SALEM, Ohio — Ohio farmers, you’ve had your warning.
The Humane Society of the United States — the group who’s successfully outlawed hen cages, veal crates and gestation stalls in California, Arizona and Florida — has its eye on doing the same in the Buckeye State.
The organization sent representatives to Columbus in February to make sure the state’s livestock industry knows it’s watching.
The Feb. 17 meeting, which came at the request of the humane society, involved three of that organization’s staffers as well as representatives of Ohio’s poultry, beef, pork and veterinary medical associations, plus the Farm Bureau.
The purpose of their visit? “To get all the industry reps to go back to their individual groups and gain the authority to negotiate with the humane society on legislation in Ohio,” according to Farm Bureau‘s Joe Cornely.
And they weren’t shy about their first order of business, either, Cornely said: They want to ban the use of poultry cages, veal crates and gestation stalls here.
“That’s what they told us they want. They said they will legislate or take the issue to the ballot, that it will be expensive for both sides, and that agriculture would lose.”
Despite such demands, Cornely described the meeting as “extremely cordial” but was quick to say “certainly nobody changed anyone else’s mind.”
“We started from polar opposites,” he said. “It’s clear they have plans for Ohio. All of agriculture needs to have some serious internal discussions about it.”
Ohio Cattlemen’s Association director Elizabeth Harsh called the meeting “a good wake-up call” for the state’s animal agriculture producers, including those veal producers affiliated with the cattlemen’s association. The discussion centered largely around confinement housing for multiple species, which Harsh called “an agenda that certainly involves us all.”
“It’s proof we can’t tell our own production story often enough to get the message out there. We’ve got to tell it over and over and over again.”
“They said they will legislate or take the issue to the ballot, that it will be expensive for both sides, and that agriculture would lose.”
Ohio Farm Bureau’s Joe Cornely,
explaining HSUS agenda for Ohio
Dick Isler, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, sat in on the session with hopes to explain the reasons for using gestation crates in the pork industry.
“I grew up on a hog farm without stalls, where we used group housing. It’s my and my family’s personal opinion that it’s much better off for animals and humans with the way hogs are housed today,” Isler said.
Isler said his viewpoint was “very much disagreed” with, and it appeared humane society representatives came into the meeting with their minds made up.
“They clearly stated they want to do away with animal agriculture and large-scale farming, which is how we produce food now for efficiency. If they get their ways, food prices will go up and we’ll have to import meat and eggs from other states or countries,” Isler said.
Joe Cornely, who serves as senior director of corporate communications for the Farm Bureau, said there’s no hiding now for Ohio farmers.
“Hoping it will go away, or thinking it won’t come here, is not an option. Frankly, enough of us in agriculture don’t know what we’re facing, and that’s worrisome,” he said.
Cornely also said it’s troubling that many in the state’s farming community still don’t know what the Humane Society of the United States is, or what its mission and true objective is — “the end of all animals being used by humans for any reason, even protein.”
“Certainly we’ll not leap to a vegan society overnight, but they’re taking and succeeding at small steps toward their ultimate goal,” Cornely said.
Just days before the livestock industry powwow, the humane society gathered Ohio citizens in the state capital to meet with lawmakers and urge them to pass bills to protect animals. Issues addressed were puppy mills, factory farming and organized animal fights.
Some 150 people from 78 counties participate in the humane lobby day.
As of presstime, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the humane society, had not returned calls to comment on either event.