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Animal advocates, farmers both pushing for standards
The Ohio Livestock Coalition’s annual meeting and industry symposium in April 2011 examined legal, regulatory and public relations issues facing farmers. Below is a highlight from that conversation.
Peggy Kirk Hall, director of Ohio State University’s agricultural law program, said farm animal care standards have been established in two phases. The first phase started with animal advocacy groups successfully backing a ballot initiative in Florida in 2002 and then continuing their efforts state by state through 2009.
The second phase consisted of legislation backed by agricultural groups that was intended to balance the concerns farmers had with new regulation.
“We, I think, in Ohio can claim the start of that phase,” she said, referring to the establishment of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Between 2002 and 2009, animal advocacy groups were successful in establishing new animal care regulations in seven states. Since 2009, agricultural interests have backed the establishment animal care regulations in 11 states.
“I think it’s a challenge right now to keep up with all the activity around the country,” she said.
Hall highlighted a proposed constitutional amendment in Missouri that would provide citizens the right “to grow crops, hunt and fish wildlife, and raise animals in a humane manner without the state imposing an undue economic burden on animal owners.”
“Did you ever think you’d see (the right to grow crops) in a constitutional amendment,” she asked.Other proposals in Iowa and Florida seek to prohibit individuals from making secret videos of farm operations or obtaining employment under false pretenses.
Hall also pondered whether citizens should be required to report animal abuse that they witness. She referred to the Conklin dairy video in which an employee was filmed abusing cows over a period of weeks.
“A lot of people were angry that the videographer continued to tape animal abuse and not report it,” she said.
Another emerging debate is whether animals should have rights under the law, such as the right to certain standards of living. That would be very different from the concept of animal welfare, which is a legal or moral duty placed upon humans, Hall said.
“That’s a very interesting consideration,” she said.