Despite a consumer group’s warning to voters not to fall prey to the “big money” politics of national animal-rights groups whom it claims are using the state as a guinea pig in their war against the $38 billion-a-year pork industry, Floridians have resoundingly approved a ballot initiative to extend constitutional protection to pregnant pigs.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Amendment 10 to the Florida Constitution limits the “cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy.” The referendum specifically outlaws caging pigs in gestation stalls which are metal enclosures that measure two feet across and prevent sows from turning around freely.
The stalls cause the sows to suffer from crippling foot and joint disorders, and to experience chronic stress, depression and other psychological disorders throughout their four-month pregnancy, according to advocates.
Pigs featured in gestation stalls
To the dismay of the Center for Consumer Freedom, the measure won 55 percent to 45 percent, according to the Florida Department of State.
Floridians for Humane Farms, a coalition of animal-protection
groups, conservation organizations and concerned citizens sponsored the initiative.
According to election records, the coalition’s political action committee, or PAC, raised just under $1.4 million dollars to mount its campaign. The lion’s share of funds came from national organizations
that are coordinating its campaign, such as the New York-based Farm Sanctuary, which donated $355,880; New York-based Fund for Animals, which contributed $290,671 and the Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS, which doled out $308,335 as of yesterday. Combined, these three organizations account for 70 percent of the PAC’s total contributions.
A press release sent out today by the heads of the HSUS, The Fund for Animals and Farm Sanctuary boasts victory in “5 of 6 key statewide ballot contests.”
“Voters again have demonstrated they care about the protection of animals, whether the abuse involves intensive confinement on factory farms or staged animal fights,” stated Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of HSUS.
Oklahoma voters made their state the 48th to ban cockfighting.
“We strongly believe that cruelty to animals is morally wrong – whether you’re talking about pets or farm animals – and gestation crates are one of the cruelest practices found on factory farms,” Rebecca Fry, spokeswoman for Floridians for Humane Farms told WorldNetDaily.
David Martosko, director of research for the Center for Consumer Freedom claims the real agenda of these groups is “total animal liberation,” in the words of activists.
“‘Total animal liberation’ means no beef, no pork, no leather, no fur … ” Martosko told WND. If you drive up the production cost for hog farmers, he argues, they’re forced to pass the added expense to consumers, who will be inclined to consume less pork until production is ultimately driven out of the
country. Martosko pointed out that the cost of pork in Sweden where gestation stalls are not used runs
$11 a pound.
“They are a political machine giving off the illusion of kindly grandmas and bunny huggers,” Martosko said. “But animal rights is big business run by people with big agendas and with big wallets.”
The largest contributor, Farm Sanctuary, has apparently run afoul of the law with its “big money”
support for Amendment 10. The Florida Elections Commission charged the organization and its president, Gene Bauston, with 210 counts of breaking campaign-finance laws by soliciting and gathering donations for the initiative, then passing them along to the PAC. The commission also found probable cause that the violations were “willful.”
In the words of the commission, “Farm Sanctuary is a well-financed, sophisticated, well-organized
and experienced political organization.”
One solicitation for donations for the Florida campaign mailed to Farm Sanctuary members claimed
the contributions would be tax deductible.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the IRS doesn’t look very closely at Farm Sanctuary’s [tax-exempt] status,” Martosko told WND.
Calls for comment from Farm Sanctuary and the PAC regarding the charges were not returned.
“The passage of Amendment 10 in Florida marks the first time that any state has halted the intensive confinement of animals on factory farms. It is an historic step in the effort to combat cruelty to farm animals,” Bauston said in the press release.
In addition to the solicitation of out-of-state donations to fund the initiative, doubt has been raised over the signatures gathered to get the measure on the ballot. Election records show the PAC paid a Carson City, Nev., marketing company $271,766 to collect signatures. Police reported numerous complaints
from out-of-state tourists who were solicited for their signatures.
Activists readily admit their whole-hog efforts are aimed at a hypothetical problem: Florida does not have a large-scale hog-farming industry. The coalition named exactly two farms in the state that currently use gestation stalls.
“That’s why we need to do this now, to prevent the mega hog factories from moving into Florida as they have in North Carolina. There, the environment has been severely damaged, property values have gone down, and the tourism industry has suffered,” Fry told WND. She further defined “mega hog
factories” as farms where “animals are treated as commodities instead of intelligent animals.”
Steve Basford, one of the pig farmers targeted by the coalition stresses pigs’ needs differ from those
of people. ”One of the biggest problems is people humanize them. Those animal rights groups are talking about inhumane treatment. Well, pigs aren’t human,” Basford told the Miami Herald.
According to the Herald, Basford has 200 gestation stalls but most of them are empty because his 175 sows are at different stages of their reproductive life. Some are even milling around a communal pen, the method of treatment preferred by animal-rights activists.
The Florida Farm Bureau is outraged by the initiative.
“It is a cynical – one might say greasy – attempt by national animal-rights groups that would lard up
our state’s constitution in order to advance a national agenda and perhaps to fatten those organizations’
treasuries,” said Pat Cockrell, the bureau’s director of agricultural policies.
Cockrell and Martosko believe the campaign targeted Florida precisely because of the paltry resistance it would meet from hog farmers.
“There’s no opposition in Florida. That’s exactly why they’re pushing it. They’re trying to get a victory on the books before they take it to a state like Iowa where it’ll have direct impact,” Martosko said.
According to the American Meat Institute, the Sunshine State ranked 38th in the nation in 2000 for hogs, with 40,000 animals. By contrast, Iowa had 15.4 million hogs.
In the ballot review hearing before the Florida Supreme Court, Pacelle pointed out that Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina – states with the biggest use of gestation crates – do not have the initiative process Florida has.
Florida is viewed as a bellwether state.
“We think a successful Florida initiative will encourage citizens in other states to push similar reforms,” Michael Makarian, president of the Fund for Animals, told the Fort Myers News-Press.
Martosko suspects the grass roots support is “manufactured for public relations’ purposes.”
“The $1.5 million raised is not grass roots, it’s pure Astroturf,” he said.
Activists resorted to a ballot initiative after an attempt to pass legislation protecting the pigs was defeated.
Many of those who express concern over the plight of the pigs question the appropriateness of a constitutional amendment to improve their situation.
“I have no problem saying we need to be humane with animals – it’s a noble cause – it doesn’t belong in the constitution,” Florida Christian Coalition executive director Matt DuPree told WND. “If we put this on the constitution for humans, that would be another story,” he added.
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