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Not surprisingly, a group called Ohioans for Humane Farms has requested a petition initiative certification from the Ohio Attorney General that could place a second proposed consititutional amendment on farm animal care before Ohio voters this fall. Ohioans approved "Issue 2" last fall, a constitutional amendment that created the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to create standards for the care and well-being of farm animals (see earlier posts.)
The current petition certification request for a new initiative, submitted January 27 and signed by over 1,000 Ohio electors, requests approval to circulate a petition that proposes amending the Constitution to require the newly created Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board "to adopt certain minimum standards that will prevent the cruel and inhumane treatment of farm animals, enhance food safety, and strengthen Ohio farms."
The petition's proposed constitutional amendment goes beyond the expected prohibitions on confinement of pregnant pigs, laying hens and veal calves that farm animal welfare advocates have advanced in other states, but it does not conflict with the language enacted by Ohio's Issue 2. According to the proposed ballot initiative, the minimum requirements the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board would be required to adopt include:
- Prohibition of the confinement of veal calves, pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens on a farm, for all or the majority of any day, in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending his or her limbs, or turning around freely. There are exceptions for scientific or agricultural research; veterinary treatments; rodeo, fair, or other exhibitions; 4-H and similar programs; during slaughter; or for pregnant pigs, in the seven days prior to giving birth. A "farm" is land, buildings and equipment used for the commercial production of animals for food an fiber.
- Requirements that all killings of cows and pigs be performed in a humane manner using methods deemed "acceptable" by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and prohibition of any killing of cows and pigs by strangulation.
- Prohibitions against the sale, transport or receipt for use in the human food supply of any "downer" cow or calf that is too sick to stand or walk.
- Misdemeanor charges for any violation of the standards developed by the Livestock Care Standards Board, punishable by up to one year of jail and/or $1,000.
If passed by Ohio voters, the proposed constitutional amendment would take effect within six years of the date of its adoption.
The Ohio Attorney General must act on the initiative petition by February 5, 2010. If the Attorney General certifies that the petition's summary contains a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment, the petition goes to the Ohio Ballot Board, who must ensure within ten days that the proposal contains only one constitutional amendment. If approved, the Attorney General files the petition with the Secretary of State, and the proponents may then begin collecting signatures on the petition. The number of valid signatures required to place the initiative on the ballot is at least 10% of the number of votes cast for governor in the last election (total votes for governor in 2006 were 4,022,928). At least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties must be represented with signatures from at least 5% of each county's votes cast for governor in the last election. The proponent must file the petitions by June 30, which is 125 days before the date of the general election date of November 2, and the proponent will have ten days to correct the insufficiency of signatures after a determination by the Secretary of State.
According to a press release issued by the Humane Society of the United States, the ballot proposal by Ohioans for Humane Farms is supported by The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Toledo Area Humane Society, Geauga Humane Society, Ohio League of Humane Voters, Center for Food Safety, United Farm Workers, Consumer Federation of America and Center for Science in the Public Interest.
View the initiative petition for the Livestock Board Amendment on the Ohio Attorney General's website at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Ballot-Initiatives.