03 November 2008

California Proposition 2

The Standards for Confining Farm Animals initiative statute, better known as Prop 2, strikes me as being somewhere between common sense and ethical business practices. Under Prop 2, calves raised for veal, hens producing eggs, and pigs producing piglets would be given enough space to stand, turn around, lie down, and stretch their limbs freely. In other words, humane treatment.

Since there is a limited amount of space in the back of a semi, exceptions are provided for transportation, as well as for veterinaries and a few other specific situations where providing adequate space to stretch and turn would be nearly impossible, if not insanely cost prohibitive.

As California pig and calve industries are tiny, especially compared to the $337 million egg industry, most arguments focus on hens and egg production. Both the arguments for and against Prop 2 are fairly predictable: Even animals destined for slaughter deserve better. It'll increase the final cost to the consumer. The extra few pennies per dozen are negligible compared to the cost to the animals. Cheaper eggs will be imported from Mexico and neighboring states. And so on. However, there is one argument that the No on Prop 2 party keeps bringing up that will ring loud and clear in the heads of voters - higher production costs will push animal facilities into other states that don't have such regulation, and the ones that do stay will be breeding grounds for disease.

If hens were allowed to socialize with free birds, then yes, diseases would increase. However, nothing in the proposition says anything about open air cageless facilities. The animals would still be nice and safe inside, just with more space to exist in. As an added bonus, animals with more space are less stressed than those squished in a box, which makes the spaced ones healthier overall.

Okay, so depending on who you ask, you can get differing opinions on the health benefits to both humans and animals. But what about industrial farms picking up their hens and driving away? California already has budget problems, so the potentially huge lose of the egg industry's taxes would be a particularly nasty blow. At the same time, egg farms in other states must be drooling over the thought of Prop 2 making their imported eggs cheaper and gaining market share. That's why agriculture companies from Iowa donated nearly a quarter million dollars to the Yes on Prop 2 campaigns. Oh wait. They didn't. But they did donate that much to the No side. Now that's interesting...

When Arizona passed a similar law in 2006, the industrial farms didn't run away as they threatened to. Instead, the law provided a catalyst for reform across the nation. If Prop 2 passes, the same thing is likely to happen again, but this time with egg-laying hens. California won't be losing millions in tax revenue, much less thousands of jobs. Proposition 2 will be getting a Yes from me.



slackwench said...

CA already has strict laws about importing produce from out of state. It's not unreasonable to see them doing the same thing for eggs to offset any potential benefit of leaving the state.

dreamerj25 said...

Awesome! Vote Yes for me too! =]