A ballot proposition that seeks improved conditions for livestock has drawn hundreds of thousands of dollars from animal rights groups and agricultural organizations across the country.
If passed, Proposition 204 would prohibit farmers from constraining calfs raised for veal and pregnant pigs in a manner that would prevent the animals from lying down, fully extending their legs or turning around freely.
Animal welfare groups say the measure is needed to protect animals from being kept in gestation pens that are used to restrain them. Supporters of the measure say the pens are unnecessary and cruel.
“This is about eliminating a very specific type of device,” said Cheryl Nauman, chairwoman of Arizonans for Humane Farms.
Opponents of the proposition call the whole thing “hogwash” in campaign signs that dot the Valley. They say the agricultural industry is being targeted by animal right activists and their “anti-meat” agenda.
Jim Klinker, chairman of the Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers, said science is on his side. He cited a November 2005 report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that states gestation stalls do not add stress for pigs. In fact, Klinker claims the stalls reduce stress for pregnant pigs because the animals don’t have to worry about attacks from other hogs and sows.
“The issue is about the anti-meat agenda of the the animal rights activists,” he said. “They rally around this because it makes for good pictures and headlines.”
Klinker called the pens humane but said his group would not allow journalists to tour facilities that use those types of stalls.
If voters approve the measure in November, farmers would have until 2013 to comply. Since the state’s hog industry is small, the impact would be small. In fact, the proposition would mainly affect one farm — the Pigs for Farmer John farm in Snowflake.
However, the small size of the industry here hasn’t kept groups from outside the state from pumping in money. According to the latest financial statements with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, the Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers has raised more than $803,000 to fight the measure.
Groups from Iowa, North Dakota and Tennessee have donated money to the effort. The largest donor is the National Pork Production Council, which has given $340,000.
Although Arizonans for Humane Farms hasn’t raised as much, the group’s donors are just as diverse when it comes to geography. The organization has raised about $445,000, with much of that coming from national organizations such as Farm Sanctuary — an animal protection group based in New York.
According to state records, Farm Sanctuary has given nearly $300,000.