Of Pigs and the Ballot Box

In Legalizing Miss Daisy, my item on pigs' rights in Florida, I neglected to mention that pigs have state Constitutional rights in Florida—or rather, pregnant pigs will have state Constitutional rights as of 2008, thanks to an Initiative Petition adopted in the 2002 election.

Article X, § 21 of the Florida Constitution, bans “cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs [helpfully defined as 'any animal of the porcine species'] during pregnancy.” (Full text quoted below.) The initiative that produced this amendment was amazing. I have never been stopped so many times by so many passionate people who wanted my signature. On every occasion I refused, suggesting there were more important issues that we might be spending our time on. Most of the petition gatherers were politely incredulous at this reaction; only one or two were really rude about it.

Despite this example of voter silliness, on balance I actually think that the ballot initiative process has served the state of Florida well. For example, the voters have approved some environmental measures that might well have not gotten through a legislature in which well-funded businesses seem to have a lot of clout.

But the best example is the recent class size initiative.

Schools in Florida, especially South Florida, are beyond overcrowded. Even in rich neighborhoods like mine, classes are taught in trailers, in cramped rooms sub-divided by makeshift partitions that leak noise and light, and in generally cramped and shabby conditions. The voters enacted a cap on class size, codified at Art. IX, , § 1, of the state Constitution that otherwise would never have been approved by our Republican-dominated legislature, and is which is loathed by Jeb Bush because he understands that it will require taxes to pay for it, and new taxes undermine his Presidential ambitions. It's pretty clear that the voters really do want more spending on education (although not as much as the scary and not very plausible numbers Jeb Bush made up to try to defeat it), and that our state government would have left the kids in huge clases but for this. It's also pretty clear that Jeb Bush wants to roll it back. He's spoken of 'devious plans' to kill the measure, and even endorsed a second initiative to roll back the first —an idea that got about zero traction other than from some his own appointees to a state education board.

Here's the text of the pregnant pig amendment:

Article X, § 21
Limiting cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy.—Inhumane treatment of animals is a concern of Florida citizens. To prevent cruelty to certain animals and as recommended by The Humane Society of the United States, the people of the State of Florida hereby limit the cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy as provided herein.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to confine a pig during pregnancy in an enclosure, or to tether a pig during pregnancy, on a farm in such a way that she is prevented from turning around freely.

(b) This section shall not apply:

(1) when a pig is undergoing an examination, test, treatment or operation carried out for veterinary purposes, provided the period during which the animal is confined or tethered is not longer than reasonably necessary.

(2) during the prebirthing period.

(c ) For purposes of this section:

(1) “enclosure” means any cage, crate or other enclosure in which a pig is kept for all or the majority of any day, including what is commonly described as the “gestation crate.”

(2) “farm” means the land, buildings, support facilities, and other appurtenances used in the production of animals for food or fiber.

(3) “person” means any natural person, corporation and/or business entity.

(4) “pig” means any animal of the porcine species.

(5) “turning around freely” means turning around without having to touch any side of the pig's enclosure.

(6) “prebirthing period” means the seven day period prior to a pig's expected date of giving birth.

(d) A person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082(4)(a), Florida Statutes (1999), as amended, or by a fine of not more than $5000, or by both imprisonment and a fine, unless and until the legislature enacts more stringent penalties for violations hereof. On and after the effective date of this section, law enforcement officers in the state are authorized to enforce the provisions of this section in the same manner and authority as if a violation of this section constituted a violation of Section 828.13, Florida Statutes (1999). The confinement or tethering of each pig shall constitute a separate offense. The knowledge or acts of agents and employees of a person in regard to a pig owned, farmed or in the custody of a person, shall be held to be the knowledge or act of such person.

(e) It is the intent of this section that implementing legislation is not required for enforcing any violations hereof.

(f) If any portion of this section is held invalid for any reason, the remaining portion of this section, to the fullest extent possible, shall be severed from the void portion and given the fullest possible force and application.

(g) This section shall take effect six years after approval by the electors.

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