Editorial: Arizona voters OK ban on hog, veal crates

ARIZONA - Lost in the avalanche of election results on Nov. 7 was a ballot proposition in Arizona that should cause concern among livestock producers across the country.
calendar icon 15 November 2006
clock icon 4 minute read

Proposition 204 asked voters to decide if pregnant pigs and calves raised for veal be kept in enclosures large enough so that the animals could turn around easily and fully extend their limbs. Arizona voters, by a 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent margin, approved the proposition. The ban won't go into effect until Dec. 31, 2012, but it has upset livestock producers.

Arizona becomes the second state to in essence ban gestation crates and veal crates. Florida was the first, when in 2002 voters approved a similar measure. At that time animal-rights activists said they would take their ballot-box proposal to other states. They have proven true to their word.

Arizona and Florida are not major livestock-producing states, but reality suggests that the activists -- flushed with success -- will now carry their initiative to other states. There has also been growing talk that the activists will try to get the 2007 farm bill to include the ban. While that effort isn't considered likely to succeed, the ballot-initiative may be coming to more states near us.

It would seem that California, New Mexico and other states will be prime targets.

The ballot initiative drew committed support from the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary. It was opposed by an umbrella organization called the Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers. The National Pork Producers Council threw its support behind the organization.

The fight over the amendment turned nasty. The Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers claims that its leaders received death threats and that the office of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association were vandalized. The Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary didn't respond to those accusations. The FBI has been called in to investigate.

Regardless, enough voters in Arizona and earlier in Florida were convinced that farmers were somehow abusing their animals.

Such a notion will be harder to sell in Iowa and Minnesota, but it's likely that it will be tried some time down the road. Farmers are their own best defenders, educating the public about the ethical animal husbandry practices used on our livestock farms.

Farm-group sponsored visits by school children and other educational efforts go a long way in this area.

The good news is that more consumers want to feel they have a connection to the farms where their meat and milk comes from. The bad news is that some radical groups have a mission to stop any and all livestock production in the United States. Too often, violence is to easily used as a weapon.

Mink producers and laboratories that use animals for research can attest to that.

Education can prevent what happened in Florida and Arizona. If the livestock industry turns complacent, ballot measures that will have a significant impact on livestock husbandry practices will show up in future elections.

Source: AgriNews

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