted to accept the creation of the Ohio
Livestock Care Standards Board at face value,
and work to make it responsive to animal welfare
“HSUS spent nearly no money opposing
Issue 2,” Pacelle said, “while proponents used
millions from factory farming giants to pass it.
Now that it’s passed, we look forward to working
with the Livestock Board,” with “a very specific
and reasonable plan of action for the members to
consider: pass the farm animal welfare
The Ohio initiative process began by
submitting to the Ohio Attorney General a
petition including signatures from voters in 48
of the 88 Ohio counties. This was done with the
endorsements of 15 animal protection
organizations, including four of the largest
humane societies in Ohio, and 12 other
organizations representing environmental,
consumer, public health, occupational safety,
and food safety concerns.
Ohioans for Humane Farms now has until
June 30, 2010 to gather 403,000 valid signatures
of registered voters on petitions to qualify the
initiative for the state ballot. This will
require actually collecting about 600,000
signatures, since signatures collected in
initiative campaigns are often disqualified.
Predicted HSUS factory farming campaign
director Paul Shapiro, “This is sure to be the
most hard-fought of the farm animal ballot
measures to date.”
Agreed Pacelle, “Our polling numbers are
about the same as in California,” at the same
stage in the California initiative campaign,
“but if agribusiness outspends us by a factor of
two to one, then we’ll have our hands full. But
we’re playing to win here. We’re charging ahead
because the numbers are at the threshold of what
we need to win.
HFA role
Pacelle credited an undercover
investigation by the Humane Farming Association
with helping to awaken Ohio voters in support of
farm animal protection.
“A factory farmer in Wayne County, Ohio
decided that he’d kill lame or otherwise unwanted
pigs on his farm by hanging them by a chain from
a fully extended front-end loader,” Pacelle
recounted. “The HFA undercover investigator
recorded it all. A trial ensued. The
operation’s owner and his allies in agribusiness
mounted a defense. He was found not guilty for
the hangings.
“The judge ruled that Ohio had no
standards forbidding strangulation and hanging of
farm animals. The Ohio Pork Producers Council
declared the outcome a ‘huge victory.’ The
agribusiness lobby provided $10,000 for the
defense. This was a shameful outcome, and
proves that there is a gap in the law.
“Sadly,” Pacelle said, “the Ohio Farm
Bureau has never supported the most fundamental
animal welfare improvements in their state. It
has not supported efforts to crack down on
cockfighting, to upgrade the cruelty law, or to
check the excesses of puppy mills.”
As Pacelle spoke, Missouri Farm Bureau
director of marketing and commodities Kelly Smith
told a gathering of the Polk County Farm Bureau
that an initiative petition seeking to place a
“Puppy Mill Cruelty Protection Act” on the 2010
Missouri state ballot is a front for seeking “the
abolition of all animal agriculture.”
Earlier, Missouri Farm Family
Agriculture Alliance spokesperson Sharon Oetting
in a press release charged that HSUS is
“targeting Missouri dog breeders in a veiled
attempt to regulate animal agriculture in
HSUS is a part of a coalition called
Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, who need
to collect about 130,000 valid signatures from
Missouri voters by May 2, 2010.
Efforts to improve regulation of
commercial dog breeders in Missouri actually
predate the 1954 formation of HSUS by about 20
years, and have been introduced in almost every
state legislative session since then. The issue
has not previously been taken directly to
Missouri voters.

AR excluded

“South Dakota’s laws governing the
treatment of livestock and work animals will come
under review this year, and changes could be
made during the 2011 legislative session,”
predicted Peter Harriman of the Sioux Falls Argus
Leader on January 26, 2010. A South Dakota law
that was last reviewed by the legislature in 1991
prohibits “inflicting unnecessary and
unjustifiable pain and suffering on animals,”
Harriman explained, “but holds the standard of
care to be generally accepted practices in
The meaning of “generally accepted
practices” has changed since 1991, and may
change further, in part as result of amended
laws in other states, South Dakota state
veterinarian and Animal Industries Board
executive director Dustin Oedekoven told Harriman.
“Notably excluded from the [review] process will be animal rights groups,” Harriman
noted. “The South Dakota Farm Bureau hopes to
use the review to prevent changing ethics about
livestock in other states from being adopted in
South Dakota. Farm Bureau executive director
Mike Held notes docking tails of dairy cattle is
a common practice, but in big dairy states such
as Washing-ton and California, there are strong
efforts to ban it. He also wants to derail an
attempt to reclassify horses as companion
The Farm Bureau and other agribusiness
lobbies have repeatedly thwarted attempts to
introduce felony penalties for cruelty to animals
in South Dakota. Only three other states lack
felony penalties for animal cruelty.

Docking bans

Docking cows’ tails was banned in
California in October 2009, when Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger endorsed a bill that he had
threatened to veto during a prolonged budget
dispute with the state legislature.
New York State Assembly member Linda
Rosenthal introduced a similar bill in January
2010, days after ABC World News Tonight,
Nightline, CNN, and many other broadcast,
online, and print media aired undercover video
of tail-docking and dehorning obtained by the
Chicago-based vegan advocacy group Mercy for
Mercy for Animals founder Nathan Runkle
said the video images were collected between
December 2008 and February 2009 at Willet Dairy
in Locke, New York, 30 miles southwest of
Syracuse. Willet Dairy is reportedly the
largest dairy farm in New York state.
Before releasing the video material to
media, Mercy for Animals and American SPCA
director of farm animal welfare Robert Baker
sought unsuccessfully to prosecute Willet Dairy.
The Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office
declined to press charges in August 2009, Runkle
told Mary Esch of Associated Press.
Runkle said the video led to the
Denver-based cheese producer Leprino Foods
dropping Willet as a milk supplier. Leprino
customers include the Pizza Hut, Dominos, and
Papa John’s pizza chains, the three largest in
the world.
After Schwarzenegger signed the
California law against docking cows’ tails into
law, but before the Mercy for Animals video
aired, the National Milk Producers Federation
introduced a new standards program called Farmers
Assuring Responsible Management.
According to the free downloadable
National Milk Producers Federation Animal Care
Manual, “Tail docking of dairy calves is not
recommendedÅ Switch trimming is recommended as a
preferred alternative.”
“The federation figures self-imposed
regulations are better than having HSUS force
them on the industry through referendums,”
commented Associated Press writer Tracie Cone.
“They believe the Humane Society-led ban this
year on tail docking at dairies in California,
the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, signaled a new
focus on the milk industry.”
“Anecdotal reports of the benefits of
tail docking are not currently supported by data
in the scientific literature,” commented the
American Veterinary Medical Association in a
January 10, 2010 background report entitled
Welfare Implications of Dairy Cow Tail Docking.
“Tail docking has been experimentally shown to
cause minimal adverse physiologic effects,” the
AVMA conceded. “However, fly avoidance
behaviors are more frequent in docked cattle,
suggesting potential long-term adverse behavioral
effects. Increased temperature sensitivity and
the presence of neuromas suggest that chronic
pain may be associated with the procedure.”
Tail-docking horses was already illegal
in both California and New York. Belgian-breed
draft horses’ tails were commonly docked for
decades, but Belgium banned docking horses’
tails in 2001.
Nearly 30 nations now prohibit docking dogs’ tails.

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