Ohio reneges on veal calf deal

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
COLUMBUS–Can the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board keep a promise?
Only 11 members of the 13-member board on
March 2, 2011 voted on a proposed regulatory
standard for raising veal calves, but six of the
11 approved of a standard which violates a June
2010 agreement brokered by former Ohio governor
Ted Strickland that kept off the November 2010
ballat a proposal to ban veal crates, sow
gestation crates, and battery cages for laying
hens.


If the two Ohio Livestock Care Standards
Board members who did not vote on March 2 oppose
the veal standard on a re-vote, the Strickland
agreement may hold up.
If not, the initiative proposed by the
Ohioans for Humane Farms coalition may yet go
before the voters–but apparently not before
withstanding a legal challenge from
representatives of agribusiness who contend that
the Strickland agreement did not allow Ohioans
for Humane Farms to submit petitions signed in
2008 to place the initiative on the state ballot
years later.
The Humane Society of the United States,
Farm Sanctuary, and other members of Ohioans for
Humane Farms had collected more than half a
million signatures to qualify the initiative for
the 2008 ballot. The coalition members
understood that those signatures would be
considered valid if the initiative were to be
submitted later, should the Ohio Livestock Care
Standards Board fail to uphold the Strickland
agreement.
“I think the Ohio Livestock Care
Standards Board is going to reverse itself on
veal and meet all five farm animal welfare
elements of the agreement,” HSUS president Wayne
Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The decision should
happen on April 5th. Several thousand comments
in our favor have already come in to the board
on this issue,” Pacelle added.
The language approved by the Ohio
Livestock Care Standards Board on March 2 state
that “Veal calves will be permitted to be
tethered or non-tethered in stalls of a minimum
24 inches wide and 66 inches long until December
31, 2017. After December 31, 2017, tethering
may only be usedÅ to prevent navel and cross
sucking and restraint for examinations,
treatments and transit,” which in effect means
that veal calves may continue to be kept exactly
as they are kept now.
The Strickland agreement “stipulated that
all calves must be kept in group housing starting
in 2017, which mirrors a pledge made in 2007 by
the American Veal Association,” Pacelle
elaborated. “All parties to the agreement
consented to that policy. But the Ohio Farm
Bureau Federation, which had been a leader in
the effort to push the agreement forward,
modified its position and urged the Livestock
Board to change course on the veal issue.
“A phase-out of veal crates is a core
element of the eight-point animal welfare
agreement, ” Pacelle said, “and if the
Livestock Board guts that provision by allowing
calves to be immobilized for more than half of
their lives, we will have little choice but to
renew the effort for a ballot initiative.”
The Strickland agreement also called for
banning the use of new sow gestation stalls after
December 31, 2010; requiring existing pig farms
to stop using gestation stalls by 2025;
imposing a moratorium on issuing permits to build
new battery cage facilities for laying hens;
banning the transport of downed cattle to
slaughter; and banning methods of culling farm
animals that do not meet the American Veterinary
Medical Association standards for humane
euthanasia.
In addition, the Ohio Farm Bureau
Federation and other representatives of
agribusiness agreed to support the passage of a
bill to make cockfighting a felony, and of
legislation to increase regulation of puppy
breeders. Bills on these subjects remain stalled.
Finally the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
et al were to support an administrative order
that Strickland issued against keeping or selling
exotic and/or dangerous species as pets,
including nonhuman primates, bears, lions,
tigers, constricting and venomous snakes, and
crocodilians. The order took effect as
Strickland, a Democrat, left office, and has
not been enforced by his successor, John Kasich,
a Republican.
People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals on March 1, 2011 asked Kasich to enforce
the law, and asked that homicide charges be
filed against bankrupt animal exhibitor Sam
Mazzola, of Columbia Station, Ohio. On August
19, 2010 one of Mazzola’s bears inflicted 658
puncture wounds with teeth and claws while
mauling volunteer helper Brent Kandra, 24.
Kandra escaped from the bear’s cage, but died
minutes later, according to a recently released
coroner’s report.
Mazzola was notorious from the mid-1980s
until 2006 for promoting a bear-wrestling act in
Ohio and upstate New York. He later operated a
chain of three pet stores.
“I think Kasich may backtrack on
exotics,” Pacelle said. “We are still trying to
find out exactly what’s going to come from his
mouth. I am setting up meetings with Ohio house
and senate leaders on cockfighting and puppy
mills,” Pacelle added.
“The other part of the [Strickland] agreement, which we think is as important [as
the animal welfare provisions],” Ohio Farm
Bureau senior vice president of public policy
Keith Stimpert told Alan Johnson of the Columbus
Dispatch, “is that all parties must respect the
authority of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards
Board.” This provision of the Strickland
agreement will apparently become the basis of an
attempt to invalidate the Ohioans for Humane
Farms petitions, if the coalition pushes to take
the initiative to Ohio voters.
“We’ll see if they’ll reverse the vote on
veal crates, and if not, go forward with
initiative,” Farm Sanctuary cofounder Gene Baur
told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “I believe the agreement
requires veal crates to be outlawed,” Baur said,
“and that the initiative can legally proceed,”
probably to appear on the November 2012 ballot.

HFA warning

Humane Farming Association founder Brad
Miller, after the announcement of the
Strickland agreement, told ANIMAL PEOPLE that it
was “worth less than the paper it was written
on,” and was “likely to be added to and
subtracted from for weeks, months, and/or years
to come. And you can be damn sure that it won’t
be for the better,” Miller said.
“It doesn’t matter whether the Livestock
Board reverses itself again on the veal issue,”
Miller commented after the March 2 vote. “The
veal standards are worthless in any event.
There are no criminal penalties associated with
any of these flimsy standards. What this entire
episode highlights,” Miller said, “is that all
of these administrative code standards are
written in sand, and can change at any given
moment depending on the whim of a handful of
non-elected livestock industry appointees.” The
Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board rules for the
use of sow gestation stalls also violate the
Strickland agreement, Miller continued. The
regulatory language allows sows “to be housed in
breeding/gestation stalls for a period of time
that seeks to maximize embryonic welfare and
allows for the confirmation of pregnancy.”
Charged Miller, “Livestock board members
noted in discussions that the length of this
period of time will be left entirely up to the
producer to determine. They casually estimated
that it could range anywhere from one to two
months, but acknowledged that it could be longer.
Continues the regulatory laguage,
“Individual stall housing will be allowed for
special circumstancesÅ Including but not limited
to injured, frail, thin, or aggressive swine.”
Pointed out Miller, “Those are among the
current rationales for keeping them locked in
crates. This all constitutes a far worse
violation of the Strickland agreement and affects
far greater numbers of animals than the veal
standards.
“Then there are the poultry standards,”
Miller added. “Under the terms of the agreement,
Ohio egg factories can expand battery cage
operations until the end of time. The agreement
calls for a moratorium on permitting out-of-state
companies to build new battery cage operations in
Ohio. But even that part of the agreement has
been violated. Key loophole language to look out
for is in the ‘definitions’ section. According
to the standards, an ‘enriched cage’ is the same
as a conventional cage, but with features in
addition to food and water such as areas for
nesting, scratching, perching and/or dust
bathing. Add just one of those features, or
one of some other unnamed feature to a
conventional battery cage, and presto, it
magically turns into an ‘enriched cage’ and
out-of-state companies can build new factories
full of them, even if the hens are just as
tightly packed.”

California & Washington

Though Pacelle and Baur have not
addressed the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board
hen housing standards, both have denounced
similar regulatory language proposed in
California and Washington. Proposition Two,
passed by California voters in November 2008,
required that by 2015 whole eggs sold within the
state must come from hens who are able to stand
up, turn around, and fully extend their limbs.
To most animal advocates, this means birds who
are cage-free, though it is possible for birds
to be physically comfortable in spacious cages
with perches and nest boxes. In June 2010,
however, the American Humane Association
endorsed the use of “enriched” cages in
California, contending that these will also meet
the Proposition Two requirement.
With interpretation of the California law
simmering, HSUS and Farm Sanctuary in January
2011 introduced an initiative petition seeking to
pass a similar ballot measure in Washington. The
Washington state senate then passed SB 5487, a
bill which would require that “Any new cage
system installed between January 1, 2012, and
July 1, 2018, must have achieved American Humane
Association approval as an enriched colony
housing system under the approval guidelines in
existence on January 1, 2011, or be capable of
modification to achieve such approval.” Thus SB
5487 requires only that new egg barns must have
cage shelving which, if holding conventional
battery cages, could hold “enriched” cages
instead.
“Like many bills backed by the animal
agriculture industry,” said Baur, “SB 5487
merely gives the illusion of reform. The bill
codifies inhumane industry norms.”
The Washington house companion bill, HB
1813, remained in committee as the April 2011
edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
Kentucky
A situation more directly parallel to
Ohio is brewing in Kentucky, where the state
assembly in 2010 created the Kentucky Livestock
Care Standards Commission, with authority
parallel to that of the Ohio Livestock Care
Standards Commission. “We need to guard against
trying to extrapolate human comfort levels to
animals,” state veterinarian Robert Stout told
Janet Patton of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Added Patton, “A new bill, moving
through the Kentucky house, would alter the
makeup of the Agriculture Board, which is
appointed by the governor. The legislation would
lock in seats for the Kentucky Farm Bureau, as
well as representatives of the seven largest
commodities.”

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