They are coming for your steak; they are coming for your lamb chop; they are even coming for your lunchtime chicken nuggets.
And along the way to emptying the meat and poultry cases at your local supermarket, they will decimate Colorado’s multibillion-dollar-a-year livestock industry. Which is just what our struggling ag economy needs on the heels of a pandemic.
Well, too bad. The latest wave of animal-rights activists from the political fringe could care less about Colorado family farms and ranches, and they don’t give a fig about your evening meal. They have far more pressing concerns — notably, to ensure pigs, chickens, sheep and beef cattle are too old to eat by the time they can legally be sold to market.
Hence, their pending proposal for the November 2022 general election. Their ballot measure is billed as “PAUSE,” or “Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation.” It was green-lighted by the secretary of state's title board March 17 to begin circulating petitions in hopes of make the statewide ballot. Proponents must come up with 124,632 valid signatures.
As our news affiliate Colorado Politics reported last week, the measure applies to cows, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep and turkeys, putting limitations on when they can be slaughtered for food. If the measure passes by a simple majority of the state’s voters, it will prohibit slaughter until any of the specified kinds of livestock has reached a quarter of its adult life-span.
That means a cow, which commonly lives to 20 years, could not be processed until it reaches five years. To most urban consumers in Colorado’s metropolitan areas, that might draw a shrug; what they don’t realize is cows and steers are processed at 30 to 42 months. It’s what makes them edible as well as delicious.
Sheep can live to 15 years; so they couldn’t be sold for dinner until they are about four years old. The problem with that is they are no longer “lambs,” which are slaughtered at six to eight months. The meat is called lamb for a reason. Sheep are too old and sinewy and few would want to eat them. The ballot proposal effectively could end production of Colorado’s nationally acclaimed lamb, widely regarded as a delicacy.
If chicken’s your meal of choice, it’s the same story. The bird lives an average of seven years. But the kind you buy at your local market was plucked and prepped for your dinner table when it was between 35 and 49 days old.
Of course, rendering these and other kinds of livestock inedible is the whole point of this deceptive proposal. Rather than be up front and call for a ban on meat production — politically a nonstarter — the hyper-vegan authors attempt to tip-toe in through the back door by simply prohibiting livestock’s use for meat when they’re young and cute. And palatable as food.
The whole proposal is an impending train wreck for Colorado’s agricultural sector. As Colorado Politics notes, the state’s livestock sector accounts for more than $5 billion in economic activity, more than $1 billion in exports and 150,000 jobs statewide. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser in a recent tweet:
“CO's farming & livestock businesses are the backbones of CO rural communities. This measure is not based on science and will raise food prices for us all; worse yet, it will cost rural jobs & devastate communities. I will be fighting against it."
There simply is no evidence, or even plausible allegations, of animal cruelty in the livestock industry. And current laws are more than adequate to address any mistreatment of animals in general in our state, whether in agriculture or in your neighbor’s back yard.
It’s especially rare in ag because farmers’ and ranchers’ livelihood hinges on humane care for their livestock. Ethics aside, a steer, a pig, a sheep, a chicken — all represent living, breathing investments. Even the least sentimental farmer cannot afford to squander that.
We long have looked askance at attempts to micromanage the animal world via the ballot box. A case in point was last November’s unfortunate voter approval of the introduction of wolves onto Colorado’s Western Slope. It struck a lot of Front Range metropolitan voters as a lofty idea — no doubt because the wolves wouldn’t be preying on their household pets but rather on the cattle of a rancher 150 miles away.
But if this latest ballot proposal passes, it won’t just be the rancher who goes hungry.