Category Archives: legislation

Not My Kind of Law

I’m starting law school at Washburn University in August and this Meatingplace blog post made me even more sure I’ve made the right decision. In the post Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton talks about animal law becoming more and more popular at U.S. law schools. However, many of these programs look into issues such as how to defend the rights of animals in the same way you would defend the rights of a human. In fact, George Washington University Law School and the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, have a joint venture, the Animal Law Litigation Project, which is intended to “improve enforcement of animal protection laws.” However, anything with HSUS involved concerns me. It makes me think of court cases like the one a couple years ago where it was argued since a chimpanzee’s DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar to that of humans they should be able to legally own assets.

My goal in law school is learn how to defend the rights of livestock producers to make an honest living doing what they love. No doubt, those who truly abuse animals are breaking current laws and violating their responsibility to care for animals’ well being. However, I’m confident in six years I’ve been actively engaged in the industry I’ve never met a producer who doesn’t love livestock and treat theirs with utmost care and respect. I become increasingly concerned when the government is granted increasing power to dictate what people can and cannot do with their livestock property and even go as far as using laws to determine what people can and cannot eat. I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

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The Economics of HSUS Legislation in Ohio

The Economics of Animal Welfare Regulations Proposed for Ohio

Luther Tweeten, Emeritus Chaired Professor, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, Ohio State University

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seeks to phase out battery cages for Ohio’s laying hens, gestation crates for its pregnant pigs, and crates for veal calves in favor of group housing (FarmPolicy [farmpolicy@gmail.com], May 5, 2009). As the nation’s second largest producer of eggs (27 million laying hens) and a major producer of swine and dairy cattle, Ohio agriculture has a major stake in the outcome of this HSUS effort.

HSUS is likely to put its proposal before Ohio voters next year if poultry and livestock producers don’t cooperate with HSUS to write legislation changing the way producers operate. This is no idle threat. Last year California voters approved a similar measure (Proposition 2 or Prop 2) mandating as of January 1, 2015 that it shall be a misdemeanor for any person to confine a pregnant pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a manner not allowing the animal to turn around freely, stand up, lie down, and fully extend its limbs. At least four other states have passed laws similar to California’s Proposition 2.

Is such legislation a good idea? The following discussion is especially focused on laying hens, the enterprise likely to be most affected in Ohio. The following analysis addresses animal welfare dimensions of Prop 2-type regulations before addressing the economic dimensions.

Animal Welfare

First, it is important to recognize that nearly everyone including persons associated with large confinement feeding operations supports humane treatment of animals. At issue is what constitutes humane treatment. On the one hand, large confinement cage or crate operations would seem to reduce animal welfare by inhibiting the freedom of animals for nesting, sex, and exercise (Shields and Duncan 2009, pp. 2-5). Proponents contend that Prop 2-type legislation will enhance animal welfare, provide healthier food because animals will contract fewer air-borne diseases, and will reduce soil, water, and air pollution.

On the other hand, confinement is associated with protection of animals from extreme temperatures, predators, and soil-borne diseases and parasites. Animals in confinement can be monitored closely for health. Confinement systems deliver fresh, clean eggs to consumers. Confinement operations use less land, labor, and other resources per animal unit. Opponents of Prop 2-type legislation contend that with sound management, large confinement operations have demonstrated they can produce without harm to the environment or animal welfare.

The public looks to objective scientific findings to narrow differences of opinion between supporters and opponents of Prop 2-type measures. That strategy has met with only partial success as apparent from studies measuring how specific engineering-type provisions (such as space provided per animal) affect animal welfare. In Austria for example, Zaludik et al. (2007) evaluated the usefulness of the government’s Animal Needs Index (ANI) auditing how hen welfare is affected by floor space, feeder space, and the like for organic laying hen production. No relationship was found between a good score on the ANI and hen welfare as assessed by mortality, injury, measures of abnormal behavior, and footpad and breast lesions. This and other empirical studies give conflicting results regarding the contribution of a “favorable” environment to animal welfare (Shields and Duncan 2009, pp. 12, 13). After an excellent review of existing scientific studies, Mench et al. (2009, p. 44) conclude that “…we still have little understanding of how all of the complex inputs on commercial farms (whether those are husbandry inputs or genetic inputs) interact to cause or minimize animal welfare problems.”

Economic Implications

The economic implications of Prop 2-type regulations imposed on Ohio’s agriculture are more clear than the foregoing animal welfare implications. Market forces help protect animals to the extent that abused and diseased animals reduce profits, forcing animal producers to use more humane practices. In part out of concern for animal product demand and profit, the livestock (including poultry) industry has voluntarily changed production practices. Experts on animal welfare and ethics, though noting the absence of federal regulation of animal production, cite the recent voluntary development and enforcement of animal care standards by producer groups and retailers. Animal welfare scientists (Mench et al., 2009, p.2) conclude that “These standards have resulted in some striking improvements in animal welfare…” along the entire supply chain of animals and their products.

Socially acceptable production practices for animal welfare ultimately rest on the public’s values and attitudes and not just on science. Such values range from indifferent observers to animal rightists who object to animal confinement and would end use of animals as sources of food, clothing (leather), fiber, draft-power, or companionship (pets). Even among those who make animal products a part of their diet, the range of preferred animal production practices stretches from conventional to organic, to free range. Markets can serve discriminating consumers over this broad range of preferences. The key is to label animal products by production practices. Preferred animal welfare practices may be more costly to producers, but consumers can “vote” their preferences with dollars in the market.

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Contact Representatives to Protect your Private Property Rights

NCBA ACTION ALERT:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) plans to hold a mark-up of S. 787 – the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2009 – next Thursday, May 7, 2009. This bill would take away your rights to manage the water on your private property! WE NEED YOUR HELP to defeat this bill by calling the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today and telling them NOT TO MARK-UP S. 787.

Currently, waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act are defined as “navigable waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Restoration Act would remove the word “navigable” from the definition which would give the federal government, for the first time, the power to regulate all waters within a state including: small and intermittent streams, mudflats, sloughs, mud holes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural and manmade ponds including stockponds, groundwater, ditches, pipes, streets, gutters, ephemeral drainages, wet farmland, drain tiles, and more.

This would take authority away from state governments and private property owners. Federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction would be brought all the way to the ranch, and would amount to a huge land grab on the part of the federal government!

Please tell the Environment and Public Works Committee NOT TO MARK-UP S. 787 by calling 202-224-8832 today!

Should the bill be passed by the Committee, it will then be voted upon by the Senate. To urge your Senators to oppose S. 787, please CLICK HERE!

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Antibiotic Use and Estate Tax Legislation

Visit Kansas Farm Bureau’s CapWiz page to take action on antibiotic use and estate tax.

The proposed antibiotic bill would remove important antibiotics and classes of antibiotics from the market, handicapping veterinarians and livestock producers in their efforts to maintain animal health and protect our nation’s food supply.

Congress will soon debate whether to keep the estate tax exemption at $3.5 million a person and the top rate at 45 percent. Farm Bureau needs your signature on it’s petition to demonstrate to Congress that estate taxes need to be eliminated.

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Oppose Criminalizing Horse Meat Petition

This link will take you to a petition urging Congress to Oppose Criminalizing Horse Meat. Follow the link to sign the petition and also easily send emails to President Obama and your representatives.

I have major concerns with the government regulating what people can or can not eat. The following quote from Thomas Jefferson sums up this view well:

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” –Thomas Jefferson

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HSUS primed to hit Ohio

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is following up its victory with proposition 2 in California by attacking Ohio’s agriculture industry. HSUS has sat down with agriculture groups in Ohio and announced its intentions to put a citizen referendum to ban sow gestation stalls, veal crates and battery cages for layer hens on the November 2010 ballot. For more information about what’s going on in Ohio read the VIN News story.

Here’s what one Ohio Ag industry rep has to say about the issue:

“This may be the single biggest challenge that the agricultural community in Ohio has ever faced,” said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s a huge challenge for our industry to be able to convey to a public without agriculture knowledge the intricacies of what it takes to put meat on their plate and milk in their glass. Who knows what will transpire if it comes to a point where we have to face off against HSUS with voters on this?”

Ohio Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups in Ohio have expressed willingness to talk with HSUS up to this point. Many are worried about coming to a compromise with HSUS, saying the group would just come back asking for more.

All I know is we need to hang a loss on HSUS. I hope we can come together as an industry and fight this on a united front. An easy way to start is talking to people you know in Ohio about your concerns. There’s no doubt if this comes to a ballot initiative, people’s time and money from across the country will be needed.

What other ways can you think of for agriculture enthusiasts to make a difference Ohio, even if they live far away?

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Battery Cages, Gestation Stalls, HSUS, legislation, Veal Crates

USDA tightens non-ambulatory rule

The Agriculture Department announced a final ruling on the handling of non-ambulatory cattle Saturday. The rule was tightened to no longer allow cattle who become non-ambulatory after their first USDA inspection to be harvested. For more information read the USDA release.

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