One signature at a time, volunteers across Ohio are working to reverse the direction of the state’s rapidly-industrializing animal farming system. They have until June 31 to gather 600,000 voter signatures, in support of a November referendum that would crack down upon the most inhumane elements of industrial confinement and slaughter.
They call the main goal of the bill modest: to provide every laying hen, pregnant sow, and calf, with enough space to stand up, lay down, turn in a full circle, and extend his or her limbs.
These animals are considered to suffer the most worst extremes of confinement, on the factory farms that now produce the overwhelming majority of Ohio’s meat and eggs.
An industry-typical hen, for example, spends her life occupying a caged area of about 70 square inches–slightly smaller than a sheet of notebook paper. Intensively-farmed pregnant sows are kept in “gestation crates” barely larger than their bodies, which are designed to prevent social contact that could lead to conflict. And veal calves are raised in narrow indoor crates that deprive them of sensory and social stimulation, to prevent them from developing muscle tone.
A traveling team of local and national animal welfare leaders kicked off the campaign to end these abuses last month, with a multi-city tour. Cincinnati’s March 10 launch drew 150+ volunteers to the SPCA in Sharonville, where the directors of Mercy for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and Farm Sanctuary, described what the bill would do for Ohio’s farm animals, and how to stump for it effectively.
Nathan Runkle, who grew up on a farm in Champaign County and founded Mercy for Animals as a 15 year-old, described how a sudden awareness of factory farms as a child “really went against the moral fiber” he had developed in his family of fourth-generation traditional farmers.
“Farm animals in Ohio desperately need an advocate,” said Runkle, whose organization documents conditions inside Ohio’s largest egg farms. In a calm, unenhanced style, undercover footage from MFA rescuers reveals the widespread overcrowding—and resulting disease, injury, ensnarement, and death—that the new legislation seeks to redress.
Gene Baur spoke next, founder of Farm Sanctuary, which was the final home of the cow (called Cincinnati Freedom) who famously escaped a Cincinnati slaughterhouse in 2002 and eluded capture for 11 days.
Baur emphasized the need for a new farm animal policy that accurately reflected social values.
“Most people are humane; most people think it is wrong to abuse animals,” he said. “The laws are out of sync with what most people think is appropriate.”
Last to speak was Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States. As a lobbyist Pacelle has been instrumental in passing federal and state animal protection for fighting animals, great apes, farm animals, and pets. And under his guidance, HSUS footage of animal cruelty at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company in 2008, led to the largest recall of tainted beef in American history.
“We feel as a society that we can do better with the care of animals,” said Pacelle.
Among other things, this means allowing them to exercise their most basic natural functions: “animals built to move should be allowed to move.”
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To learn more about Ohio’s movement to pass a humane farming bill, visit http://ohiohumane.com
For legal updates on the bill, visit http://ohioaglaw.wordpress.com/
To read the full text of the proposed bill, visit http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Ballot-Initiatives and click on “Livestock Board Amendment”