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Animal cruelty initiative aggravates Colorado ranchers fresh off MeatOut Day controversy

The proposed ballot measure would expand the definition of sex acts with animals and require that hogs, cattle, chickens and other farm animals get to live 25% of their natural lifespan.

Jennifer Brown
Colorado Sun

Coloradans who participated in the great, governor-inspired meat battle of 2021 either tore into a juicy steak Saturday or opted for a vegan burger and a side of veggies.

But last weekend’s fight, prompted by Gov. Jared Polis’ proclamation of MeatOut Day, was nothing compared to a brewing battle over what ranchers are calling the worst assault on the livestock industry in Colorado history.

A proposed 2022 ballot initiative would revamp the code on animal cruelty, defining as “sex acts” many common farm practices for assisting reproduction or checking an animal’s reproductive organs. It would also require that cows, hogs and other livestock get to live at least 25% of their natural lives before heading to the slaughterhouse, which ranchers argue would devastate Colorado’s agriculture economy.



Cattle are typically slaughtered for beef around age 2, but under the proposal, that would change to age 5. By then, the meat is no longer fit for tender steaks, the extra age making cuts tough and unappetizing, say ranchers who fear the proposal will make it to the ballot box.

The title board at the Secretary of State’s Office last week gave the ballot initiative’s organizers the go-ahead to start collecting signatures. As with all other citizen-generated measures — including the wolf reintroduction measure that narrowly passed last year, much to the aggravation of cattle ranchers — this one requires 124,632 signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot.



“This would be the largest policy shift in livestock production in the history of the United States,” said state Rep. Richard Holtorf, a third-generation cattle rancher in Washington County.

The Eastern Plains Republican doesn’t doubt that the animal rights group — called PAUSE for Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation — will get the required signatures. Registered voters, especially those walking the streets in Denver and Boulder, are unlikely to understand the full implications of the proposal, he said. The only question city dwellers will hear, he said, is whether they want to ban sex with animals.

“They will have urbanites who in many cases don’t know where a hamburger comes from, don’t know where a lamb chop or pork roast or even the toppings on their pizza come from, and they will be asked the simple question,” he said. “Who would want sex with animals?”

The proposal removes the livestock exemption in state statute for animal cruelty and expands the definition of a sex act with an animal. The new language says that sex acts with an animal include “any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body into an animal’s anus or genitals.”

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.


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