After months of signature gathering in Ohio for a proposed ballot measure that would improve conditions for farm animals in the state, Buckeye animal advocates achieved early progress on animal welfare reforms that few people would have thought possible in Ohio. To be honest, many of us working on the campaign wouldn’t have imagined this outcome even just a few short weeks ago.
With prospects looming for a November vote on the ballot measure, Ohioans for Humane Farms, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Ohio Farm Bureau agreed to implement a broad range of important animal welfare reforms in the state.
Thanks to the hard work of the signature gatherers in Ohio, the following terms were agreed upon in exchange for Ohioans for Humane Farms not going to the ballot this November. (The signatures gathered do not expire and can be used in a subsequent election cycle if these reforms are not enacted.)
- A ban on veal crates within six years, which is the same timing as the ballot measure;
- A ban on new gestation crates after Dec. 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years;
- A moratorium on permits for new battery cage confinement facilities for laying hens. This prevents a planned six-million-bird battery cage complex from moving in;
- A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals;
- A ban on the transport of downer cows for slaughter;
- Enactment of legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cockfighters;
- Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills; and
- Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.
Needless to say, this is a very sweeping array of reforms, especially in a state that has long been regarded as having some of the most anemic animal welfare laws in the nation.
The agreement was applauded by the major groups leading the signature drive: The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and Mercy For Animals. The reaction from agribusiness groups has been more mixed, with some groups lamenting the agreement (such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance and Feedstuffs) and others taking a more nuanced view, such as the editor of Poultry magazine.
In the end, I think it’s clear that this agreement represents important progress, and those involved in the signature drive should be proud of what they helped accomplish.