Farmers and animal advocates will give Cincinnatians plenty to chew on in the coming week, during two public discussions of Ohio’s proposed farm animal cruelty prevention bill. By requiring that pigs, chickens, and veal calves have enough space to stretch their limbs, the bill would require the state’s industrial mega-farms to operate more like the small, traditional animal farms which they have squeezed to a small corner of their market. Aimed at protecting animals, the bill would likely reduce the competitive disadvantage at which these small farms find themselves. In the long run, farmers and “slow food” enthusiasts hope it might keep small-scale farming viable for younger generations.
Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, will speak Saturday afternoon about his work and Ohio’s bill.
Farm Sanctuary is a refuge that provides safe outdoor space and veterinary care for farm animals who have survived abuse, as they live out their remaining years. While caring for over 1,200 animals on 475 acres split between New York and California, the sanctuary also advocates on behalf of legislative initiatives to strengthen protections for farm animals.
In 2000 I visited the California location. Among an open barn of napping pigs, turkeys who pranced behind their favorite staff members for head rubs, and a malnourished pair of newly-rescued donkeys standing quietly in the corner of a field, I met a motley chicken flock. The chickens were like others I’d seen, spending their hours pecking and scratching the ground, clucking, dust-bathing, and chasing each other–except that these birds had learned to get by without the front halves of their beaks. “De-beaking” chicks is a standard practice on industrial farms, to prevent tightly-caged birds with no ground or grass to peck at, from pecking one other. It’s another practice that animal welfare activists would like to see disappear forever.
This March I spoke with Baur, who advocates a vegan diet as the most direct way to alleviate the suffering of animals like those chickens. I wondered whether he would welcome collaboration with farmers who give their animals comfortable lives, yet kill them for food.
Baur’s desire to cross lines of diet and lifestyle was clear: “We welcome the involvement of farmers who agree that these animals should be given at least enough space to turn around and stretch their limbs; absolutely we will be reaching out to farmers.”
Many Ohio farmers have joined the effort, endorsing the bill and—next week—traveling away from their farms to speak with voters. On Tuesday evening a cattle rancher, a meat and egg farmer, and a retired sheep farmer, will join Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle, for a panel discussion of the bill. All are welcome.
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Details on upcoming Cincinnati events:
Volunteer dinner and training with Gene Baur, Friday, May 21, 7:30pm.
Open to all; RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: The Loving Café, 6227 Montgomery Rd., Cincinnati; 513-731-2233
Public Talk with Gene Baur: “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food,” Saturday, May 22, 2pm.
Free and open to the public.
Location: Xavier University, Albers Hall Room 103
Panel discussion with Ohio family farmers and HSUS President Wayne Pacelle, on protecting Ohio’s farm animals, Tuesday, May 25, 6pm.
Free and open to the public.
Location: Xavier University, Kelley Auditorium, Alter Hall