Oregon ballot initiative would criminalize hunting, livestock slaughter, even pest control

The proposal is being pushed by Oregon animal rights activists and opposed by incensed farmers.

Updated: August 5, 2021 - 11:50pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Hunting, breeding livestock, even pest control would be all but illegal under a ballot initiative backed by Oregon animal rights activists and opposed by incensed Oregon farmers.

The proposal, Initiative Petition 13, would lift virtually all exemptions to state laws related to animal abuse, neglect and sexual assault. The vast majority would ban common farming practices from artificial insemination used in targeted breeding and killing live animals for meat. Farm animals could only be raised for rodeos, milk or fur and could be spayed, neutered and castrated.

In addition, IP 13 would further restrict hunting, fishing, trapping and “intentional injury” of an animal that would bring undue suffering. Research labs would be prohibited from experimenting on nonhuman mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. All of the activities listed would carry criminal penalties.

IP 13 was approved by the Oregon Secretary of State for circulation on July 15. Under Oregon’s initiative petition process, IP 13 organizers have until July 2022 to gather the 112,020 signatures needed to get the initiative onto the November 2022 ballot.

David Andrew Michelson, a Portland animal rights activist, is the initiative’s chief petitioner. He and organizers have claimed on IP 13’s website and elsewhere that the state’s $5.7 billion farming industry would adjust to the laws accordingly, without evidence. Crop production, they say, would likely rise to make up for falling meat supplies.

Oregon is a top producer of fruit, nuts, grass and Christmas trees. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, its farms and ranches make up 1% of the state’s population, which export 80% of their crop overseas. Small family businesses make up 96.7% of Oregon’s agricultural sector.

“Because IP13 does not ban any specific industry, and does not dictate how industries or the government respond to the proposed changes in statute, it is ultimately up to them to do what they feel best meets their needs as long as it also protects the animals’ needs to be free from suffering,” the IP 13 site states.

Those claims have Oregon farmers on edge. Mary Anne Cooper, vice president of public policy at the Oregon Farm Bureau, says IP 13’s impact on the agricultural sector would be “staggering.”

“I can think of very few aspects of agriculture that wouldn’t be touched,” Cooper said. “Vole removal, beaver removal, and other activities necessary for supporting farming would be criminalized alongside animal agriculture.”

Oregon has several animal cruelty laws on the books, including minimum care and shelter standards in addition to tethering rules.

Cooper stressed the costs on Oregon farmers would be irreparable. She’s calling on the agriculture community to sound the alarm to stop IP 13 if it does head to the ballot.

“Do you have friends who like to hunt or who have ever had to trap a rat in their house?,” Cooper said. “Make sure they know about this proposal.”