Pregnant pigs on Florida ballot

By Diana Lynne

The state that made election history in 2000 is at it again, as Florida voters prepare to decide next month whether pregnant pigs should have constitutional rights.

A proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution seeks to limit the “cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy.” The ballot initiative would specifically outlaw caging pigs in gestation crates on so-called “corporate factory farms.” Gestation crates are metal enclosures that measure two feet across and prevent sows from turning around freely. The crates cause them 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 cages.

“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 Frye told WorldNetDaily. Frye is a campaign manager for Floridians for Humane Farms, a coalition of animal-protection groups, conservation organizations and concerned citizens that sponsored the initiative appearing on the Nov. 5 ballot as Amendment 10.

According to election records, the coalition’s political action committee has so far raised more than $1.2 million dollars to mount its campaign. The lion’s share of contributions has come from national organizations such as the New York-based Fund for Animals, which contributed $238,331; New York-based Farm Sanctuary, which donated $355,880 and the Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS, which doled out $255,335.

“Support for this initiative is one part of the HSUS’s larger Halt Hog Factories campaign, in which we are working with other animal-protection organizations, environmentalists, small farmers and community groups to combat large-scale industrial hog operations and to promote more sustainable and humane farming practices,” HSUS states on its website.

The measure is the first citizen’s initiative in the country to try to “halt intensive confinement techniques in farming,” said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president for the Humane Society in Washington, D.C.

In addition to alleviating the suffering of pigs, the coalition also lists other goals for the initiative on its website:

  • The protection of our environment;
  • The viability of small, family farms; and
  • The health of Floridians across the state.

Activists readily admit their whole-hog efforts are aimed at a hypothetical problem; Florida does not have a large-scale hog-farming industry. Frye named exactly two farms in the state that currently use gestation crates.

“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,” said Frye, who further defined “mega hog factories” as farms where “animals are treated as commodities instead of intelligent animals.”

A call to Richland Farms in Pasco County – one of the farms targeted – was not immediately returned.

“This is the archetypal pig-in-a-poke,” grunted Pat Cockrell, Florida Farm Bureau’s director of agricultural policies. “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.”

Cockrell said he talked with representatives of a group that supports the proposed amendment, suggesting it would be appropriate to address the confinement issue through public-policy channels.

“They responded that they were trying to get some quick public recognition of the issue,” said Cockrell. “They’re obviously working to foster an emotional reaction among well-intentioned citizens by putting forth this constitutional amendment in Florida,” he added.

“This is a perfect example of why we have a constitutional initiative,” Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen Grimes, who represents the coalition, argued at its review before the state Supreme Court last fall. Grimes stressed an initiative petition to amend the constitution was the only avenue left after an attempt to pass legislation protecting the pigs was defeated earlier this year.

“Special-interest groups have found a niche market: Just put out enough money to get signatures and get an initiative on the ballot,” Matt DuPree, executive director for the Florida Christian Coalition, commented to WND.

In fact, election records show the political action committee paid some $177,278 to National Voters Outreach of Carson City, Nev., to help gather signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Frye maintains the coalition’s army of volunteers actually gathered the first 489,000 signatures needed to qualify, and then the group enlisted the Nevada organization to collect additional signatures as a “safety net” following Sept. 11.

The big-money initiative alarms restaurant operators, who smell an anti-pork campaign in the works.

The Center for Consumer Freedom warns on its website:

PETA is joining the scare campaign against U.S. hog farming, signing on to the effort to put an anti-“factory farming” initiative on the ballot in Florida. … PETA’s Bruce Friedrich tipped his hand in a recent e-mail announcement to supporters. If passed, the Florida initiative “will be the first” to ban this type of food production. “It would help us lobby in Congress” and “could lead to similar … campaigns in other states,” he writes. PETA will run television ads, forcing “millions of people … to consider how their dietary choices contribute” to behavior PETA doesn’t like.

Should voters approve the amendment, Florida will become the first state of the union to protect pregnant pigs in its constitution.

“If we put this on the constitution for humans, that would be another story,” DuPree told WND. “It’s ironic in itself. We sometimes award our animals better protections than ourselves.”