Cattle thieves strike Nevada ranchers

A lone cow stands in a Nevada pasture. Large pastures and wide-open country can make it hard to keep track of where your cattle are and makes it easier for thieves to make off with them unnoticed. Several hundred head of cattle are estimated to have been stolen in and around the town of Paradise Valley, NV, where Fred Stewart, of Stewart’s 96 Ranch, had 50 pairs stolen. 

Petitioners in Oregon have released a proposed ballot measure for the 2022 election that would redefine animal cruelty and sexual assault in Chapter 167 of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS). The initiative would remove exemptions for farm animals and effectively criminalize basic animal husbandry practices and slaughter.

Initiative Petition 13, also known as the Abuse, Neglect and Assault Exemption Modification and Improvement Act, was introduced last November. The initiative is sponsored by End Animal Cruelty, a Section 527 political nonprofit petition committee based out of Portland, OR.

The legislation is similar to a proposed Colorado ballot measure, Initiative 16—also referred to as Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE)—which has made recent headlines in the industry for its extreme proposals regarding animal agriculture.

Initiative details

Oregon’s Initiative Petition 13 states that its purpose is to “remove the current exemptions that allow for the inhumane and unnecessary abuse, neglect, and assault of animals.”

End Animal Cruelty’s campaign website for the initiative reads that “not everyone is held to the same standard when it comes to animal cruelty, and some people are exempt from these laws” and the proposal “makes it so that we are all held to the same ethical standard.”

The measure would alter Section 6 of ORS 167.333, sexual assault of an animal, by expanding the definition of sexual assault. The law currently reads sexual assault includes touching or contacting, or causing an object or another person to touch or contact, the mouth, anus or sex organs of an animal or animal carcass for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of a person. The initiative would amend the law to also include the purpose of breeding domestic, livestock and equine animals as sexual assault.

The petition reads that the revised section would not include animals “subject to good veterinary practices as described in ORS 686.030.” The law constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine to include activities such as diagnosing or treating an animal medical problem; prescribing or administering a drug or medicine; or performing an embryo transfer or pregnancy, sterility or fertility evaluation.

The initiative would also amend Section 7 of ORS 167.335, which defines exemptions of animal abuse or sexual assault. There are currently 11 exemptions under the law, and the petition would remove all but two.

Current exemptions include: livestock transportation; rodeo animals; commercially grown poultry; animals subject to good animal husbandry practices; the killing of livestock; animals subject to good veterinary practices; lawful fishing, hunting and trapping; wildlife management practices; research or teaching that involves the use of animals; control of pests or vermin; and reasonable handling and training techniques.

The petition would remove all of the current exemptions and instate only two exemptions: situations of self-defense when it is necessary to defend against an apparent threat of immediate violence; and animals subject to good veterinary practices as described in ORS 686.030.

Impacts of the measure

If the proposal makes it on the Oregon 2022 ballot, it could have detrimental impacts for animal agriculture. The amendments to the statute would essentially criminalize animal agriculture, hunting, fishing and wildlife management by disallowing common practices.

The petition is organized by David Michelson, who is also an organizer at Anonymous for the Voiceless, an animal rights organization of “street activists.” Michelson recently appeared on Portland radio station KBOO, which is a listener-sponsored station. In his interview with Noah Bristol, Michelson said Oregon would essentially be a “sanctuary state for animals” if the measure passes.

“Any animal in the state of Oregon would have their rights more or less codified in law that they deserve a life free of abuse, neglect or sexual assault,” he said.

The campaign will have until next summer to collect the necessary 112,000 signatures.

Tom Sharp, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) president, told WLJ the association strongly opposes the initiative petition.

“We don’t have any pieces of legislation that are as crazy, as extreme, as destructive as what is proposed by this initiative petition,” Sharp said. “There's no agricultural group, no livestock group that I'm aware of, that even remotely supports the concept that's being proposed by IP 13.”

Sharp said there are already existing laws in the state that protect animals from abuse or cruelty, and going through the initiative process is the only way this kind of proposal would come up, because the state Legislature would “never introduce a crazy bill like this.”

Sharp said if the measure does make it on the state’s 2022 ballot, OCA along with other livestock and industry groups in the state will rally together to fight it. He also noted a proposal like this could impact public lands issues, such as the management of wild horses and burros.

Protect the Harvest, a nonprofit agriculture advocacy organization, asserts social media will play a big role in the measure.

Protect the Harvest, a nonprofit agriculture advocacy organization, asserts social media will play a big role in the measure.

“Since social media plays such a big role these days in how animal extremist groups are influencing people, especially young people with their ideology and agenda, it is more important than ever to become proficient with the different platforms so that these groups are not able to control the narrative,” the group said.

Protect the Harvest has created a template to help those with social media outreach and advocacy. The template can be found at protecttheharvest.org under the Get Involved and Educational Resources tabs.

“All of us must get engaged as these groups are becoming more emboldened. These activists have told us firsthand that they will not stop pushing their ideology and we must push back to protect our way of life,” the group said. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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