A pig in a poke

Florida’s Supreme Court was asked yesterday to authorize a voter referendum that would extend human rights to pregnant hogs. The legal action (and accompanying petition/signature drive) was officially initiated by a group calling itself Floridians for Humane Farms; if the petition drive is successful, Florida voters will be asked in November 2002 to extend human rights to farm animals.

So what is “Floridians for Humane Farms”? And who’s behind it? Closer examination reveals that the organization is not some benign, grass-roots, neighborhood leafleting group, but a well-heeled Political Action Committee (PAC) registered in Florida. The chairperson of this group is Pam Huizenga Van Hart, daughter of Blockbuster Video and Miami Dolphins magnate H. Wayne Huizenga. The PAC’s largest individual contributions have come from Nanci S. Alexander ($50,000 so far), whose husband owns the Houston Rockets NBA franchise. Institutional sponsors include Farm Sanctuary (with $110,000 in donations last September alone), Animal Rights International, The Humane Society of the United States, Compassion in World Farming, and The Fund for Animals.

Floridians for Humane Farms operates the web site called BanCruelFarms.org, where you can read about how “animals used for food are forced to endure inhumane living environments, and they are not adequately protected under existing [Florida] laws.” The Florida Sun-Sentinel noted in March, though, that very few hog farmers in Florida would be affected, since almost none use the so-called “gestation crates” to hold pregnant sows anyway. “This amendment,” said the Sun-Sentinel, “may be a solution in search of a problem.” (link unavailable) Pat Cockrell, director of agriculture policy for the Florida Farm Bureau, agrees, saying that Florida is only being targeted “because of its relatively easy petition process.”

The campaign’s web site, by the way, is co-sponsored by Gene Bauston and Jeffrey Armour Nelson. Bauston runs Farm Sanctuary, an organization based in New York and California, not Florida; Nelson is the heir to the Armour meatpacking fortune who now makes a living trashing the meat industry from his “VegSource” web site.

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