As a community of farmers who responsibly steward their land, hold high standards for animal welfare, and feed our immediate communities, Friends of Family Farmers and its program, the Oregon Pasture Network, are strongly opposed to the proposed 2022 ballot measure known as IP-13.
IP-13 is an Oregon ballot initiative that would effectively criminalize farming of food animals in the state by classifying their slaughter as aggravated assault. The initiative also redefines artificial insemination and castration as sexual assault. The petition would remove farmer exemptions from existing laws barring animal cruelty and target practices used for breeding domestic livestock.
The Problems with IP-13:
IP-13 is a broad and over-reaching set of assumptions that would criminalize animal husbandry and livestock best practices that are necessary to agriculture. This measure was designed by a group of extreme animal rights activists with the goal of ending animal agriculture as a whole, not addressing actual instances of animal abuse in Oregon. This measure as written (read the full text here) would modify an existing animal abuse law to make all intentional injury or death to an animal illegal, unless done in self defense from an immediate threat. On the surface this could seem like a reasonable request, but there were agricultural exemptions in place on this law for a reason.
This would include many livestock maintenance measures like branding, castration, and de-horning, which are carried out on farms by trained professionals for the betterment of overall animal well being. The language in this measure is also vague to the point that it is possible it will outlaw on-farm slaughter. Slaughtering animals on farm with the assistance of a licensed mobile butcher is widely considered the most humane way to harvest livestock. If animals are able to stay on-farm for the entirety of their lives, they are not stressed from transport. Oregon, like many states, lacks small-scale meat processing infrastructure, so if animals need to be transported to slaughter, this can mean several hours of driving.
This measure also classifies any intentional contact with the genitals of an animal, including for the purposes of livestock breeding, as sexual assault on the animal. Again, without an understanding of the reasoning behind animal husbandry practices, this could seem reasonable. But the fact of the matter is, the people who wrote this measure are not farmers. They have not spent time on farms, and they do not understand the reasoning behind the practice of artificial insemination (AI) in an agricultural context. There are many reasons why livestock may need to be bred this way, and the best examples come from this piece by Oregon dairy farmer Derrick Josi who lays out all the ways that AI benefits the overall welfare of his cows and reduces injury or death in calving. This measure goes further that doing any of these things in front of a minor would be a felony. This endangers training programs like 4-H and FFA which help ensure we have have skilled farmers in the future.
Oregon’s small and mid-sized livestock farmers care deeply for the health and wellbeing of their animals. This measure, written by urban activists without input from farmers, would criminalize good animal husbandry and livestock farming practices. This short sighted measure would turn thousands of family farmers into criminals overnight for producing meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal products in the best way possible.
How it would affect small farmers:
This measure would essentially put livestock farmers, big and small alike, out of business in Oregon. This law will not reduce the demand for meat, dairy or other animal products, so if this measure criminalizes these common farming practices here, it would only increase the market share of meat coming in from out of state, especially meat from factory farms in midwestern states that would be able to rush in to fill the gap quickly. This is not an end to animal cruelty in agriculture, it is actually creating an opportunity for large scale, industrial agriculture to take the place of Oregon farmers on grocery store shelves.
If this measure passes, it would lump all Oregon farmers into one group of bad actors. Pasture-based, CSA, or herdshare-style farmers (like the ones in FoFF’s Oregon Pasture Network) would be equated to factory farms like the disastrous Lost Valley Mega-dairy, or the confined chicken barns keeping thousands of birds under one roof for Tyson. This broad measure doesn’t account for the nuance of the agricultural landscape and would undo so much of the beneficial work FoFF and our partners have done to build an alternative food system when compared to the industrial agribusiness model.
Also, there are far reaching consequences for vegetable farmers as well. This law would also criminalize pest control measures like using snap traps to keep rodents from eating seeds in propagation houses and trapping gophers that ruin row crops in fields. This will cause hardship to farmers whether they raise animals for meat or not.
What FoFF proposes if this issue is important to you:
If you are concerned with the treatment of livestock on farms in our state, join us in supporting Oregon’s sustainable and humane farmers and make informed choices about the animal products you consume. Unlike the extreme viewpoints espoused by the coalition behind IP-13, we know there are farmers across our state that treat their animals humanely, with sky overhead and grass underfoot. We know this because we work with these folks every day.
We encourage all members of the public to think deeply about how their food choices impact the types of agriculture present in our state. Check out our Oregon Pasture Network Pastured Product Guide and have a conversation with an animal farmer near you. There are many certifications, including Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), that farmers can get to demonstrate their commitment to humane treatment, but nothing beats talking directly to your producers. Find out how they raise their animals, what their commitments to animal welfare are, and get their perspective about why these farming practices are necessary. Consider signing up for a herd share or CSA so you know exactly where your family’s meat is coming from.
If you don’t eat meat, we hope that you will support the expansion of pasture based, small scale animal agriculture. We need to continue to build the infrastructure of this alternative to the conventional system in order to shift animal agriculture as a whole to more sustainable, scale appropriate and humane production, not advocate for the end of an entire sector of agriculture in Oregon. You can join us in supporting a $10 million grant fund to build more small scale meat processing options in the state, including AWA and organic certified plants. Without expanded processing capacity and these specialized plants, factory farms will always have the edge over small scale family farmers who prioritize animal wellbeing. Help us build a better system where folks can make good choices and support the folks working to bring food to our tables that aligns with our values. Take action here.
How to get involved with the fight against IP-13:
Farmers and Ranchers: If you have strong opinions about IP-13 and want to share your story, please contact our OPN program Assistant Michele Thorne (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule an interview. The most powerful way to combat this false narrative is for folks to hear from the people living these values of animal welfare and community food production every day.
Community Members: The best thing you can do is NOT add your name to the petition to get this on the ballot for 2022 and encourage others to do the same. Beyond that, please share this blog post with your network, start conversations with your friends and family, and spread the word that broad strokes to outlaw animal agriculture in Oregon will not protect animal welfare, but rather endanger our local food systems. You can also sign up for alerts about the fight against IP13 at https://oregoniansforanimalcare.org/