CALHAN — A proposed Colorado ballot initiative has those in the ranching industry sounding the alarm--saying it could threaten their livelihoods, as well as our state’s economy.
If passed, proposed ballot initiative 2021-2022 #16 would re-word Colorado’s revised statutes surrounding animal cruelty--effectively making artificial insemination and other currently accepted animal husbandry practices illegal in Colorado by defining them as cruel acts, equating them to human sexual contact with animals.
“So I kind of explain to people who don’t understand ranching, we are stewards of this ground, that’s our first job,” Calhan cattle rancher Garrett Balsick said. “Our second job is to be caretakers of these animals.”
It’s a job that’s been running in Balsick’s family for quite some time.
“1891 is when my great-great-great grandfather homesteaded,” Balsick said.
And all these years later, his family still raises cattle on that same pasture his ancestors did just north of Calhan.
“Everything here is a generational mindset,” he said. “I work hard so my great-granddaughters can be here too someday.”
But he’s worried some proposed legislation could make his generation the last to work this land.
“We wouldn’t be running cows if this passed,” he said.
He’s talking about proposed ballot initiative, which state legislators filed last month as the ‘Protect Animals From Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation' — or ‘PAUSE’ Act.
“It’s gonna end animal agriculture in this area,” Balsick said.
According to the proposed initiative, acts like artificial insemination and castration would be considered a "sexual act with an animal," meaning they would be as equally punishable as an "act between a person and an animal involving either direct physical contact between the genitals of one and the mouth, anus, or genitals of the other."
It also proposes ranchers would have to wait until an animal has lived 25 percent of its natural lifespan before being butchered. For cows, that’s five years old.
“Basically, to run this operation, you’d be calling all of this criminal,” Balsick said.
Right now, a petition needs to get 125,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on ballots in 2022. The initiative's proponents say the goal is to reduce animal cruelty and ensure all animals are treated fairly, while reducing suffering.
But if you ask Balsick, the initiative is barking up the wrong tree.
“We don’t want these animals to have unnecessary suffering and exploitation as they put in the title,” he said. “That’s not our goal, that’s not what we do.”
It’s why he's setting out on a mission.
“I just want to educate people on how we do business,” Balsick said.
And he has a message for anyone thinking about signing the petition to get it on the ballot.
“Come find a local rancher and talk to them,” Balsick said. “Come get to know us. Ask me to come out here, you’re welcome out here. I will show you around, I will take my time to make sure you understand how we treat these animals.
You can read the full initiative here.