THE Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced last week that it has launched an Ohio agriculture council just three years after the animal rights organization brokered a major agreement on a slate of livestock and animal welfare-related issues with Ohio's agricultural organizations.
Known as The Ohio Agriculture Council of the HSUS, the council was formed ostensibly to connect livestock producers "who manage their animals using higher animal welfare practices with consumers who seek higher-welfare products." HSUS said it will also work to help farmers transition to more humane animal management practices.
HSUS first set its sights on Ohio in 2008 after it succeeded in passing a California ballot measure, Proposition 2, prohibiting or severely restricting several common livestock housing systems, including certain types of chicken enclosures and swine gestation stalls.
Knowing that HSUS intended to push a similar agenda in Ohio, the state's agriculture interests successfully ran their own ballot measure in 2009, creating the state's constitutionally empowered Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Facing another threat of an HSUS ballot campaign in 2010, Ohio's agricultural and commodity organizations agreed to a series of compromises and reforms, including phasing out gestation stalls and other animal housing and husbandry practices targeted by the animal rights group (Feedstuffs, July 5 and Aug. 16, 2010).
Those groups are wary of HSUS's latest effort in Ohio. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the state's largest farm group, criticized the HSUS council for attempting to drive a wedge between farmers and consumers rather than trying to foster a partnership between them.
"We believe the best way to make connections is to be inclusive," OFBF said in a statement. "It appears HSUS's plan intentionally excludes the majority of farmers and consumers, who have differing views on food and farming. Both producers and consumers should have multiple choices in how food is grown and raised."
OFBF said its main concern is that HSUS continues to ignore Ohio's leadership in farm animal care, citing the work of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board in defining the rules that govern acceptable standards of care for food animals raised in the state.
"HSUS is positioning its judgment as being superior to that of Ohio citizens," OFBF said.