Interview with Paul Shapiro (07/16/09)
Paul Shapiro is the senior director of The Humane Society of the United States' factory farming campaign. He is also the spokesman for an upcoming initiative in Ohio, The Ohio Livestock Care Initiative. This interview was conducted by John Wynne Jr. on July 16th, 2009.
1. What exactly is it that the Ohio farmers are doing to their animals that The HSUS is opposed to? Are these things also done in other states?
It’s not an issue of people purposefully trying to be cruel to animals, but rather the specific issue being discussed is about particularly bad practices that have become the standard in certain segments of animal agribusiness. In Ohio and across the country, factory farms confine millions of egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding pigs in tiny cages so restrictive, they often can’t even turn around or extend their limbs. There’s an abundance of science that demonstrates that this extreme confinement is detrimental to the animals’ welfare and should be phased out.
2. The creation of the “Livestock Care Standards Board” could be implemented by Ohio voters on the November 3rd, 2009 ballot. Does The HSUS consider this to be sufficient for livestock care?
Unfortunately not. The Ohio Farm Bureau and its allies in the state legislature have for years opposed any form of regulation relating to farm animal welfare. Once discussion began about actual meaningful reform of certain practices in the state, the agribusiness lobby quickly gained religion on the issue and within a matter of days passed through the legislature a referendum aimed at enshrining in the state’s constitution the Farm Bureau’s favored system of “oversight.” We don’t oppose the concept of a council to look at farm animal welfare, but the way this council was created and the industry-dominated composition of the council is what’s particularly troubling. In fact, the measure is opposed by many of Ohio’s largest newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, and Dayton Daily News.
- a. If not, what action will The HSUS take? When will HSUS take action?
Because of this provocative action aimed at ensuring that the status quo is preserved, The HSUS is actively considering a statewide ballot initiative campaign to ensure that animals on Ohio factory farms are given enough room to turn around and extend their limbs.
- b. If a petition drive is initiated, what do you think that the outcome will be?
A recent survey of likely voters shows that there is strong support among virtually all demographics of Ohio voters for an initiative to ensure animals on factory farms can stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs. Most Ohioans are opposed to cramming animals into cages where they can barely move for their entire lives.
- c. What other initiatives has The HSUS done in the US?
We’ve won more than two dozen statewide initiative campaigns regarding a multitude of animal protection issues, with a total 72% win rate.
- d. What states? Did they succeed?
Similar HSUS-backed measures against extreme confinement of farm animals have passed in landslides in Florida in 2002 (55%-45%), Arizona in 2006 (62%-38%), and California in 2008 (63.5%-36.5%). California's Proposition 2, for example, passed by an overwhelming vote of nearly two to one, with more Californians voting for it than any other citizen initiative in state history.
- e. What other initiatives (other than Ohio) are possibly upcoming for The HSUS?
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- Paul Shapiro on Wikipedia
- The Humane Society of the US Official Website
- The Humane Society of the US on Wikipedia