Ohio agriculture remains divided after the HSUS agreement

By Matt Reese

After the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced their plan to put an issue on the November ballot to implement restrictive measures on animal agriculture, Ohio agriculture united to thwart the efforts. The efforts from both sides of this contentious issue, however, ended in late June when HSUS announced that they would not pursue a ballot measure after an agreement was struck with Ohio agricultural leaders and Governor Ted Strickland.

This agreement is a list of recommendations that the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (put into place last fall with the passage of Issue 2) will consider as they formulate the animal care rules for the state. HSUS, in turn, agreed to acknowledge the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Boards as the authority on animal care in Ohio. Both sides say they can live with the agreement, but it still does not necessarily sit well with some in the livestock industry who were ready to fight HSUS.

“The reality is that those of us in the livestock business have been very independent for a lot of years. That makes it tough when other people start telling us we have to do things differently,” said Jeff Harding, vice president of livestock marketing for United Producers, Inc. “This agreement hopefully allows for viable solutions and adjustments to be found based on science. It is not perfect, but I think it is something we can live with.”

Harding points out that the vast majority of livestock producers are already strictly adhering to science based measures for animal care and ready to follow the lead of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

“The people that are in the livestock industry are involved because they love the animals. These people are very concerned about the welfare of their animals,” he said. “The whole issue of livestock handling and care does not have a simple solution for everyone involved. There is such a chasm between the different perspectives and a lot of that is just about education. People not connected to the industry really don’t understand it and it is aggravating for people in the industry when things are put in place that are not based on science.”

Despite the concerns, proponents of the agreement feel that it was clearly the best course of action for agriculture.

“The work farmers put into passing Issue 2 is paying off. Farmers said the Care Board was the proper way to handle complex questions about farm animal care. Ohio voters agreed. Now, HSUS acknowledges this. Without the Care Board, the only option to deal with animal issues would be costly, damaging ballot fights. That hasn’t worked out too well in other states,” said Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “Farm groups will now make recommendations to the Board that are believed to be acceptable ways to deal with some very contentious issues. The Board will consider recommendations from others as well. HSUS has committed to get in line with everyone else who wants to share an opinion. The Board will make its own decisions, just as intended under Issue 2.”

The recommendations in the agreement include provisions on group housing for veal calves, phasing out the use of hog gestation crates by December 31, 2025, and a time out for issuing permits for egg facility applicants that call for the use of battery cages.

For the details of the agreement, visit https://ocj.com/livestock/actual-agreement-between-ohio-ag-hsus/.

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