Good News Out of Colorado

Good News Out of Colorado

From Dallas Hockman, VP Industry Relations
National Pork Producers Council
Protect The Harvest Advisory Committee Member

The Colorado Supreme Court halted a ballot initiative that would expand animal cruelty protections for livestock, handing a victory to the agricultural organizations that opposed the measure.

The justices issued a rare written opinion on Monday reversing the actions of the Title Board, which is the gatekeeping body that advances proposed ballot initiatives to the signature-gathering stage only if it approves a title describing the initiative to voters.

Initiative #16, also known as Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE), would have placed parameters on the slaughter of livestock and, as the most controversial feature, redefined “sexual act with an animal” to include penetration, however slight, into an animal’s anus or genitals with an object or body part.

“Although the central theme of the initiative is incorporating livestock into the animal cruelty statutes, redefining ‘sexual act with an animal’ strays into a second subject by addressing the bodily integrity of all animals, not just livestock,” wrote Justice William W. Hood lll for the Court. As such, “there is the potential for the very kind of voter surprise against which the single-subject requirement seeks to guard — here, voters might not understand that what is nominally a livestock initiative also affects the care of all animals, or vice versa.”

On March 14, the three-member Title Board awarded a ballot title to Initiative #16, finding that it encompassed a single subject as the constitution requires. Subsequently, a group of a half dozen objectors asked the board to reconsider its decision, arguing the measure contained multiple subjects and used “politically-charged code to get this past a majority of voters.”

Although board members did revise some of the language, they rebuffed the request to reject the measure outright. The objectors then turned to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the single-subject question, the issue for the Court to decide was whether phrases like “animal cruelty” and “sexual act with an animal” in the title were catchphrases meant to improperly appeal to voters’ sympathy.

“These phrases suggest that the primary purpose of this measure is to counter sexual acts between humans and animals,” wrote Mark G. Grueskin, attorney for the objectors, to the Court. “By using this misdirection of voter attention, Initiative 16 was intended to, and the titles do, trigger strong emotional and political responses that are far removed from the Initiative’s other purposes. Indeed, the political debate around Initiative 16 is already being framed around whether or not a person supports sex with animals.”
The groups opposing PAUSE under the name Coloradans for Animal Care, included the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association and the Colorado Pork Producers Council.

Dallas Hockman

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