To almost no one’s surprise, Oregon has joined Colorado to become the second state where animal rights activists are out to shut down livestock farming. And the group known as End Animal Cruelty, under the guidance of activist David Michelson, has gone a few steps farther than the Colorado crowd.
In announcing his plan, Michelson said that Oregon would essentially be a sanctuary state for animals. Animal rights would become part of the body of law in the state. While the law would not ban animal agriculture altogether and the sale of meat would not be outlawed, any animal used for food in Oregon would have to die of old age or other natural causes. In Colorado, there would still be slaughter after a percentage of an animal’s natural lifespan, which for cattle would be 25% of 20 years. The Oregon law would refer to artificial insemination as “forced impregnation” and anyone who uses the method would be prosecuted for a Class C Felony.
The committee called “Yes on IP13” must gather 112,000 signatures to force the matter to the ballot in 2022. Oregon, a longtime home to all manner of activists, is a relatively easy place to get something on the ballot, as is Colorado. In Oregon, however, there appears to be no titling process. One must only file the petition with the proper governing body (city, county, or state). That body then refers the item to the ballot.
Oregon is a major producer of beef with more than 1.3 million head scattered across all of 36 counties of the state. There are 12,000 producers who live and operate in the state. However, thousands of head are trucked into the state from northern California for summer pasture, which also means, based on the local breeding cycles, a lot of calves are born in Oregon. That coupled with the threat of the initiative leaves northern California producers on edge.
Katie Roberti, communications director for the California Cattlemen’s Association, said there are a number of ranchers who operate in both states. “Any measure that gains momentum in Oregon, that is similar to Colorado’s measure, would be concerning,” she said.
As in Colorado, the agriculture groups are banding together to fight off the charge by animal rights activists. One of the big items on the initiative sponsors’ minds is artificial insemination. In both Colorado and Oregon, they label it as sexual abuse. Oregon Cattlemen’s Association executive Tammy Dennee takes exception.
“From my experience, I can tell you the reason the cattle industry leans heavily on AI (artificial insemination) is improved genetics, which means they’re (the cattle) more efficient with feed, more efficient with every aspect including rate of gain,” Dennee told Farm Progress. “It certainly would be problematic to have that taken away.”
One longtime observer in Colorado made the comment that if the PAUSE Act (Colorado’s Initiative #16) folks think that AI is sexual abuse, they have never seen a bull mount a cow. He said: “It is not a pretty thing usually.”
While beef cattle outnumber most other livestock, Oregon also has a viable sheep industry that will be affected. In 2017 there were about 165,000 in Oregon.
In Colorado, Initiative #16 is languishing on the Supreme Court calendar after the Coloradans for Animal Care filed for a hearing regarding the Title Board’s approval of the initiative’s 144-word long title, which the group said breaks constitutional law. The court accepted the filing and oral arguments are expected to be heard in late May. The petition cannot be circulated until the court rules.
County governing boards around the state have become outspoken with regard to the PAUSE effort. Sue Hansen, chair of the Montrose County commissioners, told the Montrose Daily Press on Tuesday that the Montrose panel is strongly opposed to the initiative. She said there will be a public response by the commissioners as early as the end of this week.