Colorado Initiative 16 assigned title, ag groups fight back
Proposed ballot initiative 2021-2022 #16, formerly known as the PAUSE Act, was reviewed by the state’s title board and a title was set. The role of the title board is to set a clearly worded title that reflects the proponents’ intentions after determining that it meets the requirement of containing a single subject word of law. At the initial hearing, the title board does not and did not hear objections to the content or title language, and the board does not analyze the merit of the initiative.
The title as designated and fixed by the board is as follows:
A change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning expanding prohibitions against cruelty to animals, and, in connection therewith, expanding the definition of “livestock” to include fish; expanding the definition of “sexual act with an animal” to include intrusion or penetration into an animal’s anus or genitals with an object or part of a person’s body and allowing an exception only for care to improve the animal’s health and eliminating the existing exception for animal husbandry practices; defining the “natural lifespan” for certain species of livestock and providing that slaughtering those animals is not animal cruelty if done according to acceptable animal husbandry practices after the animal has lived one-fourth of the natural lifespan; removing several exceptions to the animal cruelty statutes, including exceptions for animal husbandry; and providing that, in case of a conflict, the cruelty to animals statutes supersede statutes concerning animal care.
A coalition of Colorado agriculture groups will be appealing the board’s decision and will have the opportunity to challenge the initiative language before the title board and, if necessary, the state Supreme Court. The coalition, as of press time, includes Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Pork Producers.
Only after the title board and courts have heard appeals and opposition, and if the title board then completes their title setting process, and the secretary of state assigns a proposition number for the ballot, would proponents be able to begin collecting signatures.
According to the fiscal summary that analyzes the cost to the state agencies to enforce the statute, the measure would increase revenue from fine penalties if persons are convicted of the new and modified criminal offenses created by the measure; fee revenue from brand inspections by the Department of Agriculture may decrease to the extent that more time will elapse before livestock can be slaughtered; the Department of Agriculture would require additional staffing to assist in the investigation of animal cruelty, an estimated cost of $200,000 annually; persons convicted of the new and modified offenses under the initiative may potentially be incarcerated in a county jail, which would increase costs for counties; local law enforcement will have increased workload to investigate and prosecute more cases involving animal cruelty. In terms of economic impact, the fiscal summary offers a preliminary impact brought by significantly extending the period of time that livestock must be raised and cared for prior to slaughter, the initiative will increase costs for meat producers and increase the price of meat products paid by consumers; longer periods of livestock care will also increase demand and prices for other commodities such as grain and feed; higher prices for meat producers and consumers will decrease the amount of money that they have to spend or save elsewhere in the economy; and the initiative may shift consumer demand or production activity to other areas of the economy as a result of higher production costs.
Perhaps more importantly, according to Colorado Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Terry Fankhauser, is the impact to the state’s second largest industry that contributes $47 billion to the economy annually, in addition to the related industries and jobs that number doesn’t reflect. Consumers, he said, will ultimately be faced with greatly increased food costs, though a specific number is difficult to quantify due to the significant changes the initiative poses.
There is no mention in the initiative language whatsoever of veterinary practitioners, though the title language mentions the removal of existing exemptions for acceptable animal husbandry practices twice. Lora Bledsoe, a Colorado State University-trained large animal practitioner with over 85,000 large animal clients in eastern Colorado, said the initiative sets a dangerous precedence for veterinary medicine in the state.
“It takes the control out of the hands of those who have dedicated their lives to learning the proper and appropriate husbandry and health care of livestock animals and gives it to whomever can shock, awe, and confuse the urban public of the Front Range,” Bledsoe said. “If passed, this measure will not result in better animal care, it will result in the death of an economic pillar of our state and the handcuffing of myself and my veterinary colleagues.”
Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau, said this initiative is, in his 20 years in Colorado, the worst initiative he’s seen filed, even in the shadow of Proposition 114 which requires Colorado officials to introduce and manage wolves.
“That was bad,” he said. “This is worse.”
For Vorthmann, the concept of criminalizing ranchers and farmers for using the animal husbandry practices approved by veterinary professionals, is ludicrous.
“Because this is a ballot initiative, there’s no negotiation, there’s no amendment, it is what it is and voters get to say yes or no,” he said.
Opponents of the measure must submit appeals to the title board within seven days of the title hearing.
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