April 16, 2021

Rural Issues: Act would put ranchers out of business

It was only a few weeks ago that I was celebrating the fact that the 2020 general election marked the first time in many years there were no animal rights — disguised as animal welfare — ballot initiatives on the ballot in any state. It seems like the animal rights activists in the state of Colorado overheard me and said, “Watch this!”

And I have been watching “this” for several weeks now, but I was hoping like mad that the title board at the Secretary of State’s Office would find fault with the initiative and shut it down. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The title board gave the organizers the green light to get out and start collecting the nearly 125,000 signatures from registered voters needed for it to appear on the 2022 ballot.

A proposed ballot initiative in the state of Colorado would cripple, if not decimate entirely, animal agriculture in the Rocky Mountain state. The Protect Animals From Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation Act would change the wording in Colorado’s revised statutes about animal cruelty.

In an updated definition of animals, livestock has been added to the statute. Livestock is defined as bovine, camelids, caprine, equine, ovine, porcine, fish and poultry. The PAUSE Act proposes that no animal can be harvested, or butchered, until it has lived 25% of its natural lifespan.

The act “explicitly defines” the natural lifespan of a cow as 20 years, a chicken as eight years, a turkey as 10 years, a duck as six years, a pig as 15 years, a sheep as 15 years and a rabbit as six years.

Proponents of the act believe that by amending the state’s statutes regarding animal cruelty, animals will be treated with more dignity. Artificial insemination, pregnancy checking, castration, as well as semen collection and semen, or fertility, testing would be defined as cruel acts, considering them the same as human sexual contact with animals.

The fallout from passage of such an initiative would be devastating at so many levels. Colorado’s sheep, lamb and wool production ranks fourth in the nation.

Because a lamb is butchered at 6 to 8 months and the natural lifespan defined in this initiative is 15 years, lamb farmers would be out of business in the state of Colorado.

Cattle and calves is Colorado’s No. 1 agricultural commodity with 2.6 million head of cattle in the state. No one I know wants to chew on a steak from a 5-year-old steer.

Youthfulness and tenderness are directly and positively correlated. We harvest our steers at 15 months.

If this initiative were to pass and we lived in Colorado, we would be out of business entirely because we harvest steers, and that means the bull calves that become steers have been castrated. We also artificially inseminate or embryo transfer, preg check and semen test bulls that we sell.

I have not even begun to talk about the all the costs associated with caring for livestock those extra months — or years — before they can be harvested or the added cost to the consumer. So long export markets. They do not want beef from cattle over 30 months of age. These concerns only scratch the surface.

If the signatures are collected and the PAUSE Act makes the ballot, then is passed by voters in 2022, it becomes law in 2023.

Colorado ranks 10th in the nation in the number of cattle with 2.65 million head. If it can happen in a state that has 2.83% of our country’s cattle, it can happen anywhere.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.