The day after an election is sort of like New Year’s day— it rolls out a new start, and there’s a bit of a hang-over as you look to see how your fellow citizens performed. In  Arizona’s case, it carries a larger, future message for U.S. pork producers, and certainly much concern.

Arizona voters have passed Proposition 204, which will end the use of gestation-sow stalls in the state. The issue passed by a significant margin-- 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent

This follows a similar development that occurred in Florida in 2002, and it will set the stage for animal activists’ future efforts elsewhere. It will strengthen their cause and their abilities to push for similar bans. It also will build their confidence to move deeper into the arena of dictating how animal agriculture performs and how animals are raised.    

It is worth noting that Florida voters addressed constitutional amendments again on Nov. 7. They passed a constitutional amendment that will make it harder for them to change the state constitution in the future. Amendment 3, which passed with 58 percent of the vote, was at least partly in response to the 2002 gestation-stall amendment. Amendment 3 requires that future constitutional amendments receive 60 percent approval for adoption. Had it been in place in 2002, the gestation-crate proposal would have been defeated.

In a response to the Arizona initiative, the National Pork Producers Council said: “It is regrettable 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….Lessons learned in Arizona will be valuable as these anti-agriculture groups take this issue to other states.”

American consumers are at least two generations removed from hands-on agriculture, that gap is only going to increase. They will be easy targets to be swayed by questionable information, and the well-funded national animal rights groups will continue to have an edge over agriculture.

This will be a tough challenge. While it’s easy and accurate to focus on the animal activists’ desire to control or eliminate animal agriculture, what cannot be lost in all of this is that consumers want and expect animals raised for food to be handled in a “responsible” manner. Those consumers will define what is responsible.