REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board continues to hear wide ranging public comment from those who support veal calf tethering over group housing, and vice versa, to those who call for the total abolishment of animal agriculture.
Currently, the biggest topic has been whether to tether veal calves, or keep them in group housing. Arguments have been made for both systems, and to differing ages of the animal’s life. Standards for veal have not yet been approved, but the board has made multiple amendments to help form the standards they’ll eventually put to a vote.
At the most recent meeting, Nov. 16, Buckeye Veal’s Gaylord Barkman offered continued support for the group housing system, which he said has resulted in reduced calf mortality, improved feed conversion and cleaner calves.
“We’re finding in our model that (defecation on other calves) is not at all a problem,” said Barkman, a member of the veal subcommittee. “The animals are quite a bit cleaner, actually, in the group pen models than our tethered models.”
Adopting group housing by the end of 2017 broadly meets the requirements of the agreement formed early this summer with the Humane Society of the United States and Ohio’s farm groups, and the requirements of the American Veal Association.
But it still presents several production problems, said Bob Cochrell, a Wayne County veal producer and subcommittee member. He argued group housing increases the likelihood of animals defecating on each other, bullying each other and decreases feed conversion while also increasing mortality.
“Where do we think the term ‘bullying’ came from?” he asked.
Ken Weaver, a third veal subcommittee member, estimated the majority of the state’s veal is produced with the tethering system, because it has been found to be the healthiest for calves, and most productive.
While hearing of the proper way to raise animals, the board also heard from organizations that have a stated goal of ending animal production.
The animal rights group Mercy For Animals advocated for group housing of veal calves, but also kept with its organization’s call of doing away with veal.
Spokesperson Bill Long cited Buckeye Veal as a good example of how group housing is advancing and doing well. It’s the same farm his organization publicly condemned in August, when it released undercover video of calves housed with the “tethering” system.
MFA did not know, or did not report during its covert video, that the farm they chose actually was one of the state’s leaders in the transition to group housing.
Barkman told Farm and Dairy, the day the video was released, that 85 percent of the calves in one barn in the video already had been converted to group housing. And, he said he was on track to having the farm converted to group housing by 2013, making him “well ahead of the deadlines established by the American Veal Association and many veal raising states across the nation.”
After speaking in favor of group housing, Long reiterated MFA’s anit-veal position: “Veal production is one of the cruelest industries on the face of the planet, and its abusive treatment of baby calves should not be tolerated in a civilized society.”
Eriyah Flynn, founder of Coalition for Planetary Health and Peace, was candid in her direct plea to the board to end all of animal agriculture and non-human animal use.
Wearing a shirt that said “VEGAN” in bold letters on the front, Flynn told the board, comprised of farmers, university researchers and a dean at Ohio State University, “Common sense and solution-based governmental planning would be to adopt an animal exploitation exit strategy.”
The “strategy” she suggested was to send all living animal “refugees” to sanctuaries, where they could die a natural death. She called upon the state “to cease and desist all breeding of non-human animals for any purpose.”
She told the board meat and dairy are “addictions,” and government resources should be aligned to help the public with “addiction services,” so it can become educated, and “transition to plant (and mineral) based living.”
The board listens to public comments from anyone who wants to present, and makes decisions from its own expertise and the information it receives.
It continues to fine-tune its non-ambulatory animal and veal care standards, with the possibility of a vote at any meeting.
The final meeting of the year is planned for Dec. 7, where discussion of veal and non-ambulatory standards will continue.