Bill allowing California kids to pull animals from fair auctions (and slaughter) faces opposition

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What are we trying to teach the young-uns?
Is it more important to keep one’s word, despite changes of heart? Or is it more important to allow compassion to sway us?
That may be the essence of the battle over Assembly Bill 3053, which would change county fair rules to allow kids to enter animals in competitions without necessarily sentencing the beasts to death (and their parents to drawn-out legal battles) if the kids change their minds.
Inspired by the sad saga of Cedar, the goat slaughtered over a child’s vehement objections after the Shasta District Fair sale in 2022, this bill faces strong opposition from the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association and the California Fairs Alliance and Western Fairs Association.
The bill is sponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation, an animal rights nonprofit based in Laguna Beach, and was introduced Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. There’s much consternation in advance of a hearing slated for Wednesday in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture in Sacramento.
AB 3053 would alter the terms of “terminal sale” competitions at county fairs (which are exactly what they sound like). Junior exhibit entries could be withdrawn, and winning bidders could choose to pick up live animals rather than slabs of meat.
This reflects changing attitudes about school farm programs — and that seems to be the crux of the opposition.
But you promised
The California Agricultural Teachers’ Association and the California Fairs Alliance and Western Fairs Association submitted similar opposition letters to AB 3053, urging the committee to reject it.
Kids and their parents agree to rules prohibiting the withdrawal of animals from the terminal sale process when they enter these competitions, they argue. Kids “are taught the purpose and process of raising, exhibiting, marketing, selling, and final destination of the livestock they raise. Exhibitors who do not want to participate in the market animal project can still participate in raising andshowing animals through a breeding project,” they said.
They also fear the bill would expose the state to new liabilities.
“Hypothetically, if exhibitors pulled an animal after a sale, they would no longer have ownership rights to the animal, meaning that the fairground would take ownership of that animal until the purchaser assumes that ownership,” the letters say. “Should the provisions of AB 3053 go into effect, a fairground would have to unlawfully detain an animal and restrict access to them by the rightful purchaser or return the animal to a person with no ownership claim. This action would place the fairground in a no-win situation for which they would be liable for impacts and could be subject to litigation from all parties involved.”
The fair associations also object to allowing a bidder to choose a live animal pickup rather than a meat pickup. “Upon signing the terms and conditions of sale in the State Rules, a bidder consents to a fairground holding that livestock until pick up for processing occurs. AB 3035 would conflict with those conditions,” it argued.
They also worry about public health and safety, they said.
Are we here to learn?
As folks held Zoom meetings and ran back and forth between legislative offices over the last few days, one sentiment surfaced with mathematical consistency:
If one kid is allowed to change his mind and pull out, aren’t all the other kids going to want to do that as well? Isn’t that going to set a bad example? Isn’t that going to open the flood gates?
Judie Mancuso, CEO and president of the bill’s sponsor, Social Compassion in Legislation, doesn’t think so.
“It just allows people to walk away in these rare instances when they want to, without having to go to court and all the brouhaha,” she said. “And if it’s really the case that all the kids do want to pull out, then maybe we should allow for non-terminal sales.”
Yes, kids go into agricultural programs understanding, intellectually, that it’s about food and commerce. But their hearts often teach them other lessons.
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Another Fullerton Union High School student did the same in 2019, sending Bruce, Pam, and Kevin (goats) and Shawn and Phry (sheep) to the Farm Sanctuary in Acton rather than to the fair’s livestock auction.
When Cedar the goat’s family tried to do the same — even after the buyer agreed to forego the sale — deputies tracked Cedar down and he was slaughtered. The family faced theft charges in federal court.
“This is supposed to be educational,” Mancuso said of the farm programs. “Some will go through it and be fine and some will want to bail out. What’s wrong with that? That’s part of getting an education.”
Some may learn that they’re cattle farmers, and some may learn that they’re animal rights activists. “Isn’t that OK?” Mancuso asked.
Trying to squelch that chance for growth, for change, is when when education stops and indoctrination starts, she said.

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