Update (July 1, 2010): Just a few months after Farm Forward joined a broad coalition of groups working toward the passage of a ballot initiative in Ohio that would ban some of the cruelest practices in industrial agriculture, hundreds of thousands of signatures – more than enough to ensure that the measure would reach voters were gathered and an agreement was reached between the Governor, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the coalition. In exchange for leaving the measure off of the 2010 ballot, a series of reforms will be enacted immediately. This amounts to a huge victory in the fight against industrial agriculture. The details of the agreement are as follows:
  • A moratorium on permits for new laying hen cage confinement facilities, including halting the impending construction of a pending six million-bird complex called Hi-Q in Union County, Ohio.
  • A ban on using crates to confine veal calves, effective 2017.
  • A ban on the construction of new gestation crates to confine sows, and mandates that all pork producers in Ohio must end their current use of gestation crates by 2025.
  • A ban on the transport of downer cows for slaughter.
  • A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia of sick and injured farm animals.

Original Feature

We’re excited to announce that Farm Forward has joined forces with Ohioans for Humane Farms to help end some of the cruelest practices in industrial agriculture. Ohioans for Humane Farms is spearheading a ballot initiative that “will require the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt certain minimum standards that will prevent animal cruelty, improve health and food safety, support family farms and safeguard the environment throughout the state of Ohio.”1 Standing together with groups like Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Greenpeace, Family Farm Defenders, and the Ohio Sierra Club, we will work in coalition to build on momentum from recent legislative victories across the country in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon.

The coalition behind Ohioans for Humane Farms is comprised of advocates representing animal welfare, family farmers, food safety concerns, and environmental groups and seeks to ban three common confinement practices: hog gestation crates, battery cages for egg-laying hens, and veal crates. These practices restrict animals’ mobility so severely that they cannot extend their limbs. Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of the factory farming campaign at HSUS, explains that “all the legislation says is that caged and crated farm animals be able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and spread their limbs.”2 The proposed regulations reflect policy suggestions put forth by the much-lauded Pew Commission in its report on industrial agriculture. The Pew Commission argued that by “most measures, confined animal production systems in common use today fall short of current ethical and societal standards.”3

Ohio is especially important to the fight against factory farming because of its scale and central location. Ohio is the second largest state for the production of eggs and the ninth largest pork-producing state in the country. A victory in Ohio will have a ripple effect all across the nation.4 The need for Ohio legislation has been further underscored by a recent undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals, a nonprofit animal protection group, conducted this May and April revealing systematic and sadistic cruelty at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio. After viewing video footage of the abuses, Farm Forward board member Dr. Bernard Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, asserted, “This is probably the most gratuitous, sustained, sadistic animal abuse I have ever seen. The video depicts calculated, deliberate cruelty, based not on momentary rage but on taking pleasure through causing pain to cows and calves who are defenseless.”

Opposition to the ballot initiative from agribusiness has already been considerable. In anticipation of a ballot initiative in November, agribusiness launched a preemptive strike last year, initiating a voter referendum, State Issue 2, to create what they called a “livestock standards board.” A “livestock standards board” sounds like a good idea but State Issue 2’s livestock standards board, now law, has no language that ensures animal welfare. In fact, without the kind of legislation Ohioans for Humane Farms seeks to pass, this board will function instead to give industry more power to continue with its current destructive practices.

Paid advertising in favor of Issue 2 was widespread both on television and online.5 The industry-funded advocacy group behind the messaging cleverly called itself “Safe Local Ohio Food” and used carefully crafted slogans that misrepresented the actual effect of the referendum. The livestock board was voted in and established through constitutional amendment in November of 2009.6 Critics have called the Safe Local Ohio Food movement a sham. Despite its attempt to brand itself as a movement of concerned citizens, local media revealed the group was funded by agribusiness sources intent on thwarting animal welfare reform.7

In order to implement true reform, Ohioans for Humane Farms must garner enough support to modify the 2009 amendment that created the livestock board.8 It’s critical that Ohio voters spread the word about this initiative and cast their votes in the November elections. For more information on how you can get involved see Farm Forward’s legislation page.

Ensuring the end of battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for pregnant pigs, and veal crates is the least we can do. With your support, Farm Forward is optimistic that these minimal standards will soon be law in yet another state.

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Take Action Read Next

  1. ohiohumane.com
  2. Nina Hunter, “Big Meat’s Big Day,” Mother Jones, November 1, 2009.
  3. “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” The Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Production, 58.
  4. “HSUS Ready in Ohio,” BEEF Magazine, April 21, 2009.
  5. The website has been taken down but you can see a press release about the advertising campaign here.
  6. Nina Hunter, “Big Meat’s Big Day,” Mother Jones, November 1, 2009.
  7. Editorial, “Conflict of Interest,” The Columbus Dispatch, April 26, 2010.
  8. Ibid.

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