An agreement between Ohio farm organizations and a coalition of animal welfare advocates may be in jeopardy after a recent vote by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board that permits the confinement of veal calves in crates so small they’re unable to turn around.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the 6-5 vote by board members violates a provision of the agreement which phases out the use of veal crates and if the vote stands, the Humane Society may decide to renew a ballot initiative sponsored by the coalition.
“There is still time for the livestock board to restore its original and proper position,” Pacelle said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Pacelle said the June, 2010 agreement between Ohioans for Humane Farms and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and other farm organizations included a provision that stipulated calves must be kept in group pens starting in 2017 – which is similar to a resolution adopted by the American Veal Association in 2007.
The Humane Society and other advocacy groups contend the recent amendment by the board reverses a board resolution adopted in November for all calves, regardless of age, to be able to turn around in their crates.
With Ohio Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer and the department’s veterinarian, Tony Forshey, dissenting from the majority, the board voted earlier this month to allow keeping calves in small crates for up to 10 weeks, said Andy Ware, a spokesperson for the agriculture department.
Veal calves are usually slaughtered at 16 to 20 weeks.
Ware said the amendment is subject to a vote by the board on April 5.
“It’s certainly not a final decision by the board,” he said, adding a two-week comment period on the amendment and other proposals for managing veal calves began the day after the March 1 board meeting.
As of last Tuesday, the agriculture department had received about 1,700 comments by email, he said.
Board members Bill Moody, Leon Weaver, and Harold Dates joined Zehringer and Forshey in opposing the amendment. Voting yes were Jeff Wuebker, Jerry Lahmers, Lisa Hanmler-Fugitt, Stacy Atherton, Dominic Marchese, and Bobby Moser.
Pacelle said the reversal came after “a few Ohio veal producers” complained about giving the animals more room.
Ohioans for Humane Farms was poised to submit more than 500,000 signatures to the secretary of state last year to meet the deadline for putting a ballot initiative before voters in November that would have imposed specific rules for the livestock care standards board to follow.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland intervened and urged both sides to find a compromise solution.
Under that agreement, the standards board, which was established after voters in November, 2009 strongly supported Issue 2, remained as the primary vehicle setting farm animal care practices but recommendations from the coalition were adopted.
Among other points, the parties’ compromise set a ban on veal crates by 2017 – the same deadline set in the proposed ballot measure – and a ban on gestation crates in the state after Dec. 31, 2010. (Existing facilities were grandfathered in for the gestation crates but must cease use of the crates in 15 years.)
The agreement disappointed some on both sides. Shortly after the agreement was in place Pacelle reminded supporters of the ballot measure their signatures remained valid and an initiative could still be pursued in 2011 or 2012.
Ware said the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association has also recommended calves have room to move around.