Monday, July 16, 2012

Animals as Commodities: Kentucky Redefines “Animals,” “Pain,” and “Welfare”

I’m headed for the state capital tomorrow to hear what the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission is recommending for legislation. If you live in Kentucky, I urge you to join me.

Members of the Commission were appointed by the governor and include a pork farmer, a bovine farmer, a judge, a citizen concerned about food safety, an associate dean from UK’s Ag College, a grocer, an autoworker who represents sheep and wool producers, a private investor, several veterinarians, and the pièce de résistance—a farm manager from Cal-Maine Foods, the “largest shell egg producer” in the U.S.

This Commission garnered a little publicity last year when the Humane Society of the U.S. accused it of meeting privately instead of publicly (as it’s supposed to). Since then, the Commission has been known to tweak its recommendations via e-mail rather than in public meetings.

Why so much secrecy? Because a few contentious issues are at stake—such as tail-docking and beak-cutting sans anaesthesia or painkillers and confining animals in crates that are too small for the animals to move in. Apparently, the Commission talked at length during the last meeting about whether to include the words pain and welfare in the standards.

According to Kentucky’s State Veterinarian, Robert Stout, the animals at the center of this hubbub are “commodities,” not “companions,” and he hasn’t seen the science yet that proves commodities feel pain. With “advocates” like Stout, Kentucky animals don’t need any more enemies.

However, I believe the Commission needs a language expert on board to help them suss out obfuscations and stick to clear definitions of terms. I also believe some of the Commission members need to retrieve their consciences and try not to view everything through the lens of profitability (read: greed).

For those of you who live in Kentucky, I want to share a conversation I had recently with a Bluegrass veterinarian. She lamented how many out-of-staters regard Kentuckians as ignorant and backward—even out-of-state vets characterize their Kentucky counterparts this way. I had to bite my tongue. You see, it’s people like Robert Stout who aren’t helping your image. So do Kentucky a favor and prove to the rest of the nation that you’re thoughtful and compassionate. Attend the meeting tomorrow to remind the Commission members that they’re accountable for their decisions. Remind them to see beyond the Almighty Dollar.

The 1:00 meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, July 17, at:
Office of the State Veterinarian
100 Fair Oaks Lane, Suite 252
Frankfort, KY 40601

[Photographer unknown.]

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