BEFORE Ohio voters cast their ballots for or against State Issue 2 on Nov. 3, they might find it useful to consider the views of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, representing more than 2,400 veterinarians.
Issue 2 would create an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which would be charged with "prescribing standards for animal care and well-being that endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food, and protect Ohio farms and families."
The board would have 13 members, including three family farmers, two veterinarians, a food safety expert, a representative of a local humane society, two members from statewide farm organizations, the dean of an Ohio agriculture college, and two members representing Ohio consumers. The director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture would serve as chairman.
The OVMA believes that a diverse and well-balanced mix of views and technical expertise is essential to addressing complex animal-care issues, and that the creation of a board for animal care could serve as an effective catalyst for holding productive discussions on critical issues such as best practices for animal husbandry, welfare, disease prevention, food safety, consumer food costs, bio-security, and animal morbidity and mortality data.
Also important is veterinary involvement in creating standards for care and well-being for livestock and poultry. Veterinarians are trusted by society and Ohio law to responsibly advance animal care. Two veterinarians on the board would bring scientific knowledge, and a focus on balancing food safety, animal well-being, and production efficiency objectives.
Issue 2 merits Ohioans' support because the proposed board would bring together a diverse mix of stakeholder viewpoints. This combination should serve to generate important dialogue on the care of livestock and poultry as well as food safety and consumer confidence. Issue 2 also provides for flexibility in those discussions as new studies, approaches, and data evolve.
These important objectives are interrelated. Proper veterinary care not only protects animals from disease but helps ensure the safety of our food supply. Healthy animals produce and become healthy food that is safe to eat.
Among the OVMA "Principles of Animal Care and Use" are statements that "human beings have an obligation and responsibility to treat animals humanely," that "animals' interests should be given thoughtful consideration by individuals and society when determining acceptable care and use," and that doing so "requires the balancing of scientific knowledge and ethical, philosophical and moral values."
The association believes the board that would be established if Issue 2 is approved holds great promise for advancing these principles. In this regard, and with significant engagement of the veterinary community during the rules-making process, Issue 2 could be a positive step toward addressing complex animal-care issues that merit productive debate.
The OVMA encourages Ohio voters to vote yes on Issue 2 on Nov. 3.
John Weale, president of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, is a practicing veterinarian in Westerville.