An effort is being made in Colorado to get a question on the ballot that would ultimately drive animal agriculture out of the state.
The effort is being led by a group known as Colorado PAUSE (Protecting Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation).
A quick search of the organization’s website does not show any ties to any well-established animal rights groups, but rest assured, this group is following the same playbook that so many animal rights groups are doing when trying to enact laws that impact animal agriculture. That play is simply make it financially impossible for producers to remain in business and therefore force more people to adopt a vegan or mostly vegan diet.
The website says, “This initiative would not inherently make it illegal to perform simple practices such as collecting eggs from chickens or slaughtering livestock.” But what is Colorado PAUSE not saying?
According to an article in the Pueblo Chieftain, the potential ballot measure, known as Initiative 16, calls for specific measures that are described as protecting animals. One part of the measure involves the lifespans of animals, while another redefines sexual abuse against animals.
First, let’s take a look at the lifespan requirements. If enacted, farm animals must live out at least one-quarter of their natural lifespans. As far as poultry is concerned, Initiative 16 defines the lifespan of chickens at eight years, turkeys at 10 years and ducks at 6 years. That would leave broilers on the farm for 2 years and turkeys 2.5 years.
The lifespan for pigs and sheep are both defined at 15 years, while the lifespan for cattle is defined at 20 years.
To meet those requirements, the added costs of feed and other aspects of production would drive many farmers out of business, not to mention various related businesses, such as livestock auction barns.
Related to the sexual abuse measure, it calls for no intrusion or penetration into the animal with an object or part of a person’s body. Ashley Ackley, incoming president for the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, told the Chieftain that could potentially mean no more artificial insemination, pregnancy tests, rectal exams, spaying or neutering. There is language in the initiative that says exceptions can be made to improve the animal’s health, but that leaves a lot up to interpretation, Ackley said.
Another example of disconnect from agriculture
The thing that is most concerning about this initiative is that many voters may think it’s a good thing, despite the consequences. Look at what happened with Proposition 12 in California and all of those other ballot initiatives that barred caged egg production and gestation stalls in pig production.
Then there is the fact that keeping animals around longer could actually be harmful to certain animals’ welfare.
But the average urban resident with no real knowledge of agriculture may not know that. And most of us are probably guilty of voting for a person or issue that we haven’t really researched.
A major education campaign must be initiated to make sure that the provisions of Initiative 16 do not become law.
There is hope
While I do have some doubts that this initiative will be stopped, I do see some hope that it will not.
Not that long ago, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a proclamation that proclaimed March 20 as MeatOut Day. And other elected officials condemned and countered the idea, including the commissioners of Weld County, where JBS USA and Pilgrim’s Pride are headquartered. A Greeley Tribune article quickly voted to unanimously oppose the ballot initiative.
I would guess other county commissions will do the same.
We can only hope, because if Initiative 16 becomes the standard in Colorado, we can expect similar initiatives to get underway in other states. This is important, because even though Colorado isn't a major poultry producer, there are plenty of other states with highly urban populations that are.