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May 14, 2008

Gov. Ritter Signs Historic Farm Animal Welfare Measure

The Humane Society of the United States

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed landmark legislation prohibiting two controversial factory farm confinement methods. Specifically, the new law will phase out gestation crates and veal crates — individual cages that confine breeding sows and veal calves.

The measure came as the result of negotiations by The Humane Society of the United States and Colorado agricultural groups. S.B. 201 was introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, and House Agriculture Committee Chair Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. Gov. Bill Ritter, Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, and Colorado State University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Dr. Bernard Rollin played crucial and leading roles in the negotiations.

"Americans demand humane treatment of animals, including animals raised for food. With this measure, adversaries turned into allies to advance animal welfare concerns," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Through cooperation, progress on this important issue can indeed belong to everyone."

S.B. 201 gained support in both the House and Senate, with the House approving it 59-4 and the Senate approving it unanimously.

"This legislation is proof that humane groups and agriculture interests can work together to find common ground and move toward better treatment of farm animals," added Professor Bernard Rollin, who has worked closely with humane organizations and agricultural groups and played an instrumental role in the negotiations. "The movement toward ending abuses such as gestation crates and veal crates is unmistakable, and states elsewhere should follow this example."

S.B. 201 phases out veal crates within four years and gestation crates within 10 years. It also jumpstarts a process, to be administered by the Agriculture Commissioner, to allow for ongoing dialogue between agriculture and animal welfare groups.

The HSUS has officially withdrawn a ballot initiative petition on the same subject, which would have also phased out the confinement of egg-laying hens in battery cages. The HSUS, Colorado agriculture groups and Commissioner Stulp agreed to continue to have dialogue on that issue.

Facts:

  • Nearly 150,000 breeding pigs are confined in gestation crates in Colorado. While the state has no current veal industry, its sizable dairy industry could potentially attract veal operations, and the veal crate provision was a pre-emptive measure.
  • Gestation crates are barren, two-foot-wide individual metal cages so small, the animals cannot even turn around. Veal crates are narrow wooden stalls that prevent calves from turning around or lying down comfortably. The calves are typically chained by their necks and suffer immensely.
  • Colorado is now the first state in the country to ban the use of gestation crates and veal crates by action of a state legislature. Florida, Arizona and Oregon have prohibited gestation crates. Arizona has prohibited veal crates. And a California measure to prohibit veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages recently qualified for November's ballot.
  • Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pig producer, is phasing out gestation crates, and the American Veal Association voted to urge the entire veal industry to phase out veal crates. Colorado-based chain Chipotle already refuses to buy any pork from producers that use gestation crates. Chains such as Safeway, Burger King, Carl's Jr. and Hardees have also implemented policies to reduce their reliance on gestation crate pork.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 10.5 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — on the web at humanesociety.org. 

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