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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Big Business Bigotry

Prop_2_2 The Big Agribusiness opponents of California’s Proposition 2 have a track record of duping the public, harming animals, and polluting the environment. They also exploit workers, many of whom are Latino immigrants stuck in the most dangerous and lowest paying jobs in this country. Just look at the United Food and Commercial Workers campaign to end brutal working conditions at Smithfield, and the recent immigration raids in Iowa where authorities targeted low-wage workers as de facto criminals rather than focusing on the Agriprocessors big shots who allowed child labor, animal cruelty, and a range of other abuses to occur.

And now, in a shameless display of xenophobia, it seems the factory farm fakers have launched an all-out attack on Mexico. In nearly every communication from the opponents of Prop 2, including in the state’s official Voter Information Guide, they find a way to disparage Mexico—or, in case you don’t get the point, they put it in capital letters, grade-school style: MEXICO. They claim that California farmers won’t be able to adapt to more humane practices, so we’ll have to start importing eggs from MEXICO, and you know what that insinuates. In their feverish desperation, they are trying to turn Mexico into a food boogeyman—less nutrition, more diseases.

Never mind that it’s a myth to suggest that local production is meeting California demand for eggs—since the state already imports half its eggs, a trend that has accelerated in recent years. In terms of future economic activity, Prop 2 provides California egg farmers with an opportunity to reverse this trend by producing “California Grown” eggs that meet the increasing in-state and national demand for eggs laid by hens who are not cruelly confined in tiny, cramped cages.

Increasingly, major retailers like Burger King and Safeway are asking producers to raise their standards for the humane treatment of animals. In fact, egg industry experts have predicted that demand for so-called “specialty” eggs on the West Coast will grow to 50 percent of the market within five years. Our opponents have no faith that California farmers can meet this booming demand for humanely raised products, and instead they resort to scare tactics about Mexican eggs.

Besides, the whole thing is just a straw man from the start. Dan Sumner, the author of a UC Davis study on the egg industry, said “it’s not very likely” that Mexico would start supplying California’s eggs. “Mexico doesn’t produce much feed corn and that’s why Mexico isn’t a logical place for production,” he said.Prop_2_health

To raise the issue of Mexico in this campaign is an ugly scare tactic, an old one, and Californians won’t be fooled. Latino leaders who know the California economy and who understand that cruelty to animals is simply wrong have endorsed Prop 2. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Dean Florez, Assemblyman Joe Coto, and Assemblyman Jose Solorio are among the backers of the initiative. And the Chicano Latino Caucus of the California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop 2 as well.

“Proposition 2 will make life better for animals, better for farm workers, and better for California consumers,” said Assemblyman Solorio. “It’s only natural that animals should have enough room to turn around, lie down, and stretch their limbs. Having better animal welfare standards will also mean better conditions for farm workers and safer food for all Californians. I urge Californians to vote Yes on Proposition 2.”

Organizations with authenticity and credibility on the issue of justice and better working conditions for Latinos understand that Prop 2 is the right thing for both animals and people. The Cesar Chavez Foundation and the United Farm Workers are urging a vote of YES! on Prop 2, as are Christine Chavez and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, granddaughters of the civil rights leader.

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, commented, “At a time when farm workers are making tremendous sacrifices in the fields of California, we recognize the importance of supporting Prop 2, the type of sensible reform that improves public health and stops the worst animal cruelty on factory farms. The founding principles of Prop 2 are the same as that of the Farm Worker Movement, built on the vision of Cesar Chavez.”

During his lifetime, Cesar Chavez championed “kindness and compassion toward all living things.” He said, “We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to help people understand that the animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves.”

So while the factory farmers abuse their workers, torment animals, and sling mud at Mexico, those who envision a better world for people and animals in California will continue the rally cry of YES! on Prop 2. ¡Sí se puede!

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