On June 21, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected Initiative 16 — a proposed 2022 statewide ballot measure backed by extremist animal rights activists and intended to devastate Colorado’s agriculture industry. Initiative 16, also known as Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE act), adds livestock and fish to Colorado’s current animal cruelty law. In addition, it redefines “sexual act with an animal” to include common animal husbandry (the act of breeding and raising livestock) practices and requires that an animal not be slaughtered until it has lived at least a quarter of its lifespan.
The Court rightly rejected the current initiative because it violated the single-subject requirement of the Colorado Constitution. This requirement states that ballot questions can’t cover unrelated topics. The Court ruled that the redefinition of “sexual act with an animal” isn’t related to adding livestock and fish to the animal cruelty law, which is the main subject of the measure.
However, the ruling has only delayed the PAUSE act. Supporters can still file a new set of ballot initiatives that break up the sections to follow the single-subject requirement. It is important to inform voters of the damage the PAUSE act would do if passed, especially with the likelihood that new ballot initiatives will be filed in the future.
On the surface, the PAUSE act seems like a simple initiative against animal cruelty. In truth, PAUSE demonizes common animal husbandry practices and would cripple animal agriculture in the state.
The PAUSE act defines “sexual act with an animal” as “any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body into an animal’s anus or genitals.” This definition makes husbandry and veterinary practices such as artificial insemination and checking the health of an animal’s reproductive organs against the law.
Artificial insemination is an incredibly common practice in animal husbandry which makes breeding animals easier. Additionally, in the case of cattle breeding, artificial insemination is safer for workers than natural breeding. Natural cattle breeding would require herd bulls, which are known for being dangerous to handle.
The PAUSE act would also delay the slaughter of livestock until the animal has lived at least 25% of its lifespan. To put this into perspective, the average lifespan for a cow is 20 years, meaning a cow couldn’t be slaughtered until it’s at least 5-years old. Currently, most beef cows are slaughtered before they reach 3-years old. By postponing a cow’s death, the meat produced wouldn’t be as good a quality and meat prices would be significantly higher to accommodate the increased cost to raise the cow. A single cow costs around $2,260 per 24 months to raise. The cost to raise a cow under the PAUSE act would be over double this amount, and the price of meat would likely act similarly.
This increase in cost, paired with the inability to artificially inseminate their animals, would devastate livestock farmers in Colorado. This in turn would hurt Colorado’s economy as a whole. In 2019, Colorado agriculture generated $47 billion in economic activity and supplied over 195,000 jobs in the state. Additionally, livestock meat accounts for 13.7% of Colorado’s exports as of 2020.
We need to be sure the PAUSE act never comes to fruition.
In order to do so, there are a few things that can be done, the first of which is to stay prepared to fight back. Opposition has already been formed within an issues committee called Coloradans for Animal Care. The committee has gained the support of many major agriculture organizations, including the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Livestock Association, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and the Livestock Marketing Association. Coloradans for Animal Care was formed specifically to fight against Initiative 16, educate voters about the initiative, and accept donations to fight against the PAUSE act.
Another option for those seeking to protect agriculture is to be prepared to put a competing measure on the ballot protecting current husbandry practices, or something similar that makes it clear that one measure supports Colorado agriculture while the other seeks to tear it part.
Of course state lawmakers could throw their support around agriculture and proactively refer a constitutional measure to voters protecting the common practices the PAUSE act’s radical proponents seek to ban and criminalize. This wouldn’t require citizens to raise funds or circulate petitions to get a measure on the ballot, it would simply require a majority of legislators to take the side of the folks who feed Colorado over the interests of extremists who want to put them out of business.
Whatever the case, Coloradans need to be prepared to act should the PAUSE act be brought back. Doing so can help save agriculture in Colorado.
Riley Froelich is a participant in the Future Leaders program at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver. She will graduate from The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) in December with a major in technical communication and information design.
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