May 22 2024 09:51 AM

    Animal rights activists find strength in fighting against agricultural production practices with ballot initiatives.

    Each year, it seems animal rights groups place a larger focus on furthering their agenda via the legislative and voting processes. With more than $800 million in annual income just from public filings of the most active organizations (up from $650 million in the previous year), these groups have quite a bit of funding to use toward lobbying and advocacy efforts that are aimed at raising the cost for farmers and ranchers to stay in business while also increasing food prices for consumers, under the guise of concern for animal welfare. According to a recent animal rights conference, California Proposition 12 and Massachusetts Question 3 are just the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect to see from the animal rights movement.

    At the 2024 Animal Law Symposium, hosted virtually April 5 and 6, legal professionals and activists in attendance were encouraged to continue the “momentum” behind ballot initiatives such as Proposition 12 and Question 3. Speakers agreed that ballot measures provided them an “alternative way to pass a law” by bypassing the traditional legislative process and going directly to voters. They also stated they were “strategically” selecting places for a ballot measure where there will be minimal impact on farmers and ranchers within the state but a large impact on others outside of state borders wanting to sell products within that state. This tactic is an attempt to build “momentum” to take these initiatives to other places. Here are some key takeaways in their own words:

    • “What makes the ballot initiative process so incredible is that when you have a legislature that isn't taking action on an issue that the people really care about, this is an alternative way to pass a law.”
    • “I think it's only 24 states that do allow you to use the ballot measure process, but it is extremely effective.”
    • “I think it’s also very strategic and starting with Massachusetts where there wasn't a great deal of domestic production, employing some of these methods, but adding the sales ban so that any producers in Iowa, egg producers, or producers that wanted to sell products into Massachusetts had to meet the same requirements, which is in what was then replicated and in a state like California, which is like the fourth largest economy in the world, so it had a much bigger impact.”
    • “There are local initiatives, in Denver as an example, to ban slaughterhouses within the city, and there is a slaughterhouse that kills baby lambs within Denver and also an initiative in the same city to ban the sale of fur . . . This is a unique way to start going after these very harmful farms by having more localized efforts that don't take as many resources, don't have to reach such large populations, but can still have an impact on animals.”
    • “[Collaboration between partners focused on state and federal policy] allows us to strategize and think through what kinds of bills might we be able to run in California or New York, or in all states where we have agriculture, primarily focused on the Midwest, to then replicate that at the federal level and just point to successes.”
    • “We have these landmark wins of Proposition 12 and Question 3, but with the effect of those wins, we are able to magnify by going to the states where we could threaten ballot initiatives now that we can credibly show that as a movement we can win.”
    • “We're going to need to continue with that strategy moving forward, but it's going to get more difficult the further we get down the road because not every state has a ballot initiative possible. So hopefully, we can build enough momentum with the states where we do have that threat and where we will maybe have to mount additional ballot initiatives . . . and hopefully one day even get to a federal confinement ban.”

    The topic of ballot campaigns and legal and legislative issues was discussed recently at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2024 Stakeholders Summit. If you weren’t able to join us in person, purchase a recording pass so you don’t miss out on valuable insights.

    Emily Ellis

    Emily Ellis is the manager of communications and content at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In her role, she works to execute the Alliance’s issues management and communications strategy.