Denver, CO

Initiative would shield farm animals from sex abuse, early slaughter

David Heitz

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A question on the November ballot would outlaw sexual abuse of barnyard animals in Colorado and even prevent their early slaughter.

Livestock groups are opposed to the initiative, which would make abuse of farm animals a misdemeanor. Some things that might be construed as abuse are acceptable animal husbandry practices. The way the law is written, accepted animal husbandry practices, for example branding, are exempt from the state’s existing animal cruelty laws.

The ballot measure defines animal as any living non-human creature, including, but not limited to, a cat, a dog, a horse, livestock, a certified police dog and horse, or service animal. Livestock is defined as bovine, camelids, caprine, equine, ovine, porcine, fish and poultry.

The section on animal sexual abuse in the initiative is graphic and in-depth. “’Sexual act with an animal’ means an act between a person and an animal involving either direct physical contact between the genitals of one and the mouth, anus, or genitals of the other,” the initiative reads.

“Sexual act with an animal also includes any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body…. A sexual act with an animal may be proven without allegation or proof of penetration.”

Animals needing medical treatment must get it

Opponents of the initiative said the measure would prohibit giving the animal medical treatment the way it is written. So, the initiative’s authors added, “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit any person from dispensing care to an animal in the interest of improving that animal’s health.”

Other forms of abuse also would be outlawed. “A person commits cruelty to animals if he or she knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence overdrives, overloads, overworks, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, allows to be housed in a manner that results in chronic or repeated serious physical harm, carries or confines in or upon any vehicles in a cruel or reckless manner, engages in a sexual act with an animal, or otherwise mistreats or neglects any animal, or causes or procures it to be done, or, having the charge or custody of any animal, fails to provide it with proper food, drink, or protection from the weather consistent with the species, breed, and type of animal involved, or abandons an animal,” the initiative states.

Livestock wouldn’t be slaughtered at young age

The initiative prohibits a farmer from slaughtering livestock before it lives a quarter of its lifespan. The initiative spells out lifespans as 20 years for cows, eight years for chickens, 10 years for turkeys, six years for ducks, 15 years for pigs, 15 years for sheep, and six years from rabbits.

Opponents of the initiative say the section on early slaughter is unreasonable. Farmers regularly slaughter livestock at points earlier than a quarter way through the animal’s lifespan.

The Colorado Cattleman’s Association states the initiative is an attack on their livelihood. “Colorado Cattlemen's Association, along with partners Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Pork Producers Council formed a coalition group to fight this harmful initiative,” the organization explains on its website. “Coloradans for Animal Care was formed by the state's lead agricultural organizations to protect our shared heritage and history, our dynamic agricultural economy and our way of life. “

Specifics about Coloradans for Animal Care are scarce. Links from the Cattleman’s page to its website are broken.

Initiative defines common practices as “cruelty”

According to a technical brief filed with the initiative, it “opens the door to allegations that even the most common practices constitute animal cruelty. For example, if a court concluded that branding, docking, or castrating causes unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering (which is the definition of mistreatment), the rancher could be convicted—perhaps once for each animal.

“Even someone who does not cause but simply “permits” such pain could be convicted.”

The initiative “creates special penalties for engaging in cruelty to animals, which can include a mental evaluation, anger management treatment, and—for repeat offenders—a heightened minimum fine and prohibition on owning pets in the future,” according to the brief.

The economic impact of the initiative, if passed, likely would be significant. “By significantly extending the period of time that livestock must be raised and cared for prior to slaughter, the initiative will increase costs for meat producers and increase the price of meat products paid by consumers,” according to the fiscal summary filed with the initiative. “Longer periods of livestock care will also increase demand and prices for other commodities such as grain and feed. Higher prices for meat producers and consumers will decrease the amount of money that they have to spend or save elsewhere in the economy.”

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

Denver, CO
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