Friday, October 13, 2006

That'll do, pig?: Proposition 204

Proposition 204: The Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act

Proposition 204, the shortest and simplest of this year's ballot questions, has also generated some of the most vapid arguments pro and con. Proponents are all arguing the same two things: Factory farming is bad, and "We ought be kind to food animals therefore this proposal ought to pass". To quote the three-year-old philosopher, "but why?"

The measure's most vocal opponents are, on the other hand, trying to tie the effort to a radical vegan agenda. Congressman Jeff Flake and others have put forth cogent arguments about this measure driving pork production south of the border, but they've largely been drowned out. "Proposition 204 is hogwash!" has gotten at least ten times more exposure than anything reasonably intelligent.

The issue aside, why Arizonans for Humane Farms--a less Arizonan group than Arizona HOPE--spent the roughly million dollars necessary to put an initiative on the ballot here instead of trying to effect change someplace like Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois where factory farms cause actual environmental damage is a mystery to me. Proposition 204 would require pigs and veal calves to be kept in pens large enough for them to turn around without touching the sides and restricts the use of gestation crates to the last seven days of a sow's pregnancy. Arizona doesn't even have a veal industry, and nearly 100% of the state's roughly twelve thousand sows are owned by a single producer, Pigs for Farmer John, in Snowflake.

A lot of people say categorically, based on arguments ranging from nonexistent to sophomoric, that animals don't have ethical rights. Leaving direct rebuttal of Machan's necessary-but-insufficient argumnet for some other time, I'll merely offer that it's not at all clear that there aren't categorical imperatives that apply to other sentient beings, however, that such imperatives in the absence of something compelling must also reflect that we are predators and they are prey.

Although, the rights of animals being marginal at best, this measure ought to be opposed for its effect on this state's pig farmers, ethics have little to do with why I've made up my mind to vote against Proposition 204. However minor its effect will be in Arizona, I'm reluctant to give ridiculous people any say in our laws or act as though they have a place at the table, or to give assent to ridiculous laws. Given the context--a state with no veal industry and one major pig farm--204 is about as silly as the English-only amendment; it does a bit of harm while preventing the state's biggest strictly theoretical problem since undocumented immigrants weren't voting.

Send the idelogues packing and keep silly laws off the books. Vote "no" on 204.

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