Florida and voting just don’t seem to mix well. Only this time, the results directly and negatively impact pork production.
For nearly a year, the pork industry has been watching and working against Florida’s Amendment 10, which creates a constitutional ban on the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows. Unfortunately for pork producers, the measure passed by 55 percent (with 95 percent of the votes counted.)
Not by accident, animal-rights activists picked an easy target in Florida, which ranks 38th in U.S. pork production, with 40,000 total hogs. The activists cited only two producers in the state that use gestation crates and one of those has 175 sows.
Naturally there’s more to this issue than voters’ desire to free Florida sows. From the beginning, this action was designed as a test case. The animal-rights activists simply wanted an easy victory so that they can take their agenda on the road to other states. This one victory will only make them stronger.
“We think a successful Florida initiative will encourage citizens in other states to push for similar reforms,” says Michael Makarian, president of the Fund for Animals.
Rest assured that those doing the pushing will not be “citizens of other states,” rather it be the likes of the Fund for Animals and Farm Sanctuary, both based in New York, and the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, D.C. Those three groups doled out 70 percent of the $1.4 million that the Floridians for Humane Farms spent on the constitutional effort.
“Support for this initiative (Amendment 10) is one part of 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 points out on its Web site.
The National Pork Producers Council, several state pork producers associations, the state and national Farm Bureau Federation, the Center for Consumer Freedom and other ag-based groups attempted to counter the activists campaign, but their efforts fell short.
“Animal rights is big business run by people with big agendas and big wallets,” says David Martosko, Center for Consumer Freedom’s research director. “Their goal is total animal liberation—which means no beef, no pork, no leather, no fur.”
But like big business these days, there are some financial questions looming over the activists’ Florida victory.
The Florida Elections Commission has charged Farm Sanctuary and its president of allegedly breaking campaign finance laws. The commission also has identified probable cause that the violations were “willful”– a particularly serious charge.
“Farm Sanctuary is a well-financed, sophisticated, well-organized and experienced political organization,” the commission reported.
The Internal Revenue Service will be investigating this issue, and it’s feasible that Farm Sanctuary could lose its tax-exempt status.
There also are some questions about the signatures that the activists gathered to get Amendment 10 placed on the November ballot. A Nevada marketing firm was paid to collect the signatures, and the state received several complaints from out-of state tourists who were solicited for their signatures.
In the end, these issues are unlikely to interfere with the new amendment.
The bottom line is, you can expect animal-rights activists to hit the road with their gestation-crate agenda, and that may mean you will see similar political activities in your state.