On the heels of their successful 2002 Florida ballot initiative (which gave pregnant sows Constitutional protections), animal-rights activists are now gearing up to duplicate their efforts in California.
Tomorrow night, Farm Sanctuary president Gene Bauston will co-host an activist meeting in San Francisco, along with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ballot campaigns director Katherine Bragdon. Activist e-mail lists are describing the meeting as a chance "to learn about the potential statewide ballot initiative to ban [hog] gestation crates in California."
Farm Sanctuary has already alerted its own grassroots network in a May 16 e-mail: "Our decision to go forward will depend on opinion polls to determine whether we have the public support needed to win in November 2004. If this initiative is indeed launched, thousands of volunteers will be needed to gather the 600,000 signatures required to place this initiative on the November 2004 ballot." At a similar meeting in West Palm Beach, back in 2000, Bauston promised the assembled animal-rights leaders that he would make sure the Florida hog campaign had enough financial support. There’s no question that he kept his word. Using an illegal national direct-mail scheme, Farm Sanctuary sent over $465,000 in supposedly tax-exempt contributions directly to the Florida campaign’s PAC. Bauston and his group later paid a $50,000 fine, after the Florida Elections Commission found them guilty of 210 counts of campaign finance fraud.
In Florida, out-of-state animal rights groups (like PETA and HSUS) provided most of the foot-soldiers needed to collect signatures. California is a traditional stronghold of both groups — particularly HSUS, which recently took over another activist group called the Ark Trust, converting it into its own "HSUS Hollywood" office.
Just imagine the collective force of Hollywood’s misguided animal-rights glitterati (Kim Basinger, Mary Tyler Moore, and Bill Maher come to mind), competing for the free publicity that comes with backing a ballot initiative ripped from the screenplay of Babe.
Stay tuned. Florida’s pork farmers are already a thing of the past. Could the Golden State be far behind?