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Mich. House amends farm-animal welfare bill with input from HSUS

By DVM Magazine

Lansing, Mich. -- Michigan veterinarians who worked with farmers, agricultural trade groups and the Michigan humane society to help craft a farm-animal welfare bill were left out of final negotiations when the Humane Society of the United States succeeded in having the Michigan House of Representatives make last-minute changes to the bill.

The revised version doesn’t provide for an advisory board that would have included farmers, agricultural industry representatives, veterinarians and faculty from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to discuss animal-welfare issues.

The new bill restricts housing for veal calves, pigs, and hens by requiring that "any pig during pregnancy, calf raised for veal and egg-laying hen that is kept on a farm” be housed so the animal can lie down, stand up and turn around freely. Exemptions include research, veterinary treatment, transportation, at rodeos and state fairs, during slaughter and, in the case of pregnant sows, housing seven days before expected birth. Michigan farmers would have one year to comply with the veal-calf restrictions and 10 years to comply with the rules for pregnant sows and egg-laying hens.

In a presentation before representatives of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, HSUS spokespersons said they’d struck a deal with the Farm Bureau and agricultural trade groups to rewrite the bill to combat abusive practices at “factory farms.”

Veterinarians at the meeting asked about the high mortality rate involved in free-range life for egg-laying hens and what exactly constituted a factory farm, but didn’t receive satisfactory answers, according to Dr. Steven Steep, chair of the Michigan VMA’s Legislative Advisory Committee, who was in attendance.

“We are in sympathy with the elimination of sow gestation crates and veal crates, but we want to approach all these issues with scientific knowledge, not emotion and knee-jerk reactions,” Steep tells DVM Newsmagazine. He says the Michigan VMA is taking a close look at the newly rewritten bill and is in “re-evaluation” mode.

The bill now goes to Michigan’s Senate for consideration.

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