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Our View: PAUSEd

Colorado Supreme Court puts the kibosh on animal cruelty act

Sometimes, common sense prevails. Thank goodness.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday rejected Ballot Initiative 16, saying it violates the Colorado constitution’s single-subject requirement.

You’ll recall that Initiative 16, with the acronym PAUSE (Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation), was touted to amplify the state’s already-adequate animal cruelty law. Instead, it threatened ranchers’ livelihoods by outlawing acceptable animal husbandry and ordinary veterinary practices as “sexual abuse.”

The Journal spoke out against this nonsensical effort in an editorial published April 27 (“Our View: Decline to sign animal cruelty ballot initiative”).

However well-meaning these people who came up with the initiative may be, they are either wildly misinformed about how ranching works or have a goal of making it impossible for ranchers to make a living and for the rest of us to grill a steak (or order one up in our favorite restaurant) every so often.

The initiative included a provision that animals raised as livestock could not be slaughtered until they had lived “a quarter of their natural lifespan,” and went on to detail how many years the authors believed that lifespan is for beef, sheep, hogs, chickens, etc. Beef cattle, for example, are generally slaughtered at 18 to 24 months. The proposal suggested that cattle live to 20 years and thus would be required to live for five years before slaughter. Trust us: Nobody wants to eat five-year-old steaks.

We get it that people are concerned about the ethical treatment of animals. So are we. But we believe most ranchers already treat their animals ethically because (a) they care about the animals and (2) it makes economic sense to do so.

We have to wonder if these people are trying to put ranchers out of business altogether, as some ranchers believe. Well, maybe. But if the more reasonable goal is to get people to stop eating meat, they need to go about that premise ethically. That is, they should use their dollars to persuade people to stop eating meat, rather than trying to force us. Most folks – and especially most Westerners – don’t want anybody telling us what to do.

We know a lot of vegetarians and vegans who feel strongly about not eating meat, for a wide variety of reasons. Most of them have the common sense not to try to stop the rest of us from doing so. Sure, they’ll pontificate on their decisions if asked, but they usually don’t give us a hard time about our decision to eat meat; they know that’s a foolhardy approach that lacks common sense. One friend of ours gave up eating meat but is just fine if we cook our steaks next to her portobello mushrooms on the grill. We can tolerate one another’s tastes, in other words, and focus on what we share in common. (There’s that word again.)

The court essentially sent the initiative back to its authors, who could choose to redraft a simpler, single-subject initiative, and start over with the process. But we hope they won’t. Times are hard enough for ranchers, as drought is forcing them to send cattle to slaughter early and cutting their income. Remember, agriculture, especially ranching, is central to Colorado’s economy.

Interestingly, Aristotle believed that all animals – including humans – share a kind of common sense. Wikipedia defines it as “sound, practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared.” Anybody who’s watched the cows come home at dinnertime can’t argue with that definition.

We’re all for pushing the pause button on Initiative 16 and any potential progeny. Let’s act a little less like stubborn, cantankerous humans and a little more like – well, maybe like cows. Like we’re all part of the same herd.

It’s just common sense.