COLUMBUS, OH – The effort to create a Livestock Care and Standards Board which would establish a framework for making livestock care decisions in Ohio, has been called “disingenuous” by the HSUS.
Much like the referendum process in Colorado, if approved, joint resolutions in the Ohio state House and Senate would place the measure on the November 3, 2009 Ohio general election ballot.
The board will comprise a broad base of experts in livestock and poultry care, including three family farmers, two veterinarians (one of whom is the state veterinarian), a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college and two members representing Ohio consumers. The purpose of the group will be to promulgate standards of care and wellbeing of livestock animals in the state.
The move has riled the Humane Society of the United States President, Wayne Pacelle, who calls the measure a “special interest power grab” in an official statement and demands Ohio leaders “insist that the Ohio Farm Bureau and other agribusiness groups” work cooperatively with his organization. The organization has also threatened to launch a statewide ballot initiative for November 3, 2010 if their demands were not met. The potential initiative would be very similar to Proposition 2, the HSUS led measure which passed last year in California.
This is not the first time HSUS has made threats to file an initiative if industry leaders did not sufficiently cooperate with HSUS demands. Last February HSUS officials sat down with Ohio Farm Bureau and other Ohio commodity groups and disclosed their intention to reform animal welfare in the state. The Ohio Farm Bureau has not agreed to work with the animal rights organization.
Farmers and Ranchers Speak Out
Ohio farmer Bob Peterson testifies for SJR 6, while his family looks on.
On Wednesday, both the Ohio House and Senate Ag committees heard testimony on the resolution. Farmers and ranchers from across the state gave testimony supporting the measure. In addition to Farm Bureau leaders, representatives from the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, the Ohio Poultry Producers, the Ohio Soy Council, the Ohio Pork Council, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, the Ohio Corn Growers and the Ohio Department of Agriculture were on hand to deliver expert testimony to lawmakers.
“Animal care is a top priority for Ohio farmers – it’s the right thing to do and it keeps our animals safe, healthy and disease-free,” said Bob Peterson, a Fayette County farmer and an Ohio Farm Bureau state trustee, during Senate testimony.
Staff from the Ohio Farm Bureau was on hand to report on the proceedings, recording audio clips and using the social networking site Twitter, to keep those who were not present up to date.
Dean Vickers, a representative of HSUS was on hand to testify against the resolution in House Ag, and committed a slight Freudian slip, saying that the “Ohio Farm Bureau has disingenuous intent while driving this issue” (emphasis added). Later in Senate Ag, Mr. Vickers told lawmakers that the measure was a “power grab” by “big Ag”, and that his organization wants a “serious look” at “factory farming.”
By far one of the most cogent comments of the day came from Ohio Rep. Jeff Wagner, who in response to HSUS testimony, asked, “I started out with 200 pigs and worked my way up to 2000. At what point did I stop caring for my animals?”