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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Golden State's Golden Opportunity

Last week, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act for November’s general election, setting the stage for this year’s biggest ballot box battle on animal protection. Thanks to 4,000 California volunteers who gathered  hundreds of thousands of signatures, voters in the Golden State will have the opportunity to stop cruel and inhumane treatment of animals on industrial factory farms.

Cows_4 The measure's certification made news in diverse media outlets from the Sacramento Bee to the Los Angeles Times’ new “Unleashed” blog. It also stirred up the agribusiness giants. As Donald Lathbury wrote on the political website California Majority Report, “The opposition, dominated by large scale factory farm conglomerates, is willing to burn a lot of money to prevent this proposition from passing. Don’t be fooled by what is certain to be a massive misinformation campaign by the No side.”

Despite the misinformation sure to come, the question that will confront voters is relatively simple: Should animals be given basic humane treatment, or should they spend nearly their entire lives in cages so small they can’t even turn around and stretch their limbs? Veal calves are chained by the neck, pigs are kept in metal cages barely larger than their bodies, hens have less space than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Voting "Yes" on the measure will help protect animals from such extreme abuse.

Pigs_3 It will help us, too, as industrial factory farms also put our health at risk. The recent Humane Society of the United States investigation of a California slaughter plant exposed the cruel treatment of cows that threatened the safety of food fed to schoolchildren and led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. The agribusiness industry put profits ahead of the health of people, and certainly ahead of the wellbeing of animals.

Caging animals in high densities leads to more animal waste and air and water pollution, as well as risk of disease transmission such as salmonella. Cramming hundreds of thousands of animals into a single factory is like putting all the residents of Fresno or Oakland into a high school gym, without a bathroom, and waiting for someone to sneeze.

We can do better—and many farmers are. Because it is not a California tradition to confine farm animals in tiny cages for their whole lives, the passage of this initiative will protect California’s family farming heritage. Family farmers know food quality is enhanced by more humane farming methods, and supporting this measure helps them compete and survive.

Hens_2And while you’re likely to hear about food prices, these modest reforms won’t be costly to implement. The egg industry’s own California-based poultry economist (see page four) reports that producing cage-free eggs costs less than one penny per egg more. According to California’s Legislative Analyst, the fiscal impact of this initiative is limited to minor costs that will be offset by revenue from fines. 

Join the fight to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, and find out more from Californians for Humane Farms. Help spread the word, and tell your friends and family who live in California to vote "Yes" for the humane treatment of animals this November.

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