By Ioven Fables on BCHeights.com
Last week, citizens of Ohio voted on Issue 2 over Livestock Care Standards, the point of which was to establish a 13-member board to regulate all matters of care for livestock and poultry. The legislation passed by a 30 percent margin. The approach, lobbied for by the big agricultural businesses, has essentially handed power over such matters to these same companies through delegation of animal regulation to a small vulnerable board. This will result in the perpetuation of a business model and practices that are abusive to animals and threatening to our health.
Currently, the conditions under which industrial farm animals are raised are terribly inhumane. Cattle, for example, are crammed in quarters so small they can't turn around, are 90 percent grain fed (an entirely unnatural food source evolutionarily speaking), are collectively injected with 70 percent of the antibiotics in the U.S., and live in filthy conditions. Mentioning these conditions, however, is not meant to support an intrinsic value claim for the humane treatment of animals. That argument generally does very little to support its own primary aim - the improvement of animal living conditions. What are more directly important to most people are the effects of these conditions on human health. The cramped conditions (we're talking cages for a chicken smaller than the length of a sheet of paper) are conducive to the spread of diseases - eggs from hens raised in confinement are 250 percent more likely to contract salmonella. The conditions also support the emergence of new diseases such as the bird flu and the more recent swine flu. So much antibiotic use not only indicates highly suspect conditions (why do they need so much medicine?), but also creates strands of super-bacteria highly risky to the human body.
Issue 2 created a 13-member panel to manage these conditions practiced by nearly all of the meat industry, which will quite simply solidify the status quo. It replaces federal regulation with a small group that would be susceptible to corruption from the corporations that support the idea. Corporate interests already have far too much influence in the larger federal organizations, and there is no regulation on the horizon regarding campaign finance and lobbying in general. Reducing the size of the organization managing agriculture will simply amplify the effect of external pressures.
The passage of Issue 2 will probably preempt efforts by the Humane Society to pass legislation immediately, enforcing more humane, healthier, and more sustainable agricultural practices. Aside from the general momentum, the Livestock Care Standards board could argue that any separate legislation would be redundant, unnecessary, and less qualified, despite that the Humane Society is the organization most informed about issues of animal care. Thus, the legislation amounts to a constitutional takeover by the agricultural businesses lobbying for the legislation.
What is further disconcerting are the implications this board will have nationwide, since the explicit intent of the designers is to create a model for other states. The idea catching on would spread the potential for poorly regulated agricultural practices to become even more entrenched in our economic system than they already are. Instead, regulation of these destructive agricultural practices in Ohio should follow the precedent set by California, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon. These states have already adopted measures that require more space for overly confined farm animals (not to say that they are wholly adequate, but they are steps in the right in the right direction). There is no reason why further oversight for abusive practices should not remain the responsibility of state and federal legislatures rather than a new 13-member board.
Essentially, Issue 2 continues a troublesome trend: private interest gaining influence over matters that should be kept under control of public officials dedicated to the best interests of American citizens. The passage of Issue 2 would establish a board dominated by people bought out by the industries it should be regulating. These people are only able to pitch the value of Issue 2 through false propaganda. The language used by Jack Fish, vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, in his editorial on ourohio.org is revealing: "A highly organized and well financed operation is underway to convince you that farmers are cruel to their animals. It's trickery, but effective. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wants to end the consumption of animal protein, a tough task because Americans love meat, milk, and eggs." Describing the HSUS as highly organized and well-financed seems like a scare tactic given that it is a charity, and one of the highest ranked ones at that. Further, the statement about ending consumption of animal protein is a flat lie - the HSUS's primary mission is to ensure ethical treatment of animals, not an elimination of the meat industry.
As Bob Cesca from huffingtonpost.com says in regard to Issue 2, "the end result will be conditions that are far, far worse than they are today - producing food that's even more dangerous and all of it overriding the authority of the federal government." Placing control over such important roots to the well being of our bodies and environment in the hands of a few vulnerable people is discordant with the progress of our democracy toward a more healthy, sustainable food industry and culture.