Editorial: Animal roll call

Posted 8/31/18

The Westport Agricultural Commission devoted over an hour recently to discussing the merits — or lack thereof in their opinions — of an animal site registry before voting unanimously against the …

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Editorial: Animal roll call

Posted

The Westport Agricultural Commission devoted over an hour recently to discussing the merits — or lack thereof in their opinions — of an animal site registry before voting unanimously against the idea.

They could have saved themselves most of that time because minds were made up from the get-go.

“Next step after that they would probably be putting down where your chemicals are stored, your fuel is stored — you never know,” offered the chairman (not a bad idea come to think of it — other businesses must do that).

“This seems to be about animal welfare but it seems to be going further than that,” he added.

“You can have all the regulation you want — it’s not going to be enforced,” another said.

“They are going to cram it down everyone’s throat,” the chairman said later.

This silly ‘animal site registry’, this colossal waste of time of which they spoke? It boils down to a call for every person who keeps farm animals in Westport to list where, what kind and how many.

If indeed it is redundant, a pointless pain, as some on the AgCom said, Westport brought this necessary burden on itself.

Not once but twice the town played host to a 70-acre animal house of horrors. Afterword nobody with authority seemed to have a clue what animals were being kept out there in the woods. No sooner was that probe cleared up than a piggery got in trouble. How many pigs were kept there— 50? 10?; the accounting varied.

Commission members are correct that, unless the town enforces the rules, they are indeed a waste of time.

But for all the barn book checks and licenses, it is repeatedly revealed that Westport has very little idea about where many of its farm animals are kept — and by whom. That was evident during the AgCom meeting when members also discussed so-called “plot farms” (the new term for the sort of tenant “farming” that led to the American Legion Highway mess). Estimates of the number of such places varied — from none any more, to probably a few, to nobody really knows.

If there are problems with the proposal, the Agricultural Commission owes the subject more than a ‘no good — won’t work.’ If the members want to convince anyone that they think animal welfare counts for something, they should offer a serious alternative.

The present system doesn’t work very well and until it does the crises will continue.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.