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Ariz. Ballot campaign strikes at sow housing


Tempe, Ariz. — An activist-backed ballot proposition to eliminate sow gestation stalls in Arizona stands to produce the nation's second state to ban the controversial housing system.

TEMPE, ARIZ. — An activist-backed ballot proposition to eliminate sow gestation stalls in Arizona stands to produce the nation's second state to ban the controversial housing system.

DVM News Breaks

Championed by Arizonans for Humane Farms, the measure closely mirrors Florida's 2002 sow stalls ban, also driven by activist ballot. This November, Arizonans likely will vote on an amendment to the state's Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act to make "cruel and inhumane confinement of a pig during pregnancy or of a calf raised for veal" a class-1 misdemeanor crime. Language in the initiative notes that pregnant pigs and calves "must be able to turn around and lie down, fully extend limbs when tethered, confined in crates, cages or other enclosure."

In addition, the measure seeks to establish the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Fund to enforce the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act. To soften the blow to producers, the proposed ban will not transition for six years, until 2012.

The group, which bills itself as a coalition of animal welfare activists, environmentalists, food safety organizations and concerned citizens, calls the initiative "groundbreaking." More than 122,000 of the 200,000 signatures of registered Arizona voters necessary to place the measure on the ballot were collected at presstime.

With only one major swine operator in the state, Arizona acts as a groundbreaker for the initiatives entry into more agriculture-rich states, veterinary officials say. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) plans to provide experts to lobby against the initiative.

"Even with the phase-in period this will eliminate sow gestation stalls," AASV Executive Director Dr. Tom Burkgren says. "Their ultimate goal, obviously, is to move this into states with bigger swine populations."

The activists, who did not return DVM Newsmagazine's phone calls seeking comment by presstime, note on the group's Web site that passing the ballot initiative will "alleviate the suffering of approximately 16,000 pigs" and prevent "mega hog factories from moving into Arizona."

In July, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), confronted by opponents of the housing system, vowed to support sow gestation stalls until a more welfare-friendly housing system that's reliable, efficient and economically viable is conceived.

Still, the position likely will be challenged via resolution this summer during the AVMA's annual convention in Honolulu.

Florida lesson

In Florida, a state where the commercial swine industry is extremely small, an amendment to the state's constitution caught the attention of the livestock industry too late. With more than 2 million votes cast on Nov. 5, 2002, a ban on sow gestation crates for housing pregnant sows passed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. The activist win sparked stakeholder concerns that public campaigns and politics could dictate how swine producers house their animals nationally.

Volunteers for the campaign, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, Fund for Animals and Farm Sanctuary, were recruited throughout the United States.

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