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April/May 2007
Arizona Makes History for Farm Animals
By Paul Shapiro

 

Agribusiness interests pumped nearly two million dollars into fighting it, with more than half a million dollars coming from the National Pork Producer’s Council alone. Other contributors included the American Veal Association, the United Egg Producers and the American Meat Institute. What could be so terrifying that animal agribusiness would spend so lavishly to fight? Proposition 204, an Arizona ballot initiative that would require calves and pigs to have enough room merely to turn around and extend their limbs.

Needless to say, common agribusiness practices such as the confinement of pigs in gestation crates and calves in veal crates don’t permit the animals to engage in such basic movement as factory farmers consider intensive confinement an economic shortcut. Luckily, Arizona voters saw it as an ethical shortcut and in a landslide vote of 62-38, banned it in last November’s election. In fact, majorities in 12 out of 15 counties, including several rural counties, voted in favor of the ban.

Animal Advocates Unite—And Win
Arizona is a relatively conservative state, casting electoral votes for President Bush in both of the last two presidential elections. Surprisingly, it is also a state with a history of supporting animal protection measures. Arizona voters banned steel-jaw leghold traps in 1994, cockfighting in 1998 and have won several similar advances in other elections. So it was no surprise that when it came time to ban two of the cruelest factory farming practices, voters were united once again to produce another monumental victory.

More than 1,200 Arizona animal advocates spent countless hours volunteering to collect the signatures of over 200,000 Arizona citizens in order to put Prop 204 on the ballot. They defeated an attempt by the state legislature to preemptively nullify the ballot initiative. And once they were assured the measure would make its way onto the ballot, they waged a relentless grassroots outreach campaign aimed at promoting a simple yet powerful message: It’s cruel and inhumane to confine pigs and calves in crates so small they can’t even turn around.

A coalition of local and national groups—including the Humane Society of the United States, the Arizona Humane Society, Farm Sanctuary and the Animal Defense League of Arizona—united to wage the Proposition 204 campaign. Arizona’s famous Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio also declared his support for the crate ban, as did radio legend Paul Harvey and virtually every major newspaper in the state. The effort attracted so much attention that everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Time magazine ran major profiles on the battle. And while the campaign’s energy never let up, it was also aided by the widespread common-sense belief that farm animals—at the very least—deserve some semblance of legal protection from the most egregious cruelty.

When all was said and done, the animals won on Election Day in a historic vote that made Arizona the first state in our country to ban veal crates and the second to ban gestation crates.

Lessons to be Learned
For years, the animal movement has decried the intensive confinement of animals on factory farms, using the veal crate as the most notorious example of farm animal cruelty. Yet, despite the fact our allies in the European Union passed legislation banning the veal crate many years ago, the U.S. has yet to ban the practice anywhere in our country until now. Why?

For starters, the U.S. animal movement has engaged the political arena far less than our counterparts in Europe. We’ve also focused less of our energy combating factory farming than have animal advocates in Europe. As well, we’ve allowed internal disagreements about strategy to impede tangible advancements for animals that most of us agree are good, like banning veal and gestation crates. Of course, ending the confinement of calves and pigs in crates won’t end all farm animal suffering, but it’s a meaningful step in the right direction that we all should support.

The first decade of the 21st century has seen major advances for farm animals. We’ve seen Florida ban gestation crates and Arizona ban both gestation and veal crates. California banned foie gras production and the city of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras. Numerous companies are refusing to sell battery cage eggs. And just three months after the Arizona vote, some of the largest pig and veal calf producers in the U.S. and Canada announced they too will phase out their use of gestation and veal crates. Clearly, Arizona showed the factory farming interests that the writing is on the wall.

For years the animal movement has been right on factory farming. Now, we’re not only on the right side, we’re also on the winning side.

Why Slow Down When You’re Winning?
In the wake of the Prop 204 victory, the Pork Council declared, “The fight is on.” One agribusiness proponent said that as a result of the Arizona vote, the animal movement should be treated like “an insurgency” and be crushed. The Animal Agriculture Alliance asked rhetorically in a press release after the Arizona vote, “Why would they slow down? They are succeeding.”

The short answer is that we should have no intention of slowing down. We are winning, and if anything, should only increase our pace. Cruelties like intensive confinement in cages and crates are clearly out of step with the moral sensibilities of our society and should be banned. It’s up to us to translate that existing public support into more meaningful victories like the Arizona landslide.

The campaign in Arizona was a critical chapter in the animal movement’s history. Now it’s time to start filling the subsequent pages with even greater success stories. It’s up to each of us to make it happen.

Paul Shapiro is the director of the Factory Farming Campaign of the Humane Society of the United States. He is also the founder and former campaigns director of Compassion Over Killing. Visit www.HumaneSociety.org.

 

 

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