DENVER — Weld County commissioners made their opposition to Initiative 16 clear this week after passing a resolution against it.
"The number one agriculture-producing county in the state and number eight in the country oppose Initiative 16 and strongly urges citizens to decline signing a petition to include the initiative on a 2022 ballot," a commissioner said while reading part of the resolution at a meeting Wednesday.
The initiative is formally known as PAUSE, or Protect Animals From Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation. The goal, according to the Colorado PAUSE campaign's website, is to make sure farm animals are as equally protected as pets under state law.
But people in the agricultural industry don't see it that way.
"This is a veiled attempt to do away with animal agriculture in the state of Colorado," James Henderson, vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said Friday.
Henderson is a sixth-generation farmer in the San Luis Valley, and he feels this attempt to amend the state's laws would criminalize him and his fellow ranchers.
"I'm not sure about the rest of Colorado, but for me to criminalize farmers and ranchers seems like not part of what we are as a Western state," he said.
One of the biggest issues ranchers have is that the initiative considers artificial insemination as a "sexual act with an animal" because it would amend the state's current definition to include: "Any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body into an animal’s anus or genitals."
"One bull on my ranch can impregnate about 30 to 40 cows a year. With artificial insemination ... we're able to have about 10,000 pregnancies per bull," Henderson said. "It allows us to spread those good genetics that help our sustainability and help the quality of our meat product."
The initiative would also make it illegal to slaughter an animal until it's lived at least a quarter of its life.
"That's not good for consumers because we've worked very hard in the industry to make sure that we're providing a tender and prime product to the grocery stores, to the steak houses, to the restaurants," Henderson said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis says he, like several other counties, opposes the initiative.
“Governor Polis stands in solidarity with Colorado farmers and ranchers in opposition to the PAUSE ballot initiative because it would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs.”
Denver7 attempted to reach the two men behind the initiative, Alexander Sage and Brent Johannes, but our phone calls and messages were not returned. Both are members of a Facebook group called Colorado Animal Rights Activism (CARA).
Henderson is skeptical the initiative will get far.
"At the end of the day, to criminalize farmers and ranchers and veterinarians is not what Colorado needs or what Coloradans want," he said.
Colorado PAUSE has six months to collect the 120,000+ signatures the state requires in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot in 2022.