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March 7, 2012

Ky. Livestock Commission Drafts Cruel Farm Animal Care Standards in Secrecy

Disappointing draft permits gestation crates, veal crates, and tail docking

calf in a veal crate

Farm Sanctuary

In 2010, the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission (KLCSC) was created to "... establish, maintain, or revise standards governing the care and well-being of on-farm livestock and poultry."

Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer stated that agricultural standards should be "based on sound science and widely accepted practices."

Unfortunately, the draft standards emerging from the secret deliberations fall drastically short of providing proper care of Kentucky's farm animals and are out of step with mainstream veterinary opinion and sound science.

The most obvious areas where the draft standards fall short are those permitting dairy cows to have their tails amputated and pigs and calves to be confined in cages so small they're unable even to turn around.

Complaint charges violations of state open meetings law

On Oct. 26, 2011, HSUS filed a formal complaint with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture against the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission for significant violations of the state's Open Meetings Act.

"Developing policies through open and public meetings is a fundamental part of our democratic process that ensures integrity and transparency," said Pam Rogers, Kentucky state director for The HSUS. "Instead of following the law, the Commission has been meeting in secret with what looks like the intent to rubber-stamp some of the worst forms of animal cruelty opposed by both veterinarians and the public."

These violations have concealed from the public the most critical aspects of the standards development process, which was the apparent intent of the Commission's presiding officer, Richie Farmer, evidenced by his statement at the opening meeting of the Commission.

"In Kentucky we're blessed with the structure of our government that does not allow for the voter referendum and voter influence on a public that really has no idea about what we're trying to do. And I think that certainly allows us to take our time and to do it right and not have to worry with someone looking over our shoulder or telling us what we should or should not be doing." [Emphasis added.]
— Richie Farmer, Ky. Livestock Care Standards Commission

Confining pigs in gestation crates: among the worst cruelties

"Gestation crates are a real problem. Basically you're asking a sow to live in an airline seat. We've got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go."
—Renowned animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin

Most sows in the pork industry spend nearly all of their four-month long pregnancies confined in barren gestation crates. These individual cages are approximately 2 feet wide and 7 feet long—so small the animals can’t even turn around or take more than a step forward or backward.

For several years, sows are confined in these crates, enduring a cycle of repeated impregnation. Virtually unable to move, they suffer muscle and bone weakness that often leads to lameness. Many become neurotic, engaging in repetitive coping behaviors, such as constantly biting the bars in front of them. Due to the extreme length of time they're confined and the severe physical restrictions the crates impose, pigs in gestation crates suffer among the worst abuse in all of industrial agribusiness.

Confining veal calves in crates: stress and pain

"[Veal crates are] inhumane and archaic practices that do nothing more than subject a calf to stress, fear, physical harm and pain."
Randy Strauss, CEO, Strauss Veal

Most calves raised for veal are intensively confined and tethered in individual crates and stalls too narrow for them even to turn around, let alone walk, during their entire 16-week lives before slaughter. Unfortunately, the practice of confining veal calves in crates is common, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it is inhumane.

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that calves should be able to at least turn around. Numerous states have already banned this cruel practice, but the KLCSC wants to explicitly allow it.

Tail docking: painful and unnecessary

"The cumulative body of research on tail docking speaks loudly. The early reported benefits do not exist, and tail docking is now more of a producer preference than a cow cleanliness/udder health issue… The dairy industry should eliminate the routine practice of docking tails."
Thomas Quaife, editor, Dairy Herd Management

Tail docking is the partial amputation—typically without pain killers—of up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail. Scientific studies show that tail docking is a serious welfare problem, causing distress, pain, and increased fly attacks, and that it creates no benefit for the animal. The AVMA and numerous dairy industry representatives all oppose routine tail docking of dairy cows. Even though major dairy states like Ohio and California have taken regulatory action against the practice, the KLCSC wants it to continue here in Kentucky.

Stop the abuse

Without your help, these cruel practices could soon become enshrined into law.

Please help protect Kentucky farm animals by contacting Department of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer at 502-573-0450 and Dr. Robert Stout, Livestock Commission Chair, at 502-564-3956.

Politely ask them to end the use of gestation crates, veal crates, and cattle tail docking.

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