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Mulhall column: Mosquitos, methane, and moonbeams

Mitch Mulhall

After opposing Proposition 114, the 2020 wolf reintroduction initiative that passed by a whopping 1%, I had reservations about dressing down another budding ballot measure.

Then along came Proposition 16.

Titled “Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation,” a more truthful moniker might read, “Kill Colorado’s Livestock Industry in a Decade or Less.”



Reading the initiative overwhelmed me with so many objections that, like the mosquito in the nudist colony, it was hard to know where to begin.

So, I picked two: First, the initiative redefines common veterinary practices in Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) section 18-9-201(5) as “sexual contact with an animal,” and, second, it “allows” common livestock slaughter methods when an animal has lived one-quarter of its expected lifespan (18-9-202(1.9))—as re-defined in section 18-9-201(3.5).



The initiative redefines sexual contact with an animal in a way that includes rectal palpitation, a technique a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine uses to determine how far a cow is along in pregnancy.

Without going into detail, rectal palpitation enables a veterinarian to determine a calf’s gestational progress by feeling the shape of a cow’s uterus.

Suffice it to say a prurient view of this veterinary practice is not supported by the value most people place on the colonoscopy, the prostate exam, and numerous other human medical procedures.

Livestock reproduction doesn’t just happen. Veterinary evaluation of a cow’s pregnancy provides a rancher with an approximate due date. Cows expected to calve early can be separated from cows expected to calve late. Quite simply, ranchers use this information to responsibly manage the calving season.

Besides, redefining a veterinary technique as sexual contact with an animal doesn’t really fit in this time of rapidly expanding pronouns and biological subjectivity. It does, however, serve the initiative’s purpose by complicating responsible herd management.

This brings me to a second problem with Proposition 16.

Perhaps one of the strongest objections to livestock as food production is slaughter. Yet the initiative not only omits any objection to slaughter practices, it supports them — providing an animal lives one-quarter of its lifespan as defined by the initiative.

This is no incidental concession. The initiative’s quarter-life provision says you can slaughter bovine, porcine and other domestic species if the animal has lived one-quarter of its life. The initiative adds lifespan definitions for some domestic species to the statute. The lifespan of a cow, for example, it defines as 20 years.

Most cattle raised for food production are slaughtered in 12 to 24 months from birth. Requiring a cow to reach at least age five before slaughter doesn’t just muck with the production timeline, it renders ranching unprofitable.

Land only supports so many cows. Ask any rancher. It’s a “sustainability” issue: Too many cows graze pastures down to nothing. A rancher must, therefore, develop a herd no larger than his land will sustain. Given this axiom, the initiative’s quarter-lifespan provision reduces a rancher’s revenue by more than half.

How?

At the risk of oversimplifying, suppose a rancher’s land supports a herd of 100 cows ranging in age between birth and 2 years. If he manages his herd well, he can run his operation on annual sales of about 50 cows.

If the initiative passes, our rancher’s 100-head herd must now consist of cows ranging between birth and 5 years. If our rancher hopes to have an annual operating budget, he must stagger the ages of cattle in his herd. Supposing he does a balanced job of it, our rancher now operates on the sales revenue of only 20 cows.

Were the price of Live Cattle fixed at $2.50 per pound (and it’s not), the quarter-lifespan provision drops our rancher’s annual revenue from about $70K to less than $30K.

So why would you want to threaten veterinarians with sex-crime charges and cut ranchers’ annual revenues by more than half?

It’s not about eliminating bovine flatulence or obviating our Governor’s meat-free holiday. Rather, Proposition 16 is about regulating Colorado’s livestock industry out of existence.

Do not sign a petition for Proposition 16. If it somehow makes the ballot, vote no.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.


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