We reported in our June 16 cover story (“Mmm … tasty! Sure they’re delicious, but are Ohio’s livestock happy?”) about the battle between the Humane Society of the United States and the Ohio Farm Bureau over a set of regulations the Humane Society was gathering signatures to place on Ohio’s November ballot. Each side depicted the other as the enemy of healthy agriculture in Ohio.
Either much of that acrimony was for show, or else Governor Ted Strickland has svengali-like charm. As the Humane Society was calling in its petitions to prepare for the June 30 deadline, discussions were going on between the governor, the HSUS, the OFB, and the various agricultural trade associations. And instead of announcing that they had collected more than enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot (more than 500,000, with 400,000 needed), Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle joined the governor and OFB executive vice president Jack Fisher in a press conference at the Statehouse to announce that they had agreed not to pursue the ballot measures.
“Instead of expending tens of millions of dollars and unproductive energy fighting an acrimonious campaign throughout this fall, both sides will be able to continue investing in our agriculture base and taking care of animals,” said Strickland.
In return, the governor agreed to help implement the regulations — to end confinement practices, inhumane euthanasia, and allowing sick animals into the food supply — with long phase-in periods for ending the confinement practices that protected farmers from taking an economic hit.
But Strickland went even further, to the delight of animal-welfare advocates. He promised to push for tougher penalties for cock fighting and increased restriction on puppy mills, and put in place a ban on the ownership of exotic and dangerous animals as pets. Pacelle described it as “a comprehensive animal-welfare package that moves Ohio in a great direction.”
“The governor is sort of persuasive,” said Pacelle.
With the signatures they need in hand, the Humane Society can still come back and put their initiative on the ballot in 2011 or 2012 if Ohio backs out on the agreement. — Anastasia Pantsios