Taking the Initiative

Posted on November 6, 2003

ALDF and other animal advocacy groups won a major
victory on Election Day when Florida voters approved a ballot
initiative that banned the use of “gestation crates” on pig farms in
the state. The crates — tiny cages used to imprison pregnant sows for
months at a time — are commonly found in factory farms throughout the
country. Thanks to the success of the initiative, an amendment making
the cages illegal is now part of the Florida constitution. The new law
is the first measure ever enacted in the United States to bar inhumane
confinement in a factory farm setting.

“The use of gestation crates is unconscionably cruel, and I am
immensely pleased that the people of Florida have done something about
it,” says ALDF founder and general counsel Joyce Tischler. “I just hope other
states will follow in their footsteps.”

The ballot initiative was the product of a coalition that brought
together several animal advocacy groups, including ALDF, the Humane
Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary and Floridians for Humane
Farms. The wording of the initiative was developed and presented to the
Florida Supreme Court by Holland & Knight, a law firm retained by
ALDF. (In Florida, all initiatives have to be approved by the court in
order to appear on state ballots.) After the state’s Supreme Court
justices signed off on the initiative’s wording, volunteers worked to
gather the 488,000 signatures needed to ensure that the measure would
have a place on ballots in November.

When it came time to go to the polls, 55 percent of those voting on the
initiative gave it thumbs up, adding up to more than 2.5 million yes
votes.

There was more good news across the country, where other animal-friendly initiatives were also popular with voters:

  • Arizona: A measure that would have expanded gambling at greyhound
    racetracks — thus providing new revenue for those who profit from the
    abusive sport — was defeated.
  • Georgia: A newly passed amendment authorizes the creation of
    a spay/neuter license plate, which will channel much-needed funds to
    spay/neuter programs.
  • Oklahoma: Voters chose to ban cockfighting in the state,
    making Louisiana and some counties in New Mexico the only places in the
    U.S. where this blood sport is still legal. Oklahoma voters also
    rejected a measure designed to make it harder for animal protection
    initiatives to get onto state ballots.
  • West Virginia: Six counties voted to continue a ban on
    hunting on Sunday, the only day when hikers and campers can make use of
    area forestland without fear of being shot. All six counties decided
    not to lift the ban on Sunday hunting.