And so it begins………..the attack on our #1 industry of agriculture by animal welfare activists.
HB 189 was proposed quickly and quietly and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. It’s an act to amend Title 11 of the Delaware Code relating to dairy cattle tail docking. A quick synopsis of the bill establishes Dairy Cattle Tail Docking as a Class A misdemeanor.
What the heck is a Class A misdemeanor? According to NOLO, a class A misdemeanor in Delaware is the most serious type of misdemeanor in Delaware, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,300. Seems extreme and many public comments balked at the punishment. This would probably put farmers in the same category as the thief’s who steal the copper from their irrigation systems.
The bill was in the House Judiciary committee today. I attended and listened. Here’s my notes:
Representatives in attendance:
- Rep. Mitchell, Chair, (D)
- Rep. Potter (D)
- Rep. Wilson (R), publicly opposed the bill, especially with steep punishment and questioned why we were focusing on this with only 6 session day left. He also asked who will police it and what if a farmer buys a cow from another state with the tail already docked? Thank you, Rep. Wilson!
- Rep. Outten (R)
- Rep. Spiegelman (R)
- Rep. Paradee (D)
- Rep. Bennett (D), primary sponsor of the bill, introduced the bill and stated that cow’s need their tails to swat insects/flies and to communicate with it’s herd.
- for a full list of committee members, click here.
Public Attendance & Comment:
- DE Votes for Animals (in support)
- A private citizen and advocate for animal welfare (in support)
- Kitty Holtz, DFB President
- Pam Bakerian, DFB Executive Director, opposed this bill on behalf of the DE Farm Bureau and all dairy farmers. She felt the bill was proposed very quickly and left little time for the agricultural advocates to prepare. She asked for more than a 24 hour notice and allow dairy farmers to speak for themselves. She requested the bill be tabled.
- Ed Kee, DE Secretary of Ag, respectfully opposed this bill on behalf of his agency including state veterinarians. He requested the chance to sit down and talk to all parties involved here and to look at the numbers (number of dairy farms in the state and how many actually perform this practice). He said the number is low. He also felt the punishment was severe.
- Kim Gomes, Lobbyist, commented that she represents HSUS and brought the issue to Rep. Bennett. Seeing the discussion taking place today, she asked the sponsor to table the bill and welcomed the invitation to continue the conversation.
My thoughts? Even though my family does not perform tail docking on their dairy cattle, we oppose this bill. This is not the last you will see of this bill or many like it because animal welfare does not just pertain to small pet animals anymore. By attaching the punishable crime, it required this bill to go through the Judiciary Committee instead of the Agriculture Committee. Perhaps they hoped agricultural advocates wouldn’t catch wind? Highly unlikely with a farmer like Rep. Dave Wilson on the Judiciary Committee and an active Farm Bureau who showed up in committee to oppose. I also question the legwork done to propose this bill with only 6 working session days left, a ton of bills sitting on the ready list, and so many other issues important to Delawareans such as budget, tax, and transportation funding woes. I am 99.9% sure the Department of Ag would’ve been willing to sit down and talk to them about specifics on this issue BEFORE proposing a bill. If they wanted to get the ag industry’s attention or see how well Delaware agvocates are paying attention, I would say mission accomplished. I am worried, especially for the poultry industry as this bill could easily bring attention to the welfare of other large farm animals.
The bill was tabled, for now……..all representatives in attendance voted in favor of tabling it. The primary sponsor is not a member of the committee.
We need Delaware farmers and agvocates who are willing to drop everything and come to Legislative Hall to testify against these type of bills. If that’s not possible, even a phone call to your local legislator helps! Leave a message with the aide because they keep track for the elected official.