An Arizona coalition of animal rights groups wants to make it a crime to keep calves or pregnant pigs in pens so small that they can’t turn around.
Arizonans for Humane Farms, based in Tempe, has started a petition drive to require these animals be able to lie down and fully extend their limbs.
The group needs 122,612 valid signatures by July 6 to put the measure before voters in the Nov. 7, 2006, general election.
If approved, the measure would give existing farms until 2013 to bring their practices into compliance.
Cheryl Naumann, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Humane Society, said Wednesday the goal is not to interfere with legitimate farming or even to stop the killing of animals for food.
But even animals raised to become dinner should not be made to suffer, she said.
"There is nothing quite as horrifying as the amount of suffering that takes place every day,’’ she said.
"Even though they’re being raised for food, they don’t even have the basic ability to stand up, turn around, extend their limbs and even have any kind of humane comfort during their short lives.’’
The move will get a fight from the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association. Bas Aja, the group’s lobbyist, called it "purely a political stunt.’’
Naumann, however, said the proposal should be seen as supportive of family farms.
She said that most small operations treat their animals humanely. What is happening, Naumann said, is large-scale operations that are less sensitive to animal rights "end up putting the small rural farmer out of business.’’
That is based on the myth that there really are small family farms in Arizona, Aja countered.
"You can’t make a living on 50 cows or 50 goats or 50 sheep,’’ he said.
Naumann said coalition members, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Defense League of Arizona and Farm Sanctuary, believe there need to be state protections for farm animals.
Aja said these groups do not understanding farming. "They are seeking to take and try to put in the public’s eye that an animal’s sensitivities are equal to a human’s sensitivities,’’ he said.
Aja compared that to saying that it is inhumane to have an animal in a snowstorm in Iowa.
"Their abilities and their sensitivities are way different,’’ he continued. He said many of the organizations involved in the coalition are "known radical animal rights groups.’’
Naumann disputed that charge, saying the coalition specifically avoided groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who are against the caging of animals entirely.