Ballot Initiatives Are Tools for Activist Groups

Ballot Initiatives Have Become Valuable Tools for Activist Groups

Ballot Initiatives Have Become Valuable Tools for Activist Groups

In recent years, animal and environmental activist groups have increasingly used lawsuits and legislation to promote their cause. Ballot initiatives, in particular, have proven to be a powerful tool for these groups to bypass the usual legislative process. It's important for producers to understand this process and be aware of where these groups have made progress and gained confidence. With some successes by these groups already, we can expect to see more ballot initiative activity at the state and local levels, some of which are already underway.

A Ballot Initiative is Not Legislation

The regular legislative process involves elected lawmakers proposing legislation, which then undergoes evaluation and potential modification in committee. It's not uncommon for legislation to stall or even die in committee. However, if the legislation makes it out of committee, it is then presented to lawmakers for a vote. Apart from Nebraska, every state in the United States has a legislature comprised of two chambers, both of which evaluate and vote on legislation. Once legislation passes both chambers, it is sent to the state’s Governor for either veto or signature into law.

State Ballot Initiatives work differently. They do not go through the regular legislative process of scrutiny and checks and balances. Ballot initiatives are brought to the voter ballot through the signature collection process. Currently, 24 states allow ballot initiatives, and the process varies by state. Once the required number of signatures are collected, these initiatives go to a public vote. States differ in the number of signatures required, timeframes, the format of the initiative, and how the initiative impacts the law in each state. No matter the individual requirements, it is important to understand that the ballot initiative process is simpler than passing legislation via two legislative chambers and their committees, and the state’s governor. What is worse, with ballot initiatives, there is a great opportunity to mislead voters because the true intention can be disguised in vague summaries.

Activist Groups Promote the Ballot Initiative Process

In an article by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Hannah Thompson-Weeman stated that animal rights activists are focused on using the legislative process as a key method to advance their work to end animal agriculture. They aim to achieve this by implementing policies that reduce efficiency and drive up the cost of production, ultimately leading to higher prices for meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and seafood.

At the recent Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Law Symposium, the ballot initiative process was praised as a blueprint for success in passing laws to harm animal agriculture. It was presented as a way to bypass lawmakers and "go right to the voters", providing an opportunity to influence them directly.

In a 2018 article, former CEO of the anti-animal agriculture group, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and current President of Animal Wellness Action, Wayne Pacelle, wrote, “The leadership currently guiding Animal Wellness Action has helped develop ballot initiative strategy and execution in the modern era with extraordinary results. Direct democracy on animal issues has been the most effective and high-impact pathway for generating reforms for animals. No cause or industry has had a higher rate of winning campaigns over a quarter century. We’ve used the ballot initiative process to help end declining industries and to introduce groundbreaking changes to entrenched industries that had previously rejected calls for change in state legislatures.”

Where Are We Seeing Ballot Initiatives?

We are seeing ballot initiatives targeting agriculture pop up nationwide, impacting state law and county and city ordinances. Some examples of activist-backed ballot initiatives are:

  • ·In 2002, a Florida ballot initiative banned gestation crates for pork producers.
  • In 2006, an Arizona ballot initiative banned gestation crates and veal crates.
  • Proposition 2 in California impacted egg producers.
  • Proposition 12 in California impacts egg, pork, and veal producers in California as well as out-of-state producers selling to California businesses.
  • Massachusetts Question 3 impacts egg, pork, and veal producers in Massachusetts as well as out-of-state producers selling to Massachusetts businesses.
  • Washington State Initiative Measure 1130 impacts egg producers in the state.
  • Colorado Proposition 114 is a ballot measure that approved the reintroduction of wolves into the state, negatively impacting beef producers.
  • Colorado IP 16 would have severely impacted livestock production in the state. Fortunately, it was thrown out on a technicality related to how ballot initiatives can be presented to voters in Colorado.
  • Oregon IP 3 (formerly IP 13), if passed, would make hunting, fishing, livestock processing, animal breeding, and other common animal husbandry practices a criminal offense. It would also make it illegal to utilize animals for food, fiber, or companionship.
  • Oregon IP 28, titled the PEACE Act, would apply to every animal in the state and, along with a host of overreaching regulations, would make it a crime to process an animal by removing exemptions. Like IP 3 and IP 13, it would make it illegal to utilize animals for food, fiber, or companionship.
  • Sonoma County California Measure J would make the county the first in the nation to outlaw confined animal feeding operations. It would put a 120-year-old dairy out of business and over 50 other producers.
  • Boulder, Colorado, passed a fur ban in 2021.
  • The city of Berkeley, California, is voting on banning large modern farms in November 2024.
  • A Denver Ballot Initiative, up for a vote in 2024, would ban slaughterhouses and shut down an 80-year-old employee-owned business.
  • A Denver Ballot Initiative up for a vote in 2024, will ban the sale of fur and would impact the sale of a broad range of products, from coats and handbags to wallets, shoes, gloves, rugs, and cowboy hats.

Be Aware

Activist groups often survey and target vulnerable regions. It's important to stay updated on what's happening in your state, neighboring states, and nearby counties and cities. As the demographics of a state change, producers become vulnerable to ballot initiatives pushed by activist groups and voted into law by people far removed from agricultural production.


Sonoma County Farm Bureau article about CAFO Ballot Measure HERE

Article about Sonoma County Ballot Initiative by Hoosier AG Today HERE

Article in MeatingPlace by Hannah Thompson-Weeman HERE

Ballot Initiative Process by BallotPedia (including interactive map) HERE

Animal Wellness Action Article HERE

Article in Drovers about Denver Ballot Measures HERE

No on Oregon IP 28 website HERE

Our article on Oregon IP 3 HERE

Article by Attorney Gary Baise in Farm Progress about Prop 12 HERE

Article in Farm Journal's Pork about Massachusetts Question 3 HERE

Article in Forbes - Ballot Box Biology's Hostile Takeover of State Wildlife Agencies HERE