The Deal in Ohio

The agreement struck between The HSUS with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio Farm Bureau to stop the ballot initiative scheduled for this November which was to promote humane standards and prevent cruel factory farming practices is causing outrage in the state’s farming interests and raising questions by animal advocates. The core argument in support of the agreement, as made by Wayne Pacelle of The HSUS, is the

agreement in its collective form that constitutes the single biggest ever animal welfare package I’ve seen in our movement. It represents a pathway forward for much stronger animal welfare in a state that has lagged badly on this set of issues. All parties also recognize that it is not the end of the discussion, but the beginning.

The agreement achieves the following:

  • A ban on veal crates by 2017, which is the same timing as the ballot measure.
  • A ban on new gestation crates in the state after Dec. 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years.
  • A moratorium on permits for new battery cage confinement facilities for laying hens.
  • A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals.
  • A ban on the transport of downer cows for slaughter.
  • Enactment of legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cockfighters.
  • Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills.
  • Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

David Cassuto, professor of law at Pace Law School, wonders if the deal is strong enough and gives too much away.

Compromise, by definition, is never ideal. Still, this agreement, wherein pig gestation crates can remain in use until 2025 and existing battery cage operations can remain in operation indefinitely, gives up a lot. A heartbreakingly large amount. Sometimes, not nearly enough is just not nearly good enough.

Whereas Erik Marcus thinks it’s a smart move.

In short, it’s a smart compromise for both sides. All things considered, HSUS would have been foolish to reject the offer that was on the table.

My take is that in the real world of politics when deals are struck between competing interests to find common ground to move forward finding the right compromise and agreeing to it is pivotal.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion as to whether this agreement compromises too little or too much. One encouraging sign, however, is reading the comments of agricultural interests who are condemning the agreement as a sell out suggests to me that in the long term this will be a significant and positive development for animal protection in Ohio and throughout the U.S.

Cliches abound in politics. The art of the possible. All politics is local. The devil is in the detail. And so on. Who wouldn’t want more gains from agricultural interests? But I wasn’t a member of the negotiating team. All I can do is comment and wonder what would have I done? Nonetheless, I think Wayne’s comments here are insightful and resonate well with me. 

As a movement, if we do not sit down with our adversaries and try to solve problems, we will never succeed. Instead, we will be wrapped up in an endless cycle of wins and losses and polarizing political campaigns. At times, we must pursue such campaigns when lawmakers or industry slam the door in our face and reject the common good. But, in the end, we need not only to change laws, but also to understand human nature and build on our shared concerns and values. That’s what happened yesterday in Ohio. Serious-minded dialogue with our traditional political adversaries occurred, and resulted in a good set of outcomes. Ultimately, we will need them to change and to view animals in a more sensitive way if we are going to achieve our goals. At the end of the day, our work is more about human behavior than animal behavior and more about solutions than political victories.