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REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — One of the three main parties who formed a deal late last spring to keep an animal rights initiative off the Ohio ballot is saying the deal is broken.
At the March 1 meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, members voted 6-5 in favor of allowing veal calves to be confined in stalls that prevent them from being able to turn around prior to 10 weeks of age.
The board’s standards do mandate group housing by 2017, but also allow for untethered stall confinement up to 10 weeks, in order to cut down on disease and contamination, cross suckling of other young animals’ navels, and to prevent costly expenses of converting to other systems.
The difference, according to HSUS’ Ohio director Karen Minton, is a “violation” of what the parties agreed to.
“When that provision was struck, so that they (veal calves) could no longer turn around, it was a complete violation of the agreement,” she said.
The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association also supports allowing calves of all ages to turn around. Its president, Linda Lord, recommended to the board the language of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which states “individual housing must allow the calf to turn around comfortably and to assume normal postures.”
During a press conference at the Statehouse on Oct. 26, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told Farm and Dairy “What the groups signed onto is crystal clear; it is a phaseout by 2017 of crates or cages that are so restrictive that the animals cannot turn around.”
He said to not allow the younger calves to turn around would be “a deal breaker for us.”
In a statement released to media today, Pacelle continued those sentiments, stating that if the “turn-around” language is not upheld, “we will have little choice but to renew the effort for a ballot initiative that we had hoped had been averted through a balanced and forward-looking agreement.”
Keith Stimpert, senior vice president of public policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said the board’s decision is “absolutely not” a deal breaker.
“I think the key point is we’ve all committed to respect the authority of the board,” he said.
Pacelle spoke his own commitment to the board at the August board meeting, where he called it a “novel” idea, and recognized its authority.
“We recognize the vote of the citizens of Ohio on Issue 2, and we recognize the authority of the livestock board,” he said.
The agreement was not made with board members and they’ve generally weighed it as they have other recommendations. It was an agreement to make certain recommendations to the board, which Stimpert said has occurred.
“The agreement was, by and large, a set of recommendations, and those recommendations were made,” he said.
Board member Bill Moody told Farm and Dairy shortly after the agreement was announced, that the board was independent. He pledged to listen to its recommendations, alongside any other recommendations that may come along.
“I feel the pressure to perform and conduct the board’s business, but we can’t be puppets,” he said. “The board is not made up to be that way, to do things that way,” Moody said.
Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher addressed the board on the agreement during a July meeting, where he talked about the difficulty of making the compromise, but also what it really means.
Fisher reminded the board the agreement is a recommendation, based on the findings of a diverse group of industry representatives. Ultimately, it would still be the work of the board to decide what it will adopt as standards.
In addition to HSUS, the board has heard proposals from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, its own subcommittees, consumers and concerned citizens.
Stimpert said the board must weigh all these factors, and then make its decision.
“The board has to consider a lot of different factors and that’s a god thing,” he said. “They’re doing their job as a board.”