Colorado court suspends animal treatment ballot initiative

A ballot initiative attempt in Colorado to criminalize normal animal husbandry procedures such as artificial insemination is to return to the drawing board after a 7-0 Colorado Supreme Court ruling ruled that the state Title Board had incorrectly given the green light to Initiative 2020-21 #16. Rancher groups across the state may also join forces to offer a proactive measure to insulate the industry from this type of activity at the future.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled 7-0 against Initiative 16, determining that it did not meet the single-subject requirements for a citizen ballot initiative. The Court ruled that Initiative #16 contained several topics and, given its complexity, could mislead voters when they voted. The Court quashed the title and returned it to the Council with instructions to return the Initiative to its promoters for lack of jurisdiction because the single subject requirement was not met.

Animal welfare advocates were trying to put the Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE) initiative on the ballot in November 2022. The initiative would criminalize farmers, ranchers and veterinarians that use accepted husbandry practices to care for animals and would change state law. language to define common animal care practices as “animal cruelty”. It also includes the criminalization of actions such as sterilization, childbirth assistance and reproductive practices such as artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis and fertility testing.

The action would also ban the slaughter of animals that have lived less than 25% of their “natural” lifespan. This would probably be a much longer standard than consumer and foreign market demand.

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The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, along with its partners Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Pork Producers Council formed Coloradans for Animal Care, a coalition group to fight the initiative. The coalition challenged the Title Board’s decision to approve the signature-gathering initiative, saying it covered multiple topics and included inflammatory language. After losing the Title Board challenge, the band appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said the Supreme Court’s 7-0 ruling speaks volumes about their challenge.

However, Fankhauser knows this fight is not over yet, but may adopt another ballot initiative phrasing as he sees Colorado as a “playground for easy voting.” He says the coalition is looking for ways to strengthen the requirements for getting initiatives on a ballot that allow those good ideas to succeed, but limit the bad ones.

He says it woke up the leaders of his organization to the need to protect themselves more against frivolous attacks on the livestock and meat industry. “It wasn’t about animal welfare, it was about reducing the possibility of having a choice,” says Fankhauser.

Related: National Animal Groups Avoid Oregon, Colorado Initiatives

Janie VanWinkle, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, appreciates the coalition and statewide support to oppose the measure. “It would take away consumer choice and in doing so would harm our environment, our economy and the very animals that proponents claimed they wanted to protect.”

“Colorado pork producers applaud the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to end the reckless Pause Act ballot initiative,” said Juli McCaleb, president of the Colorado Pork Producers Council. “We were confident in our defiance of this law and applaud the diverse members of Colorado’s agricultural industry who, every day, work to provide the safest, most abundant and most ethical food in the world.”

If the promoters wish to continue the measure, they will have to rewrite and file another title with the Securities Commission, thus starting the process again. All signatures that have been collected are now void.

Fankhauser says supporters “not only have plenty of time, but plenty of time” to see another similar version on the ballot again.

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However, Carlyle Currier, a rancher from Molina and president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, says it sends a strong message to supporters of the measure and anyone else interested in a responsible ballot initiative process. “This process has been abused for far too long, and it is another reminder that ambiguous language, bait and switch tactics, and attempts to conceal the actual results of ballot initiatives are bad for our state and will not be not allowed. stand.”

Fankhauser says the coalition is taking inventory of legislative or election initiatives that exist in other states to protect farmers, animals as well as consumers. This could include measures to ensure that any ballot initiative adopted includes a higher threshold of voters or voters in geographically dispersed areas and not just in urban centers.

Boyd S. Abbott