Arizona outlaws sow stalls


Phoenix - Arizona voters banned gestation stalls that restrict sows from turning and extending their extremities.

PHOENIX — Arizona voters banned gestation stalls that restrict sows from turning and extending their extremities.

The state's sole industrial pork operation, Pigs for Farmer John, which ships 250,000 million pigs to slaughter each year, has until 2012 to comply. While activists applaud the passing of Ballot Proposition 240, "The Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act," allied veterinarians, industry officials and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) support the current production practice.

Arizona voters appeared to react to the emotionally charged issue by ignoring industry and organized veterinary medicine's "science-based" evidence that standard 2-foot-by-7-foot pens protect breeding sow from injury and stress. If National Pork Producers Council's $700,000-plus failed anti-Prop 240 campaign is a precursor to what's ahead, analysts say an attempt by activists to federally ban swine gestation stalls within the 2007 rewrite of the Farm Bill is almost certain. Others predict California and Colorado might be targeted next.

"These two things scare us the most," says Joy Philippi, National Pork Producers Council president. "We know there are 22 other states that have the proposition process and in some of those states have a lot of pigs. As for the federal amendment, we're working furiously to make sure people in Congress know this is not good. We're going to be watching very closely."

Learning curve

More closely than officials watched in 2002, when voters cast Florida the first state to bar the confinement of pregnant pigs via ballot initiative.

Yet as Arizona became the second state to usher in a swine housing standard on Nov. 7, Florida voters approved Amendment 3, requiring ballot measures to obtain a supermajority, 60 percent or more, before passing. The move raises the threshold from a simple 50 percent majority in an attempt to stave off frivolous ballot initiatives. The 2002 ban on pregnant pig confinement was advertised as an example of trivial constitutional amendments.

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