Animal Welfare Bill Reaches the Kentucky State Senate Floor

By: Katie Huddleston, Staff Member

On February 4, 2010, the Agriculture Committee in the Kentucky State Senate passed a bill creating a commission "to set rules for how animals are treated on farms." American Agricultural Law Association, Farm Animal Welfare Bill Passes Kentucky Senate Committee, THE UNITED STATES AGRICULTURAL & FOOD LAW AND POLICY BLOG, February 4, 2010, The measure, sponsored by Committee Chairman David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg, Kentucky, is not the first of its kind, but rather follows an example set by Ohio last fall. Gregory A. Hall, Senate Committee Passes Farm Animal Welfare Bill, THE COURIER JOURNAL, February 4, 2010, available at Ohio State Congress passed a bill creating a "Livestock Care Standards Board" that would set similar rules for the treatment of livestock on farms. The measure was later made law by a statewide ballot initiative. American Agricultural Law Association, supra.

The Kentucky bill creates a "standards board," like that in Ohio, which will be made up of fourteen members, will be chaired by Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, and will include the State Veterinarian Robert Stout, who will be a non-voting member. Hall, supra. The bill, although it prevents local governments from passing "standards that are stricter than those set by the state commission," expressly states that "it does not preclude the authority of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners." Id. According to Senator Givens, the goal of the commission is to ensure that "the conversation" about animal rights on farms "be driven by scientific standards and practical animal care standards and […] not be driven by emotion." Id.

Put more bluntly, proponents of the measure seek to "pre-empt animal-rights groups from changing state livestock laws via ballot initiatives." American Agricultural Law Association, supra. Specifically, Commissioner Farmer cites his desire to "block efforts seen in other states by groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to restrict farming the name of animal welfare." Hall, supra. The Commissioner went on to further demonstrate his wariness of claims of animal abuse on farms, saying that it "simply doesn't make sense that farmers are going to mistreat their animals because that's how they make a living." Id. Taking a more tempered approach, State Veterinarian Stout acknowledges that "some animal abuse complaints are valid," but also cautions that "many are not and the people reporting them are often not […] familiar with agricultural practices." Id.

Having passed the Senate Agriculture Committee, the fate of the Commission is now on the Senate Floor where the measure will either be defeated or passed and sent to the House for its consideration.