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The reasoning behind Prop. 2 -- Is it for the birds?

Pssst -- jail break tonight. Pass it on

We legislate by committee here in California, where anyone with the cash and clout can use the ballot initiative process to write laws our legislators didn't. One of the more unusual choices on the November ballot is Proposition 2, which requires that chickens, pigs and calves have enough room in their enclosures that they can stand, sit and turn around. Animal activists are solidly behind the idea, which has our own George Skelton, who grew up in rural Ojai, weighing both sides:

Polls have shown Proposition 2 winning handily. But I'm guessing most voters haven't really focused in, that they've had a lot more on their minds lately than the treatment of chickens.

I've been torn myself. I like chickens and respect them. But they're tough to warm up to.

Growing up on a small orange ranch in Ojai, I did my share of shoveling chicken manure, collecting eggs, and serving up corn mash and table scraps. Many a Sunday, my brother and I would be sent to the chicken pen to select and prepare the dinner entree for our mother to fry.

We'd wield the hatchet and not give it a second thought. These aren't cuddly critters. Mean is their routine. Chickens, after all, invented the pecking order, the original organization chart. And they'll peck persistently on a weak colleague.

Ours were "free range" chickens, to use today's highfalutin terminology. We'd let them roam the orchard during the day, pecking for seeds and insects. At evening, our border collie-Australian shepherd would herd the birds back into their pen and they'd strut into the sheltered roosting area for the night.

It was a good life for the chickens -- an Old McDonald's Farm existence that has little relationship to today's factory egg farms.

Today, commercial egg-layers are crammed four, six, eight to a cage, depending on the size, each bird with less space than an 8-1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. No perching. No dust bathing. That's the bad.

The good, farmers counter, is that California cages are relatively sanitary because the manure falls onto conveyor belts. The eggs are carried away by other conveyor belts. And the building is climate-controlled to the chickens' liking.

The rest of George's column is here.

— Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (3)

Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

If you believe the chickens, pigs and veal calves are treated humanely now you are simply kidding yourself. Also, letting the agri-business regulate itself and change its industry standards on it own time and terms is equivalent to endorsing the idea that a fox managing a hen house is a fabulous idea. I couldn’t be more disappointed in the LA Times for their position on this issue.

always with the gandhi quotes-
how do you think gandhi would have responded to our national health care system or the millions of hungry americans, many of them children-
hey i love animals too, but i believe there are more pending issues and values we should put ahead of chickens and cows. more responsible ways to spend money than making sure foghorn leghorn was enough elbow room.
why not buy cage free or organic instead of forcing a law?
when asking a journalist friend of mine why americans spend as much money on health care for their pets as they do on humans he responded that humans need to be cuter and cuddlier.
maybe that's it, if we throw a red scarf around a starving child maybe that'll bring in the dollars.
i vote no on all these props, teh elected officials should do there job.

Our national health care system as Mike The Cook wants to talk about...we might not be more sick than ever if our animals raised for food weren't fed such high levels of antibiotics. They need these because they are crammed together so tightly in such a small area.
Maybe a little more space would create healthy animals and lead to healthy food and less health problems for humans. This isn't just an 'animal rights' issue. This is an environmental issue as well as a human health issue.
These animals should be allowed to at least move around for their short, miserable lives.
Center For Food Safety endorses YES ON PROP 2. That should tell you something.
I'm voting YES ON PROP 2. Don't believe the scare tactics by the opposition.

Agribusiness corporations rely on deception and scare tactics in new TV ads

SACRAMENTO (October 15, 2008) —Yesterday the factory farming corporations opposing Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, revealed their first television advertisements. The major funders listed include MoArk, which was exposed just yesterday for shocking cruelty to birds at its Riverside County egg factory. Not surprisingly, the ads are chock-full of distortions and scare tactics from an industry that wants to keep cramming animals into tiny cages where they can barely move for their entire lives.

“The arguments from the factory farmers are riddled with misleading and false claims that don’t pass the smell test,” said YES! on Prop 2 campaign manager Jennifer Fearing. “They cannot defend their inhumane confinement practices, so instead they have launched a campaign of outright lies to frighten voters.”

Among the ads’ claims that are most egregiously false or misleading:

MYTH: Voice-over and screen graphics relating to higher food prices. One graph specifically shows how much egg prices have increased relative to other grocery items from June 2006 to June 2007 (eggs—19.5%).
FACT: The very reason egg prices are up more than any other food item is because the opponents of Prop 2 are fixing prices and gouging consumers. Several of the out-of-state egg factory farms opposing Prop 2 are currently under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for antitrust violations, and at least five class action lawsuits have been filed to recoup the record profits these corporations have reaped at a time when average American’s are suffering financially. (Sources: Wall Street Journal—http://tinyurl.com/4let23 and http://tinyurl.com/3scov7—and press release—http://tinyurl.com/4fzneb). While the factory farms are pocketing the profits at the expense of shoppers, a UC Riverside study says it would cost less than a penny per egg to stop cramming birds into tiny cages.

MYTH: Screen graphics that state “Prop 2 will force family farmers out of business.”
FACT: Prop 2 provides a phase-out period of more than six years, giving farmers until 2015 to transition to more humane and sustainable practices. The opposition’s alarmist claim is similar to one that that the pork industry made prior to 2007—that the industry simply couldn’t stop using gestation crates. However, after Arizona voters banned gestation crates, Smithfield Foods—the nation’s largest pig producer—announced it would phase out its use of gestation crates across the nation. One week later, Canada’s largest pig producer announced it would do the same. Farmers are innovative people who can meet challenges presented to them. Already, a large number of them—especially in California—are raising laying hens without confining them in battery cages. More than 100 California family farmers support Prop 2.

MYTH: Ad footage showing lines of cars presumably crossing the border into the US from Mexico, along with voice-over claims that eggs will have to come from Mexico.
FACT: UC Davis Professor Dan Sumner, author of a report touted by opponents, has stated, “I personally think that’s unlikely...Mexico doesn’t produce much feed corn and that’s why Mexico isn’t a logical place for production.” (Source: Sonoma News—http://tinyurl.com/3fgrh7). More to the point, the U.S. does not import eggs from Mexico. In 2007, the U.S. didn’t import a single egg from Mexico (Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service). California already imports half of its eggs from other states, and making “California Grown” a standard for better animal welfare and food safety will help California egg producers compete in this commodity market.

MYTH: Voice-over claim that Prop 2 will lead to “higher Salmonella risks.”
FACT: In fact, one of the worst outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning from eggs came from Norco Ranch in California – one of the key opponents of Prop 2. And all of the recent scientific evidence shows more Salmonella risk in caged flocks compared to cage-free. In fact, factory farming is considered the reason Salmonella emerged as such a major egg pathogen in the first place. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eggs now infect more than 100,000 Americans every year. The best available data shows that operations which cram thousands of hens into tiny cages are not surprisingly up to 20 times more likely than cage-free facilities to harbor Salmonella infection. (Source: “The Public Health Benefits of Proposition 2: An Evidence-Based Analysis). It’s just common sense that cramming animals into tight spaces makes them unhealthy and more likely to spread diseases, and that’s just what the scientific literature shows.

Prop 2 is a modest initiative aimed at changing animal confinement practices on factory farms so that veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens have room to stand up, sit down and extend their limbs. It is supported by The Humane Society of the United States, the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Food Safety, the ASPCA, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the United Farm Workers, Farm Sanctuary, the Sierra Club, the State Humane Association of California, Cesar Chavez Foundation, California Council of Churches IMPACT, Republican and Democratic elected officials, hundreds of California veterinarians, family farmers, religious leaders, and many others.


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