Ohio livestock growers caged by farm groups

What was to be a clever, voter-sanctioned effort to fence out the animals-are-people-crowd in Ohio last year is, depending on your perspective, either a progressive way for farm and animal rights groups to work together toward humane livestock production or a total sell-out of livestock producers by Big Ag to the Humane Society of the U.S (HSUS).

How did the free-range chicken folks get the upper beak on the Ohio Farm Bureau and its friends in the state’s pork, cattle, dairy, poultry, corn and soybean groups?

Brains, says one in-state observer with no dog, chicken, hog, veal calf, turkey, laying hen or cow in the fight.

The showdown began a year ago when the Ohio Farm Bureau led a ballot initiative for voters to create a 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. The effort was seen as a pre-emptive move by Ohio ag groups to “take care of ourselves” while boxing in animal rightists, mostly the HSUS, which had targeted the state after successful animal welfare campaigns in California, Arizona and Florida.

Campaign

Backers of the campaign, labeled Initiative 2, ponied up $4 million to sell it; $2.7 million came from national and state livestock and farm groups.

On Nov. 3, 2009, Initiative 2 passed by a slam-dunk 64-37 percent. But, as was noted in this space 10 days later, it had been shoved through “without much discussion over the new panel’s authority, accountability, constitutionality or whether Big Ag’s big hand in on the state’s livestock tiller is the right one for all Ohio…” Few in the animal rights movement thought so and just three months later HSUS was back with a new ballot idea to ensure the new Livestock Board would adopt “certain minimum standards that will prevent the cruel and inhumane treatment of farm animals, enhance food safety, protect the environment and strengthen Ohio family farms.”

Rules

The key target of these proposed rules was the “extreme confinement” of animals — meaning sow gestation crates, veal crates and caged laying hens.

Also, HSUS wanted rules to keep injured “downer” cows from the food chain and the end of “inhumane methods of euthanasia for sick and injured animals.” In short, all the sweat, cash and politicking Big Ag has used to keep the animal rights dogs collared in Ohio were headed for naught because the Humane Society nimbly stepped around ag’s narrow base with threat to go back to the voters.

The Big Boys were not happy. According to a Feb. 2 story in the Columbus Dispatch, a spokesman of the Ohio Farm Bureau called the Humane Society tactic another “step in what we believe an extremist movement to remove meat, milk and eggs from our plates.”

Maybe, but by spring the Big Boys were in secret negotiations with the “extremists” at the behest of Gov. Ted Strickland to avoid another ballot fight where Ohio farmers risked voters shoving the Humane Society’s ideas right up their barn doors.

A deal was struck in June that, among other things, barred construction of new egg operations that use cages, phased out sow crates over 15 years and eliminated veal crates by 2017.

What started out as a clear, wallop-em win for Big Ag quickly turned into a “change-is-coming” capitulation when the aggies, faced with a ballot initiative they didn’t control, were forced to count their friends and found that people — not pigs or hens or veal calves — vote.

Lessons

Two big lessons emerge from this scrap. First, farmers need to be careful when picking fights over animal agriculture. The animal rights folks ain’t chickens; they fight. And, second, maybe farmers need to be even more careful in picking their friends.

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

8 Comments

  1. LCampbell says:

    The problem is that Gov Strickland and OFBF caved into the HSUS’s Dictatorship. I do support ethical treatment of animals but not at the means of sacrificing our right to own them. Could it be that our Governor was more concerned with his re-election campaign to have to worry about fighting for Ohio Animals?

    I have called the Gov’s office many times and every aid I talk to gives completely different stories. One thing they all do agree is the Strickland DOES support the HSUS. Well, last time I checked if you’re supporting the enemy then you’re not supporting your team. Guess we’ve been hung out to dry.

    Face the facts. Yes there are bad people out there that do mistreat animals but that is not the norm. Nearly every farmer knows that sick, injured, unfed, abused animals don’t produce. We work our butts off 360 days a year to make sure our animals are cared for. Media will always go for the shock and awe approach on any “breaking news” even if they don’t have all the facts, it’s all about the dollars.

    So, according to Strickland and Mr. HSUS, this is a win-win situation. Hardly the truth there Gov. Strickland, I thought you were a man of religion, shame on you for breaking 1 of the 10 commandments, you know which one I’m talking about. You appeased the HSUS while you through the rest of the animal industry under the bus.

    Tell us please what is going to happen to all the soon unwanted animals you plan on Banning? That would include the Dogs, Game Fowl and Wild animals. Should we just drop them off at your office or leave them at the Gov’s Mansion? I know the rescues and Humane Society’s in the state won’t be able to handle the influx of them. And lets not forget that HSUS won’t give up a dime to help out from their 1 million dollar budget. That’s right; they give less than 1/10th of a percent to any local organizations.

    Shame that a man of religion would tell the Ohio voters he’s for Agriculture, 4-H and FFA while shaking hands with the very people we don’t want Dictating to us how to live our lives.

    So much for the land of the free. Gov. Strickland, as your last official duty before your out of office, you might want to the change the motto on our state signs. I suggest, “Welcome to Ohio, Where HSUS rules”.

  2. SheepHerder says:

    Responsible farmers do not mistreat their livestock. LCampbell is right, you can have etichal treatment of animals but that does not mean you support PETA or HSUS. Both them groups do not want you owning any animal. I have been raising sheep since I was 10 years old and none of our animals are abused or mistreated.

    Me and my family know all about the publics thinking that farm animals are abused. Nothing is further from the truth. I’ve read all the stories on the compramise as they call it. I also read the story in the bargain hunter how the HSUS hired michigan people to get signatures in Tusc. county. They actually were telling people that the farm bureau supported all this. I have seen HSUS respond one time to this.

    California should be a lesson for us all of what can happen. Every farmer, pet owner, every person in ohio should be yellin at strickland to “Just say no”. I sure am and so is all my brothers and sisters. Every man and woman that has a pet dog or cat needs to fight HSUS.

    Hey LCampbell, I really liked the part when you asked if we should leave the animals at stricklands house. I just feel sorry for the animals, they are the ones that get the dirty end of the stick in this deal.

  3. regan says:

    HSus said they had singnetures’ but did they really if I was Gov. I would have called them on it ! collage kids someone in the parking lot or who ever is not likely to vote in nov. Aspeasly when they find out they were lied too, to git them to sing a petition. the state was soppese to not have no money to fight them, I say bull.

  4. Sarah Dopp says:

    Ted Strickland + Wayne Pacelle =

    Governor John Kasich

  5. Nini says:

    Who is this Big Ag of which you speak?

  6. Cody says:

    If y’all really believe in the “ethical treatment” of animals, why would you ever support the “intensive confinement” systems on megafarms? Or shipping downers to slaughter? Not only is that cruel, it’s gross. As someone whose worked on traditional and megafarms for years, it seems to me that these are the absolute most basic things we can do to treat farm animals decently. Can’t understand why anyone other than the CEO of Tyson would oppose this. When you say that HSUS is somehow tricking America into some vegan dystopia, you sound like the folks that deny the moon landing or think Cheney caused 9/11. C’mon guys! Get with reality! Animals, farmers, and consumers all deserve better than what the megafarms have to offer.

  7. LCampbell says:

    Who ever said I was against ethical treatment of animals? I am against HSUS who is not for any treatment of animals except extinction. Cody if you worked on megafarms and traditional farms for years with animals in intensive confinement than does that mean you support it? Why would you work for “years” if you’re against it?

    All “megafarms” as you put are not cruel. Maybe the one you worked it was in your eyes. If you don’t think HSUS is a dictatorship then why do they not support local humane societies? Why do they charge them money when they do help?

    I am all for animals being treated with respect, all of mine are. As I said before, I’m against some outside organization coming to my farm and dictating to me how to raise my animals when they have no clue other than it is wrong in their eyes. That’s like a lawyer telling a surgeon how to do heart surgery.

  8. Sarah Dopp says:

    The legitimate animal welfare community (from American Humane to Temple Grandin to Nathan Winograd) – and many animal rights groups (Friends of Animals, Last Chance for Animals) do not support HSUS due to its many fundraising scandals, resulting investigations, lies, fraud and abuse. Wayne Pacelle is little more than a greedy con artist who would rather have animals die than see a competing group save them (i.e. the Vick dogs, the Wilkes County Massacre, Hurricane Katrina).

    These days, Wayne boy is reduced to courting airhead sleazoids like the Kardashians and Paris Hilton for money and publicity. HSUS gave Paris Hilton a Humane award last year, just after she gave them $100,000. Numerous higher-quality celebrities HSUS has courted with various awards, and false claims, have distanced themselves after being educated about where our money really goes.

    If the damage they do to needy animals and naive donors wasn’t so devestating and immoral, smug Pacelle, and the rest of the shameless profiteers would be cartoon villains, even pathetic has-beens. Instead, they are real villains who must be exposed.

    Bottom line: The anti-corporate, wealth accumulating, tax dodging hypocrites at “The HSUS” have zero credibility on agricultural issues and any other animal-related issues. End of story.

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