The Humane Society of the United States is trying to get Ohio residents on board with a ballot measure to increase regulation of the way livestock are treated on farms. HSUS is working with local groups to gather signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.
There is a lot of tension in Ohio between groups like the HSUS and governing bodies like the Ohio Farm Bureau who think the HSUS is doing more meddling than working for change.
The ballot measure — should it pass — would prohibit actions such as confining animals like laying hens, veal calves and breeding sows to crates so small they cannot move. It would also prohibit the dragging of injured or dying animals to killing floors to be slaughtered, and would institute standards for humane methods of euthanasia for animals.
As a Vegan, people often expect me to be gung-ho for measures like the ones being pushed by the HSUS. But while I of course support any measure that alleviates suffering from an animal, I also cannot begin to think any methods of confining and killing animals to be acceptable, and others as not. Throwing my full support behind a measure like this one sends the message that I think killing animals under some circumstances is acceptable, and I simply do not.
But the bigger issue here is an economic one. Farmers don’t confine animals to the tiniest quarters possible because they are malevolent; they do it to save money. The truth is that raising animals is expensive, and factory-like conditions for the animals is one of a very few things that makes the endeavor financially viable for farmers. If all farmers were compelled to provide animals with living conditions that would be seen as “acceptable” by most Americans, their costs would skyrocket. But before you think I’m defending cattle farmers, let me say that I think that it’s a good thing if their prices skyrocket.
We live in a capitalist country, so people are always going to be moved more quickly by their wallets than by their consciences. The farming of animals has been propped up financially for years by factory-farming conditions which save costs while putting animals through cruel treatment, not to mention subsidies granted by the US Department of Agriculture, which keep consumers from having to feel the real cost of the meat they buy.
While I may not agree with the message the Humane Society is conveying — that some ways of farming animals are okay — I do think that any measure that forces farmers and consumers to consider the enormous cost of animal agriculture is a step in the right direction. If the environmental cost and the personal cost of animal agriculture aren’t motivation enough, perhaps some market pressures can finally work in our favor.