Monday, November 2, 2009

No on Issue 2

Here's a repost from Michael Ruhlman's blog. Please check his blog out at

November 1, 2009

Issue 2 would create an amendment to the state constitution, instituting a board with the legal authority to set and enforce the care of livestock throughout the state. Vote no. It's apparently a move to preempt national animal-rights groups from demanding changes in farm facilities that would cost big ag money and put smaller farmers out of business. A constitutional amendment is not the way to do this, especially given the vague wording on who would be on this board and how they would get there. My thoughts are these:

This is a really tricky issue with dangers on both sides. I'm truly skeptical of everything big agricultural interests do. If Issue 2 passes, this new board could basically say that the hundreds of CAFO's in Ohio are just dandy, carry on. They could also tell small farmers that it is illegal to pasture raise your animals due to safety concerns. Also, the ads urging voters to vote yes are downright creepy in their opacity. Without saying at all what the issue is about, they present bucolic images of small farm families with the message that a yes vote is a vote for safe wholesome food. As if anyone would vote for unsafe, nasty food. The deceptive, arguably dishonest, nature of the ad is, in itself, enough for me to distrust the interests pushing this issue.

On the other hand if the board were truly representative of all the voices out there, both big and little ag, as well as farmers concerned about good animal husbandry and animal care experts, it could be a good thing. I spoke yesterday with a fierce small-farm advocate who's referred to at the capitol by big ag as "the raw milk lady" who is for Issue 2. Acknowledging that the issue presented two difficult extremes, she seems to want to fight for what's right within the system, and she's also concerned that outside interests such as animal-rights groups may make good food too expensive for low-income families, which is and should be a primary goal—making good, humanely raised food available to everyone.

Such food must be founded on a good economic model if it is to succeed. While I don't want animal rights groups forcing any Ohio farmers out of business (business that will simply go elsewhere and do the same thing), I don't believe a constitutional amendment setting up some vaguely-worded board to create legal standards for animal husbandry in Ohio is a step forward; and it may well be a bad step backward. Read the Tom Suddes opinion piece below for a more black-and-white, Big-Ag-is-evil take on the subject. And keep paying attention to where your food comes from.

Download Issue 2 itself.

Download Issue2factsheet on the legal issues.

Here is a link to Thomas Suddes strongly worded opinion in The Plain Dealer.