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Bills affecting farm animals make their way through California legislature

May 29, 2009 |  5:36 pm

Cow

Two California state bills to improve the lives of farm animals are receiving broad support and are likely to become law soon. 

S.B. 135, a bill introduced in February by California state Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) that would ban the practice of docking dairy cows' tails except in extreme circumstances, passed a senate vote with a 27-12 majority earlier this week. 

Proponents of the tail-docking practice say it improves hygiene in dairy cows.  But it's already been outlawed in many parts of Europe and many animal advocates scoff at the notion that it's necessary for cleanliness.  "Tail-docking never had a scientific rationale, and it's been exposed now as little more than a routine and pointless type of mutilation," Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States, said of the common procedure.  It's already illegal to dock a horse's tail; S.B. 135, if enacted into law, will amend the current legislation to add the phrase "and cattle."

Also up for California legislators' review this week was A.B. 1437, introduced by Assembly Member Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), which would take last year's Proposition 2 one step further.  While Proposition 2 requires egg-laying chickens in California to have adequate room to stretch their wings, it doesn't apply the same protections to chickens whose eggs are imported to California from other states. 

Chickens A.B. 1437, which passed an Assembly vote this week with a 65-12 majority, would require all eggs imported into California to meet California's animal care requirements by 2015.  (The bill was coauthored by Florez, who is seen by many as a powerful ally of the animal welfare community.)

"The voters spoke pretty loudly to me and everyone else," Huffman told the Associated Press of the widespread support for Proposition 2 last year. "I think we need to listen."

The Humane Society's president and CEO Wayne Pacelle echoed Huffman's sentiments, saying that voters had "demonstrated that Californians want to see the humane treatment of all animals, including those raised for food."

Another bill introduced by Florez, S.B. 416, would phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics (those used for a purpose other than treating a sick animal) in animals raised for food in California.  S.B. 416 passed the California Senate Food and Agriculture Committee by a 3-1 margin last month.

"We are so grateful that even as the Legislature grapples with an extraordinary and vexing budget dilemma, they are seeing fit to enact modest reforms that have no budgetary implications but that will have a dramatic and positive impact on animals," said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's Sacramento lobbyist.

--Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press
Bottom photo: Bruce Friedrich / Associated Press

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