Monday, November 07, 2016

Animal-welfare measures on ballots in 3 states

Cornish hen chicks at the Diemand Egg Farm
in Wendell, Mass. (The Republican photo)
Animal welfare measures are on state ballots Tuesday in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Oregon. Oklahoma voters will consider Question 777, considered a right-to-farm amendment, Joe Wertz and Logan Layden report for StateImpact Oklahoma. "The measure would make farming and ranching a constitutional right and make it harder for the Legislature to enact laws that further regulate the agriculture industry."

Proponents of Question 777 "claim the measure is needed to protect Oklahoma farmers from animal-welfare laws such as California's Proposition 2, a ballot measure requiring egg-laying hens in the state to be kept in roomier cages," Brianna Bailey reports for NewsOK. "The pro-777 side claims the measure has led to skyrocketing egg prices in California. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Center, avian flu, higher feed prices and drought were at least partially responsible for a 17.8 percent increase in California egg prices in 2015. USDA projected retail egg prices in California would decline 14 to 15 percent as the market recovered from the avian flu outbreak."

Opponents say Question 777 "was created by the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council," Bailey writes. "ALEC drafted a piece of model legislation called the Right to Farm Act in 1996 to help protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits. Oklahoma has had laws on the books protecting farmers from nuisance complaints since 1980. In 2009, Oklahoma House Bill 1482, called the Right to Farm Act, further strengthened those protections. In contrast, State Question 777 embeds protections for agriculture into the state constitution, making it harder to enact new laws regulating farming and ranching practices in the state. SQ 777 originated in the Oklahoma Legislature as House Joint Resolution 1012 in 2015."

In Massachusetts, Question 3, if passed, would ban state sales "of meat or eggs from hens, calves and pigs that are caged or confined in a way that prevents them from moving around," Jill Kaufman reports for New England Public Radio. Advocates say passing the measure will protect consumers rights. Critics say it will lead to increased prices for eggs.

Critics of the measure cite a Cornell University study that projects "the cost of eggs, along with pork, will increase by hundreds of millions of dollars in the first year after the law would be enacted," Kaufman writes. Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States, a major financial backer of Question 3, disagreed with the study and said protecting the welfare of animals is the more important issue. A poll by WBUR-FM in Boston said the measure has a two-thirds chance of passing.

Voters in Oregon will consider Measure 100, which "would ban sales of 12 additional species: elephants, rhinoceroses, whales, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, pangolins, sea turtles and rays. It would also prohibit the sales of any part of a shark," Hillary Borrud reports for The Oregonian. "A similar bill that died in the 2015 Legislature would have banned the sales of ivory and certain other animal parts."

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