It hasn't been our posture to take a position nor to ask our membership or Alert readers to take a position on farm animals or equines but the language of and strategy for a Farm Bureau/Agribusiness bill (introduced simultaneously in both houses (HB1541-Orrock and SB1026-Puckett) with identical language) which would dilute minimum care standards for these animals not only makes our doing so justified and appropriate but an imperative.
We trust you will agree and will speak actively and often against these bills, starting immediately.
The language of these bills replaces the animal care standards presently in the Code at 3.2-6500 and elsewhere with new "standards". These new standards are no more than enough "food to prevent emaciation, water to prevent dehydration and veterinary care to prevent [but not repair] impairment of health or bodily function, but none of these are required if the animal is to be humane destroyed or if an act of God or of a veterinarian or if "animal husbandry" makes any of these requirements unnecessary".
This is the pending "pushback" against animal welfare the Farm Bureau/Agribusiness has promised in news stories.
The bill strategy is to call these "unprecedented care standards" and offer both through seasoned Agriculture Committee members in a short session with many momentous issues and no advance collaboration with the animal welfare community, or any public notice of intent to exempt farm animals from present care standards other than by warning a "pushback" against care standards was coming..
A broad and effective response is critical to each of the Agriculture Committee members below before Wednesday, January 19, 2011, and thereafter until this bill is dramatically changed or defeated. So is a broad and effective response to all your Delegates and Senators whether serving on the Agriculture Committee or not. For any who don't know how to do this, please see below or email us for guidance.
We oppose this bill and ask that you do as well for your own reasons or those which follow:
1) There are presently standards in the Code of Virginia for animals at 3.2-6500 and elsewhere, and penalties for cruelty violations;
2) There is Virginia case law upholding these standards and violations thereof, all decided in local Virginia courts and by the Virginia Supreme Court, among which is Sullivan v. Commonwealth;
3) To demonstrate the need for or merit of new "standards", an Attorney General Opinion could have been sought or issued as to the adequacy of the present (or even the new) standards, or whether there were any enforcement defects in the present standards, but no such Opinion was requested;
4) There is a long history of successful enforcements under the present standards;
5) The widely accepted veterinary standards used in prosecutions of animal cruelty cases are nowhere to be found in these new "standards", and are in fact superceded thereby;
6) The new "standards" are both vague and exculpatory, and as such are putatively unenforceable and unconstitutional on these grounds;
7) It appears that no Commonwealth's Attorney or law enforcement groups (VACA or Sheriffs) were consulted about the enforceability or desirability of these new "standards";
8) The bill was introduced "under the radar", without fanfare (the manner in which the legislation was proposed and absence of full and complete disclosure to animal welfare groups and the general public of its need, purpose and content speaks of its patently self-serving character);
9) The bill mirrors and implements a national Farm Bureau "pushback" strategy;
10) The bill is another step in the promotion of animals as creatures without any feelings, awareness or susceptibility to pain and suffering, is a stark reminder of the treatment of chattels under slavery laws, and likewise unwisely promotes the notion that "animal husbandry" is tantamount to care or compassion.
Read the bills and see the existing Code by Googling.
Legislative Information System, Virginia
Or, if you prefer, you may use either of the following links:
select Bills and Resolutions then enter the bill number (HB1541 or SB1026) to see the bills;
select Code of Virginia and Table of Contents then Title 3.2 then Chapter 65 (6500 et seq) to see the present Code;
select Standing Committees and House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture to list Committeemembers;
select General Assembly Members and Who's My Legislator to find your legislators (Delegate and Senator) if you don't already know;
Email contact is best, but phone contact, fax or letters work fine if that's what you prefer. All this contact information is available on the Standing Committees membership lists by clicking on each member.
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