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The House today gave final approval to landmark legislation to phase out the use of veal crates and gestation crates in Colorado. The measure came at the recommendation of an unlikely coalition of Colorado-based animal agriculture organizations and The Humane Society of the United States. SB 201 was introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) and House Agriculture Committee Chair Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison). Governor Bill Ritter and Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp played a crucial and leading role in the negotiations.
Governor Ritter has promised to sign the legislation, and The Humane Society of the United States has agreed to officially withdraw an initiative petition on the same subject. SB 201 phases out veal crates within four years, and it phases out gestation crates within 10 years. It also jumpstarts a process, to be administered by the Agriculture Commissioner, to allow for ongoing deliberation about animal welfare issues in animal agriculture.
"The near-unanimous passage of this legislation shows that reasonable representatives from humane organizations and the agricultural sector can indeed work together and forge innovative and more humane policy solutions," says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Agriculture can do better than to confine calves and breeding sows in crates so small that the animals cannot turn around, and today leaders from animal protection and agriculture groups acknowledged that fact and set a new course."
Across Colorado, nearly 150,000 breeding pigs are confined in gestation crates. While there is no current veal industry in the state, Colorado's sizable dairy industry could potentially attract veal operations, and the veal crate provision was a preemptive measure.
The proposed ballot initiative to be withdrawn by The HSUS would have also phased out the confinement of egg-laying hens in battery cages. The HSUS, Colorado agriculture groups, and Commissioner Stulp agreed to continue to have dialogue on that issue. The HSUS is proceeding with a ballot initiative in California to phase out veal and gestation crates and battery cages. The group worked with its coalition partners in that state to submit 790,000 signatures to qualify that measure for the November ballot. Final certification for the ballot should come within the next month.
- Florida, Arizona and Oregon have prohibited gestation crates. Arizona has prohibited veal crates. And nearly 800,000 Californians have signed petitions to place a measure on the November ballot to prohibit veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages.
- During their four-month pregnancies, nearly 150,000 female breeding pigs in Colorado are confined in barren gestation crates—individual metal enclosures only two feet wide. The crates are so small, the animals cannot even turn around.
- Veal crates are narrow wooden enclosures that prevent calves from turning around or lying down comfortably. The calves are typically chained by their necks and suffer immensely.
- Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pig producer, is phasing out gestation crates, and the American Veal Association voted to urge the entire veal industry to phase out veal crates. Colorado-based chain Chipotle already refuses to buy any pork from producers that use gestation crates. Chains such as Safeway, Burger King, Carl's Jr. and Hardees have also implemented policies to reduce their reliance on gestation crate pork.
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