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October 5, 2009

While Ohio Agriculture Groups Stonewall, HSUS and Michigan Agriculture Groups Compromise on Farm Animal Confinement Practices

Ohio Groups, Legislature Reject Negotiation; Seek to Amend Constitution to Forestall Debate on Farm Animal Welfare

The Humane Society of the United States

While other states are enacting common-sense, phased out restrictions on some of the most inhumane confinement systems in farm animal production, Ohio residents are facing an agribusiness-funded ballot measure that would enshrine Big Ag's favored "oversight" system in the state constitution.

This week, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign legislation requiring that egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves have enough space to engage in basic movement. The law is the result of good-faith negotiations between humane groups, environmental groups, and the state's agricultural industry. It gained overwhelming support in the Michigan House and Senate, avoiding costly ballot measure battles and setting a course that both sides could accept.

Despite the humane community's repeated attempts to engage the Ohio Farm Bureau in serious dialogue, Big Ag is promoting Issue 2 — a constitutional amendment that requires no change in the way animals are treated and does nothing to guarantee safe or local food production in Ohio. 

"Issue 2 is not only a public relations stunt designed to give the appearance of reform in Ohio, but also a constitutional roadblock put on the ballot to prevent future reform efforts to improve animal welfare," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

"The solution forged in Michigan shows that open-minded and fair discussions among stakeholders can lead to good outcomes for farmers and for animal welfare," added Pacelle, who personally approached Ohio agriculture leaders in January to engage in discussions about animal welfare. "Ohio agriculture leaders claim they cannot improve animal welfare  by moving away from confining animals in very small cages, but Michigan farmers know that's not the case and they have a established a comfortable timeframe to make changes in production practices that are better aligned with sound science and consumer sentiments."

Issue 2 does not call for a single agricultural reform, but gives constitutional authority to set a small set of largely industry-oriented political appointees to dictate agriculture policy in Ohio.  No other state has such a set-up. The broad coalition of organizations opposing Issue 2 includes the Ohio Farmer's Union, the Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance, the Ohio Sierra Club, the Ohio League of Women Voters, the Capital Area Humane Society and The Humane Society of the United States.

In Ohio, tens of millions of egg-laying hens, veal calves and breeding pigs are confined in crates and cages where they can barely move an inch, many of them unable even to turn around or stretch their limbs.

Facts:

  • The HSUS has more than 400,000 supporters in Ohio.
  • With Gov. Granholm's expected signature, Michigan will become the seventh state to phase out gestation crates, the fifth to ban veal crates and the second to ban battery cages. Arizona, California and Florida have passed similar measures through ballot initiatives, and Maine, Colorado and Oregon have passed related laws in their state legislatures.
  • The Michigan measure provides a three-year phase-out for veal crates and a 10-year phase-out for gestation crates and battery cages.
  • Issue 2 requires no changes in the inhumane confinement of Ohio's farm animals. If Issue 2 passes this November, The HSUS is prepared to launch a statewide ballot initiative campaign to ensure that animals on Ohio's factory farms have enough room to turn around and extend their limbs.
  • Major national retailers like Wendy's, Safeway, Burger King, Red Robin, Carl's Jr. and Hardees are increasingly phasing in crate-free and cage-free products due to consumer demand for better animal welfare.
  • Scientific research confirms the welfare problems with battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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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