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Feathers flying over California's Proposition 2

October 21, 2008 |  6:20 pm

Hen_cages The state ballot initiative that would outlaw confining hens, pigs and calves in movement-restricting cages has become a high-profile and costly fight between celebrity-backed animal activists and agricultural groups, Times reporter Carla Hall writes.

The treatment of farm animals has been on the radar of national animal welfare organizations for more than two decades. But no initiative or legislation has raised the profile of the issue like Proposition 2 has. The measure, aimed at protecting creatures that many urban Californians may never have seen up close, has captivated animal welfare advocates and galvanized their opponents well beyond state lines.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres promoted it on her program and co-hosted a gala fundraiser with her spouse, actress Portia de Rossi. Oprah weighed in last week, hosting both sides of the debate on her show.

Meanwhile, the measure's opponents have received hundreds of thousands of dollars not just from California farmers but also from out-of-state agricultural interests, concerned that their practices could be targeted next.

Earlier this week, Times columnist George Skelton weighed in on the issue, opining that the comfort of chickens is something that should be worked out among farmers, activists and consumers, not by way of the ballot box.

"I'm for chicken compassion," he wrote. "But I feel more compassionate about the chicken farmer in this bankrupting economy."

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Farm Sanctuary

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