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Published: Wednesday, 10/28/2009

NO on Issue 2

IT'S NOT often in recent years that we've been able to look to our northern neighbor for an example of good governance, but Ohio lawmakers would have been wise to follow Michigan's example in how to regulate the treatment of farm animals.

Faced with the prospect of an ultra-restrictive ballot initiative, Michigan's Legislature instead hammered out a compromise between the Humane Society of the United States and agribusiness interests requiring that caged farm animals such as pregnant sows, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens be given enough room to stand up, lay down, or turn around in their pens and cages.

Confronted with the same pressure in Ohio - and aware that California voters last year overwhelmingly voted to protect farm animals from what animal-rights advocates claim is abuse - the Ohio agribusinesses community panicked.

Knowing that a ballot measure regulating living conditions of animals on Ohio farms would win broad support, if for no other reason than the emotion attached to it, Ohio Farm Bureau lobbyists convinced the General Assembly to rush to the Nov. 3 ballot with state Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that would create an industry-dominated council supposedly to regulate the treatment of farm animals, undoubtedly by maintaining the status quo.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the treatment of farm animals, Issue 2 is poor public policy, and it should be defeated.

The Ohio Constitution should never be used to promote the interests of specific individuals, businesses, or industries. The reasonable approach to balancing the needs of Ohio's farming industry and the concerns of animal-rights groups would have been to follow Michigan's example and work out a compromise in state law that would protect both farmers and farm animals.

Michigan's bill, which Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed recently, is not perfect. It won't improve conditions for pregnant sows and egg-laying hens for 10 years. That, however, is the nature of compromise.

Voting No on Issue 2 will send a message that Ohio voters will not stand for their constitution being cluttered with issues that should be dealt with by the General Assembly.

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