I try to keep my daily thoughts as “non-political” as possible. I respect the freedoms my fathers and grandfathers have fought for and want to respect everyone’s perspective even if it is vastly different than mine or my family, but some of these new proposed laws and regulations are getting crazier and crazier. Below is one that came across my desk a few weeks back that left me scratching my head…
Ballot initiatives in any single state can have an outsized impact on industries as they can easily transcend state lines. Agriculture has witnessed this first hand as laws formed in individual states have influenced everything from animal confinement policies to the legalization of marijuana. A battle is under way in Colorado over an initiative that stakeholders have called the worst assault on the livestock industry in the state’s history.
The ballot initiative is being driven by a group called Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE). If passed into law, it would see the state set a minimum slaughter age for livestock and make artificial insemination illegal. The proposed measure, known as “Initiative 16” but mostly referred to as PAUSE, would be on the November 2022 ballot if they can get the required signatures. The closely watched effort is viewed by the livestock industry as both ridiculous and dangerous.
The initiative would remove the livestock exemption in state statute for animal cruelty and expands the definition of a sex act with an animal. The new language would ban slaughter for animals that have lived less than a quarter of their “natural” lifespans, which are defined as 20 years for a cow, 15 for a pig, eight for a chicken, six for a rabbit. That means five years for cattle, even though the typical practice is to slaughter beef cattle at 2 years, which is when they are considered mature. Experts say the estimated lifespans used are wildly inaccurate.
According to James Pritchett, Dean of the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences, says slaughtering more mature animals reduces the quality of meat – especially tenderness – that consumers and cattle buyers demand. So slaughtering 5-year-old animals essentially removes Colorado cattle from the marketplace. Pritchett adds, “It is more expensive to raise older cattle relative to their value, and this is true of other species whose natural lifespans have been falsely inflated under the measure.”
The new language also redefines “sex acts” to include “any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body into an animal’s anus or genitals.” This would effectively criminalize widely accepted animal husbandry practices such as spaying, neutering, birthing assistance, embryo transfers, and artificial insemination, among others. Meaning routine reproductive management practices would be considered a criminal sex act with an animal.
Keep in mind, the measure applies to a wide range of farm animals, so everything from racehorses to hogs is impacted. However, the loudest outcry is coming from the cattle industry as it’s a big business in Colorado. That includes large animal veterinarians in the state who say the initiative would essentially destroy the industry while tying their hands when it comes to treating the animals under their care.
Initiative 16 is expected to meet fierce pushback as PAUSE continues its efforts to get on the ballot. There is hope in the cattle industry that Coloradans will reject the measure and Governor Jared Polis’s office has said that he opposes it. There is also worry that other groups will latch onto similar language as the PAUSE measure and try to establish initiatives in other states.
I can’t help but recall the ongoing battle over animal crating laws in California. In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 2, which established confinement requirements for egg-laying hens in the state. As the law increased production costs for California egg producers, putting them at a disadvantage to out-of-state producers, the legislature expanded the law in 2010 to include all eggs sold in California.
At that time, many predicted that the law would not be allowed to stand due to violations of interstate commerce laws. However, a judge in 2015 disagreed. A similar fight is happening over California Proposition 12, which would require that meat products from veal calves and breeding pigs sold in the state come from sources that comply with the state’s animal welfare laws. The Supreme Court has been asked to review the law with support from at least 20 states that have filed a “friend of the court brief” arguing that it also violates interstate commerce laws. (Sources: Denver Post, Drovers, Progressive Farmer)