The state of Oregon has received a request to place a statutory amendment on the November general election ballot that would make it illegal to use gestation stalls or tethers that prevent pigs from being able to turn around.

Such uses under the amendment would be made a Class A misdemeanor. Normal punishment for such a violation is a fine up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail, but the amendment would raise the penalty to $20,000/pig/day for a business enterprise.

That is a ridiculous punishment, says Tim Breeding, president of the Oregon Pork Producers Association.

There would be exceptions. Confinement would be permitted for veterinary care, seven days before giving birth and during nursing.

Several producers have filed comments with the state raising serious objections. One producer pointed out that the amendment suggests an accredited veterinarian must be present in order to confine pigs to perform normal activities such as castration, artificial insemination and treatment of an injury.

Another producer suggested that the proposal failed to exempt transportation, pointing out that it is impractical and in some cases unsafe for animals to have too much room to move around when being hauled. Guidelines in the industry's swine care handbook recommend transport spacing of 6 sq. ft. for a 400-lb. hog. For a hog this size to meet the law's definition of being able to turn “in a complete circle without touching any side of the enclosure,” the producer calculates the hog would require almost 40 sq. ft. of space in a trailer.

Breeding figures that Oregon was selected for this proposal because there are only a few small producers to fight it. Breeding, for instance, is a small, farrow-to-finish producer who only confines sows during farrowing. Gestating sows run in an outside paddock.

The Oregon secretary of state's office says in order for this amendment to be placed on the November 2002 general election ballot, 66,786 signatures must be collected by July 5, 2002.

So far that process has been stymied while the state supreme court considers an appeal by individuals from the Oregon Pork Producers Association, Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and Oregonians for Food and Shelter. The individuals are contesting the description and title of the initiative ballot because it criminalizes confining or tethering pigs, making penalties more severe.

The proposed amendment also sets a new state policy regarding cruelty and inhumane treatment of animals. And it does not make clear the full intent of the amendment or the provisions for exceptions, says commenters.

Florida Update

Sponsors of a constitutional amendment to ban gestation stalls or tethers in Florida have collected just over 200,000 signatures, says Frankie Hall, state executive for the Florida Pork Improvement Group. To appear on the November ballot, half a million valid signatures must be collected by June.