Over the past year, more than 500,000 Ohio citizens signed a petition aimed at placing an initiative on the statewide ballot this November to ban cruel factory farming practices. Those signatures gathered by tireless volunteers, many of whom were Farm Sanctuary members, were to be submitted this week, kicking off an initiative battle to be waged over the course of the next several months. However, at the eleventh hour, as it became clear that we had enough signatures to make it on the ballot, agribusiness came to the table and an agreement was brokered by Ohio's Governor Stickland. Here's what came of the agreement pertaining to farm animals:
• A ban on veal crates, to be phased out within six years, as outlined in the ballot initiative.
• A ban on new gestation crates in the state after December 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years.
• A permanent moratorium on permits for new battery cage facilities in place immediately.
• A ban on the transport of downed cows and calves for slaughter, as outlined in the ballot initiative.
• A ban on strangulation and other forms of on farm killing that are not included in euthanasia standards as outlined by the American Veterinary Medical Association and part of the ballot initiative.
• Enactment of legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cock fighters.
This agreement didn't accomplish everything we would like, as quickly as we would like, but we will continue raising awareness and actively fighting to ban these intolerably cruel systems. And, if agribusiness doesn't comply with this agreement, we have the option to go back to the ballot with the 500,000 signatures already gathered.
Ohio has been known for its exceptionally weak animal protection laws and, as the second largest egg producer, it is among the most entrenched factory farming states in the U.S., so these developments are especially important. The moratorium on new egg laying facilities includes putting a stop to plans for a six million hen battery cage operation that was in the final stages of approval. And no less than six new gestation crate facilities were in the works in the state. We have driven a spike into the cogs of factory farming and agribusiness leaders are finally coming to recognize that treating cows, pigs, chickens and other animals as mere production units is inconsistent with popular sentiments.
When citizens speak up, change is inevitable. Agribusiness never would have come to the table had it not been for all the volunteers giving their time and commitment to this cause by gathering signatures and gaining endorsements. We are proud to have stood alongside these volunteers as well as several organizations working toward one common goal to end cruel factory farming practices in Ohio. The movement to protect farm animals is gaining momentum, and the reforms announced this week in Ohio will reverberate in Washington, D.C. and send ripples across the United States.