|By JANE HOUIN
PHOENIX, Ariz. — Midwest animal producers may not think state propositions passed in far-off states like Florida and Arizona have much impact on their daily lives and operations. But the Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers is warning farmers across the nation to beware - they could be targeted next.
In last week’s election, 61 percent of Arizona voters supported Arizona Proposition 204, which outlaws the use of sow and veal crates in animal agriculture. The new law, which will go into effect Dec. 31, 2012, will require that all pregnant pigs, and calves raised for veal, be kept in enclosures large enough that they can turn around and fully extend their limbs.
“The passage of Prop 204 has given the anti-animal agriculture, anti-meat activists the energy to carry their fight to another part of the country,” said Tom Miller, executive director of the Arizona Pork Council. “They chose Arizona because of the small size of our swine and veal – which does not exist – industries. They felt there would be no resistance, just like Florida. They were wrong, but still prevailed after a very long and vicious battle.”
The National Pork Producers Council decried the passage of Proposition 204 and expressed concern that a similar ban will be attempted in other states or included in the next farm bill.
“We are disappointed that the voters of Arizona adopted a proposition outlawing a husbandry practice deemed appropriate by decades of farmer experience, as well as by university researchers and the nation’s leading veterinary association,” said Joy Philippi, NPPC presidents and a Nebraska pork producer.
“It is regrettable that animal rights groups were successful in vilifying honest, hardworking farmers and ranchers who treat their animals humanely and provide them a safe, healthy environment in which to grow.”
The initiative was financially backed by out-of-state animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary and PETA. As of Oct. 31, Washington, D.C.-based HSUS had contributed $865,000 to the Yes-on-204 campaign.
In addition, the New-York-based animal liberation group Farm Sanctuary was the campaign’s second largest contributor, kicking in another $382,000, according to CAFR.
“Producers everywhere should be very concerned,” Miller said. “Their goal they will not admit to is to eliminate meat animal production and thus eliminate consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products. I personally don’t care if a portion of our population does not want to eat meat, but I have a real problem when someone says I can’t.”
Arizona is home to approximately 180 hog farms, but this proposition will primarily impact one large producer, Pigs for farmer John in Snowflake, Ariz. Though the proposition also banned the use of veal crates, there are no major veal producers in Arizona, according to CAFR.
“It is likely this ban will be pushed in other states or possibly included in the 2007 farm bill,” Philippi said. “These groups certainly won’t stop with Arizona.”
While the Yes on Proposition 204 website (www.yesonproposition204.com) claims to be in favor of family farms and offer protection to family farmers, Arizona agricultural and commodity organizations strongly disagree.
CAFR was founded by the Arizona Cattlemen’s Assoc., the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, United Dairymen of Arizona and the Arizona Pork Council. The coalition represents more than 3,000 Arizona farm families.
Farm Sanctuary successfully backed a similar initiative in Florida in 2002, which resulted in a few small farms closing their doors. The group said afterward that the “victory will lead to similar reforms around the nation.”
Proposition 204 marks the first ban on the use of veal crates in the United States.
As a result of CAFR’s efforts to defeat the proposition, coalition members were subject to intimidation during the run-up to the election.
Written death threats were sent to some coalition officials, and the offices of the Arizona Cattlemen’s Assoc. were vandalized. The incidents were reported to the FBI.
“We were shocked and dismayed that animal-rights extremists resorted to threatening people who opposed this ill-advised new law,” Philippi said. “There is never room for threats or violence in the democratic process, and we support the FBI in its investigation and prosecution of these unlawful acts.”
Following their victory, the HSUS said the Arizona success “sends a message to factory farming operations across the country that they must end the most abusive practices.”
“I believe producers in all states, especially those with the initiative process, should be on the alert for something like this to surface,” Miller said. “If it does, you need to jump on it early and hard and not hold back, because they will not. Animal rights people throw exaggerations, untruths and whatever out for the unsuspecting and uneducated – agriculture wise – public to hear. They are very clever. Don’t be surprised if they show up in the halls of Congress in the next few months.”
For more information on CAFR and their unsuccessful attempt to stop Proposition 204 in Arizona, visit www.azfarmersranchers.com
This farm news was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.