“This is just another layer, plain and simple, of bureaucracy they are going to have to deal with.”
– ROGER WI SE, OHIO FARMERS UNION
Ohioans have voted to create a board to set state policy on livestock handling, a move state farm groups had sought to head off laws or ballot initiatives similar to those other U. S. states banning specific practices such as stalls that limit movement for pregnant sows.
The livestock care board, an amendment to the Ohio constitution, was approved by a margin of nearly two to one Nov. 3 with the backing of leading state officials.
Animal rights groups blasted the board as a ploy to avoid real reforms to practices that activists view as cruel. Seven U. S. states have moved to ban sow gestation cages, including Michigan on Oct. 12. Action against the cages began in Florida with a referendum in 2002. Five states have acted against veal crates and two bar “battery” cages for hens. Ohio agriculture director Robert Boggs will chair the 13-member livestock board. He said it “will work to create a fair, uniform set of standards that ensure the safe and humane treatment of the state’s livestock and poultry.”
The Humane Society of the United States, which led campaigns in other states to end livestock practices it considers cruel, has said it may launch its own referendum in Ohio. It described the livestock board as an empty promise intended to block “real reform.”
“Now that the (election) is over, we can get on with such real reform – a measure to phase out the extreme confinement of animals in veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages, where they cannot even turn around and stretch their limbs,” HSUS president Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.
Proponents say gestation crates prevent fighting among sows. Critics say they are too small, severely restricting movement of pregnant sows and creating health problems.Gov.Ted Str ickland will
appoint 10 of the Ohio board’s 13 members. Members will include farmers, veterinarians, a food safety expert, farm group representatives, consumers, a local humane society expert and the dean of an agricultural school.
Backers said the board will ensure sensible regulations tailored to Ohio agriculture. The Ohio Farm Bureau backed the board, as did Ohio business and food groups. “This is just
another layer, plain and simple, of bureaucracy they (farmers) are going to have to deal with,” said Roger Wise, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, which had a variety of objections to the board.
Wise said the board might impose fees on Ohio farmers to pay for its operations.
The Michigan law sets a timeline to end some confinement practices – veal “crates” would be banned in three years and layer cages and sow crates would not be allowed in 10 years. Some Michigan farm leaders said the law provides more time to adapt than would have been allowed under a ballot initiative threatened by activist groups.
Maine enacted a law in May to prohibit sow and veal crates.
In 2008, California voters approved a ballot measure to halt the use of layer cages, veal crates and sow crates.
Also in 2008, Colorado legislators passed a law to phase out sow and veal crates within 10 years. A 2007 Oregon law set a six-year phase-out for sow crates. Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative in 2006 to phase out use of veal and sow crates by the end of 2012.