Earlier this year, Americans were shocked by the sickening
mistreatment of downer cows at a California slaughter
plant. One of my colleagues at The Humane Society of
the United States went undercover to document crippled
cows being tortured to get them to their feet and into
the kill box. Government inspectors and plant managers
either missed the abuse or allowed it to continue,
sending meat from these animals into our National School
Lunch program. This investigation finally pressed the
California legislature and the federal government into
closing loopholes that had allowed the continued sale
of meat from sick and crippled animals to consumers.
This investigation is also proof that we cannot always
wait for government and industry to protect animals
from abuse or to guard us from food safety threats.
That’s precisely why Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act - which phases out the cramming of veal calves, breeding
pigs, and laying hens into small cages and crates - is so important and timely.
Prop 2 would allow animals raised for food to turn around
and fully stretch their limbs - a matter of basic decency and an upholding of the
principle that all animals, including those raised
for food, deserve humane treatment.
It is inhumane to confine animals in ways that deny
them basic movement. On factory farms, veal calves
are chained by the neck and confined in tiny stalls; pigs are kept in metal cages barely larger than their
bodies; and 6 to 7 hens are crammed into cages where each bird has less
space than a letter-sized sheet of paper in which to live her whole life.
We would never keep our pets in cramped, filthy cages
for their whole lives, and farm animals should not
endure this misery either.
The greatest nation in the world, with the most innovative
farmers, can do better than this. And many family farmers
already are. Farmers who know that food quality is
enhanced by more humane farming methods also know that
there is a balance – and oftentimes a synergy – between animal care and economics. And farmers who
strike this balance better by not confining animals
to tiny cages are increasingly supplying major retailers
like Burger King and Safeway. That’s why more than 100 California family farmers, the United Farm Workers,
and Family Farm Defenders have endorsed Prop 2.
The prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal
Production – an independent panel chaired by former Kansas Governor
John Carlin and including former U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Dan Glickman and leading veterinarians and farmers
- issued a report earlier this year concluding that
Prop 2 includes “the types of modest animal welfare public policy improvements
that the Commissioners recommend implementing.”
Science has confirmed what common sense already knew: cramming animals into filthy, unsafe cages leads to
higher rates of diseases such as Salmonella that can
affect people. It is indisputable that factory farms
cause immense animal suffering and the evidence is
overwhelming that they jeopardize food safety and public
health. It’s on the basis of human and animal health concerns
that The Humane Society of the United States, the California
Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Food
Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and the
Union of Concerned Scientists have endorsed Prop 2.
We have long known that factory farms produce enormous
volumes of waste that pollute the air and water. The
Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and the Planning and
Conservation League all endorse Prop 2.
These reforms are modest. The egg industry’s own California-based economist reports that converting and producing
cage-free eggs costs less than one penny per egg more. Former
state finance director Tim Gage and public policy expert
Matthew Newman recently concluded in a report that
because of the small relative size of the egg industry
in California, any economic changes resulting from
passage of Prop 2 are unlikely to be felt by average consumers. They
write that in fact, “the impact on consumers is very likely positive and
the overall fiscal effects of the measure are likely
to be very modest.”
Arizona and Florida voters approved ballot initiatives
to phase out these types of crates. And lawmakers in
Colorado and Oregon have done the same. The European
Union and its 27-member countries have already passed legislation against
California can do better, too. Vote yes on Prop 2.