The following statement is from Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States in response to the most recent Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board vote regarding veal:
The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board voted 6-5 to permit the confinement of veal calves in crates so small they’re unable to turn around for more than half of their lives before slaughter, jeopardizing a carefully crafted animal welfare agreement reached last June between The Humane Society of the United States and eight leading agricultural trade organizations, including the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
In November 2010, the Livestock Board voted that all calves regardless of age must have the ability to turn around. Yesterday’s vote marked a reversal of that original stance, after a few Ohio veal producers complained about giving the animals more room. By the narrowest of margins – with Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer and state veterinarian Tony Forshey dissenting from the majority – the board allowed keeping calves in small, immobilizing crates for up to 10 weeks. The calves are slaughtered at 16 to 20 weeks, and there is a consensus view among leading veterinary organizations and animal welfare groups that calves should be afforded the opportunity to turn around in their enclosures for the duration of their short lives.
The June agreement stipulated that all calves must be kept in group housing starting in 2017, which mirrors a pledge that had been made in 2007 by the American Veal Association. All parties to the agreement consented to that policy. But late last week, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, which had been a leader in the effort to push the agreement forward, modified its position and urged the Livestock Board to change course on the veal issue. This position is at odds with the stance of the American Veterinary Medical Association, whose policy states that “individual housing must allow the calf to turn around comfortably and to assume normal postures.” The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association takes the same view, and its president, Dr. Linda Lord, urged the Board yesterday to adopt standards that promoted calf welfare by ensuring all calves have the ability to turn around.
There is still time for the Livestock Board to restore its original and proper position. A phase-out of veal crates is a core element of the eight-point animal welfare agreement, and if the Livestock Board guts that provision by allowing calves to be immobilized for more than half of their lives, we will have little choice but to renew the effort for a ballot initiative that we had hoped had been averted through a balanced and forward-looking agreement.