The Humane Society of the United States filed a formal complaint Wednesday with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture alleging that the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission has violated the state's Open Meetings Act.
The Humane Society contends that the commission failed to hold public meetings and that its species advisory groups "improperly conducted the majority of the drafting outside of the public's eye for over a year."
The commission is working on a draft of potential rules for how farm animals should be treated.
The complaint also alleges the commission failed to prepare required records, publish meeting schedules, and provide proper notices and agendas.
"Developing policies through open and public meetings is a fundamental part of our democratic process that ensures integrity and transparency," said Pam Rogers, Kentucky state director for the Humane Society. "Instead of following the law, the commission has been meeting in secret with what looks like the intent to rubber-stamp some of the worst forms of animal cruelty opposed by both veterinarians and the public."
Bill Clary, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, said in a statement that the department had not received anything from the Humane Society but that it "believes that the commission has complied with the Open Meetings Act."
The Humane Society news release "mischaracterizes the work done on this matter so far," Clary said. "The commission asked each of its working subcommittees to compile research and recommendations from industry. The commission will hear from those committees at its meeting" Thursday. "Further, the public will have plenty of opportunity to examine and comment on each recommendation ..."
In September, the Humane Society and a veterinary group wrote to the commission objecting to preliminary plans to allow docking of dairy cows' tails without anesthesia and the use of veal crates.
The Humane Society said in its news release that concealing the planning process from the public "was the apparent intent of the commission's presiding officer, Richie Farmer, evidenced by his statement at the opening meeting of the commission: 'In Kentucky, we're blessed with the structure of our government that does not allow for the voter referendum and voter influence on a public that really has no idea about what we're trying to do. And I think that certainly allows us to take our time and do it right and not have to worry with someone looking over our shoulder or telling us what we should or should not do.' "
The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission meets 1 p.m. Thursday at the office of the state commissioner of agriculture, 111 Corporate Drive, Frankfort.