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21 posts from June 2008


June 30, 2008

A Personal Commitment to Quantum Wellness

Any strong social movement must have foundational ideals. And the cause of animal protection is indeed built on time-tested iron struts. The trick is, though, to translate these ideals into practical action. When you consider the scope and intensity of human-caused cruelty to animals—in the forms of factory farming, animal testing, the killing of animals for clothing and accessories, recreational killing of animals, and so much more—there is an urgent moral imperative to change the circumstances for animals. At the end of the day, HSUS is about putting our ideas into practice, inculcating humane values, and embedding them in the law and in our culture.

That's why I've always particularly admired writers whose works have activated people and demonstrably strengthened our movement. Very few books will ever have the impact of Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation." Accessible in its prose, logical in argument, and jarring in detail, it triggered a wave of grassroots animal activism still being felt 33 years after its original publication. Matthew Scully's "Dominion" did remarkable work in drawing conservatives into the cause of animal protection, dampening their hostilities, and reclaiming for our cause the long-accepted virtues of human mercy and responsibility in our dealings with animals.

In an entirely different way, Rory Freedman's "Skinny Bitch," has been something of a popular cultural watershed, with more than a million copies sold to women of all ages, especially girls and young women, and sometimes shocking them with irreverent language and straight talk to get them to rethink their diets and to shun meat-eating.

Kathy Freston, Quantum Wellness Now comes another kind of book that's apt to create a ripple effect with a long radius. I'm speaking of Kathy Freston's "Quantum Wellness." Her book is not an animal protection manifesto, though she does embrace vegetarianism in an unhesitating and powerful way. She writes, "Eating the 'omnivorous' diet that is a part of our modern culture requires that we wear blinders to the immense suffering involved in delivering animal protein to our plates." But her book reaches far beyond the boundaries of conventional animal protection. It is a practical guide to living well—a self-improvement plan of action that, she argues, also yields improvements for the larger society. In a personal way that engages the reader, Freston addresses the way we work, have fun, exercise, eat, and relate to others. It's back to the basics, but in working to strengthen the individual, we build a healthier society.

When she writes about diet, and her own metamorphosis, I felt like she was speaking for me. When I went vegetarian and then vegan 23 years ago, I did not feel like it was a sacrifice or a chore. Rather, I felt liberated and empowered. When I remedied an emotional disconnect in my life, I added vigor and clarity, and I have the same ardor for change that I had two decades ago.

Freston's discussion of emotional wellness also rang true for me. In 20 years in full-time animal protection, I've seen many people come and go. Bad lifestyle habits shorten the advocate's productive lifespan. Unhealthy eating habits sap us of strength. Emotional tumult and turmoil distract us and cause us to lose our focus. Many others simply quit the cause because of an inability to deal with the pain of knowing what animals go through.

When we as individuals make a larger commitment to wellness, as Freston encourages us to do, we inoculate ourselves from these threats. We live longer, we work harder, we are more appealing ambassadors for animal protection. It's all connected, and for us to be the best advocates, we have to live well and be well—in mind and body.

And here she brings a realistic approach. Seldom do we read a book and follow its prescriptions without fail. We adopt changes at different rates, if at all, and there are roadblocks along the way. Freston urges patience, for ourselves and for others in our lives. She has it exactly right. We must balance impatience for the change with a tolerance for individual circumstance.

Freston has been a best-selling author, and "Quantum Wellness" has also been fantastically successful in its opening weeks. It's again number three on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover books of its type. Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey are fans, and both had Freston on their programs within recent weeks. Both women are now publicly experimenting with veganism, and the cultural impact of their embrace of the book and its message is hard to overestimate.

I recommend reading this book, since there's something in it for each one of us. Those on a mission to protect animals need to find balance in their lives and a broader commitment to wellness to keep them strong and focused on the challenges ahead. In giving us "Quantum Wellness," Freston has made a wonderful contribution, and I'll be doing a Question & Answer with her on the blog sometime in July.

June 27, 2008

Puppy Piper Picked a Caption

Last Friday in celebration of Take Your Dog to Work Day I posted a picture of Piper, one of the many pups who benefits from The HSUS's dogs in the office program.

Dog Piper at The HSUS office With more and more employers now allowing dogs in the office—a remarkable 17 percent, according to a recent report—HSUS staff weren't the only workers who observed the day in the company of canines. My blog post was featured on the Everything TypePad blog where we learned that the company also enjoys a dog-friendly workplace. And CNN's Anderson Cooper, a Genesis Awards recipient who consistently has an eye to animals, gave a nod to the holiday on his popular 360° program, featuring one of Piper's Chihuahua brethren from Florida.

Thanks to everyone who put words into Piper's mouth and offered photo captions—it's been fun to read your ideas as they rolled in. It was a tough task but after looking through them all I've created a top ten list of favorites:

10. Me, type? I could try... —Julie
9. You've got to see these humans at work to believe it! —DJ and Tilin the corgi
8. Hey! Who took my anti-fur button? —Pamela Bertsch
7. OK, so I was in a hurry this morning and forgot to shave! —Terri Cunningham
6. You think this is easy?! YOU try running a company from under a desk! —Lauren Schilling
5. Uh oh, here comes the nervous toots and diarrhea. —Lauren Moretti
4. I'm so small I think he's forgotten I'm here… Hello??? —Lizabeth
3. Oh my gosh, a BIG RED TURD on my first "bring your dog to work" day. Do you think he'll notice? —Dr. Glenda Berg
2. Go ahead and make the Chihuahua mixed with a rat joke one more time and we'll see what happens. —Riley
1. And, the winner: Has anyone seen my squeaky chew toy? I had it right here, now it's gone! Anyone? It's RED... it SQUEAKS... you CHEW on it? —Lauren Schilling

June 26, 2008

Uncaged

Last week, our Emergency Services team was in Iowa responding to the floods. There's no rest for the weary, though. Over the weekend, they deployed to Tennessee, as part of a carefully planned response to a human-caused disaster of very significant proportions. Joined by dozens of staff from several HSUS departments and more than 50 individuals from other organizations, our rescue team is carrying out the largest puppy mill bust in Tennessee history, removing nearly 700 dogs who had been living in intensive confinement and suffering in cramped and squalid cages (see video from the scene).

Our Tennessee State Director Leighann McCollum set this operation into motion and has been working with local authorities and District Attorney Kim Helper for six weeks to build a case against this reckless puppy mill operator.

Scotlund Haisley, our senior director of Emergency Services and the Indiana Jones of animal protection, is leading the rescue efforts in Lyles, Tenn. and provides this report.


Yorkie dog rescued from a puppy mill in Tennessee
© The HSUS/Michelle Riley
One of the dogs who will be rescued.

For two days we assembled hundreds of crates and organized tons of supplies in an effort to prepare for the influx of rescued dogs. But we were unable to prepare ourselves for the sight that awaited us at the puppy mill. The smell of urine and feces reached us long before we could even see the animals.

Nearly 450 dogs were living in row after row of tiny hutches stacked in an overgrown field. These animals had no protection from the elements and many of the dogs’ legs were entangled in the grates of their wire cages. Approximately 250 female dogs and their puppies were also being kept in deplorable conditions inside a trailer on the property. None of these animals were being properly fed and 90 percent of them had no water.

As we came upon the dogs they let out a volley of excited but nervous barking that carried across the property. But as we approached this canine factory farm the dogs pressed themselves up against the bars with their tails wagging furiously. Despite years of neglect and abuse, these animals still yearn for human affection. 

It is heartbreaking to see such innocent life mistreated in this way. Many of the dogs were lying in piles of their own feces with untreated wounds ranging from broken bones to deep lacerations. One Yorkie was so matted that her tangled coat was twice the size of her frame and she couldn’t move her legs because they were so constricted by fur.

It will be no easy feat rescuing hundreds of mistreated animals and giving them the care they need. We will have to work around the clock for several days to remove them from the property. But I know that we will not rest until all of these dogs have been safely transported to our emergency shelter for veterinary care and evaluation. While I am dirty and dog-tired, I couldn't be happier to be among these animals and helping to deliver them to a new and hopeful chapter in their lives.

June 25, 2008

Three Strikes and Downers Should be Out

Today was an especially remarkable day at The HSUS—and it shows how we put your support to work for animals in rather remarkable ways. We had FOUR press conferences on major issues throughout the nation and a full complement of press in attendance at every event. In Tennessee, we had a press conference after The HSUS and law enforcement raided a massive puppy mill at 7 a.m. in Hickman County and confiscated 700 dogs (I'll provide a full report on this very significant action tomorrow). In Kansas, HSUS and law enforcement officials raided a major cockfighting operation in Johnson County and confiscated 180 fighting roosters. In Colorado, we had a press conference with state Attorney General John Suthers to announce our reward program for animal fighting. And in Washington, D.C., we released the results of our third major investigation of the year into the trade and abuse of downed dairy cattle.

184x164_downer_auc_vid Today's press conference at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. about the mistreatment of cattle was one I wish we did not have to conduct. After the Hallmark undercover investigation—exposing the abuse of downer cows at a southern California slaughter plant—everyone in the livestock industry should have been on notice to clean up their act, especially after the investigation triggered the nation's largest ever meat recall. When we released a second investigation that documented abuses at livestock auctions in four states, we showed that the abuses we uncovered at Hallmark were not isolated cases. You would have thought the second investigation would have jarred auction managers and personnel to stop accepting and abusing downer cows. But that hope of mine has proved too optimistic. We uncovered more abuses, along with more excuses and false assurances.

The HSUS's third undercover investigation focused on the Portales Livestock Auction in New Mexico. As with Hallmark, sick and crippled dairy cows were battered in a variety of ways, including the use of electricity and heavy machinery to get the ailing animals on their feet and into the auction pen. Our investigator said he saw at least three downer cows who were actually sold and sent off to the next stop in the food production process. A fair number of the animals sold at Portales are then sold to Caviness, a slaughter plant in west Texas (Portales had been sending some of its spent dairy cows to Hallmark before that plant was shut down). Caviness does the slaughtering, and a processing facility called Palo Duro readies the meat for human consumption. Palo Duro is now the largest supplier to the National School Lunch Program.

These systemic and widespread abuses have to stop, and it's time for the industry and the government to take action. It's been nearly five months since we released the results of our Hallmark investigation, and USDA has still not closed the loophole in the federal rule relating to the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle. Today, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer called upon the industry to voluntarily adhere to a ban until the USDA rule is made final. That's a good step, and a fair number of major players in industry have agreed, but that's not enough. Secretary Schafer has taken our investigations with the seriousness they deserve and has been highly attentive to animal welfare issues, but it's now past time for USDA to take immediate action and close the loophole. The industry is not cleaning up the problem on its own, and we can wait no longer. And there's no reason for Congress to be a bystander. Several members of Congress, including House Agriculture Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.) and Senator Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), issued statements condemning the abuse of downers and USDA inaction, but it is time for the entire Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to ban the movement of downers at slaughterhouses or auctions.

See our video to get a complete picture of what's happening in the livestock industry. It's not pretty, but it's a necessary antecedent to policy action.

June 24, 2008

Animal Abuse by Any Other Name

It's more than obfuscation. It seems inadequate to call it a charade. Bald-faced lie comes a bit closer. Perfidious fraud feels about right to me.

I'm talking about Californians for Safe Food. A group with a name like that sounds like an advocate for passing the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—the California ballot measure to phase out veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages that will appear on the November general election ballot. But no, Californians for Safe Food is the creation of some of the biggest factory farms in the United States, and it's the official group opposing the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.

Rows of egg-laying hens in battery cages

Of course they can't call themselves Industrialized Factory Farms Seeking Profits at the Expense of Animals Committee. Or the Committee for Treating Animals Like Objects. We wouldn't expect that sort of suicidal honesty. But Californians for Safe Food? These people have no shame. Are there no limits to their duplicity?

Just this past week alone, egg factory farmers contributed more than half a million dollars to fight against this ballot measure to protect animals in California.

While the egg industry has a notoriously poor track record when it comes to animal welfare, the biggest contributor to our opposition, Moark LLC, has a particularly sordid history. In fact, the company was forced to pay $100,000 to settle criminal animal cruelty charges in Missouri when a concerned neighbor videotaped Moark using a conveyor belt to throw live birds into a dumpster.

Another major contributor, the United Egg Producers, had to pay $100,000 to settle the false advertising allegations—relating to misleading claims about animal welfare—of 17 attorneys general, including California’s. Even the Better Business Bureau ruled that United Egg Producers was misleading the public.

The sixth largest contributor, Norco Ranch, maintains factory farms in southern California that confine 8 million birds! They keep hundreds of thousands of hens crammed in a single building, stacking tiny wire cages upon each other. Each bird, under the industry standard, gets 67 square inches—two-thirds of the size of a regular sheet of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper. The animals can't even extend their wings, and are typically crammed six or eight birds to a cage.

Egg-laying hens confined in battery cage
© Compassion Over Killing

The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—qualified thanks largely to the work of 4,000 volunteer petitioners—will reduce the suffering of 20 million abused animals trapped in cages inside California factory farms. The ballot measure is also good for the environment. And it's good for food safety; and that's why it’s backed by reputable groups that have credibility and authenticity on the issue of food safety, such as the Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

We cannot allow these factory farming fakers to trick California voters with their big money. We must be able to compete financially. Animal advocates across the country are helping this critical effort by joining the $20/20 Campaign—giving just $20 (or more) to Californians for Humane Farms to help these 20 million animals who are depending on us. Click here to donate (donations are not tax deductible). Or, you can donate via our widget on MySpace or Facebook if you’re on those networks.

Once you donate, please forward this and spread the word (here are some ideas, including using your Facebook and MySpace pages).

By giving just $20, you can help change the world for 20 million animals. Then ask 20 friends to do the same.

In the process, you'll be equipping us to expose the deception of our opponents. Let's not let them get away with their fraud.

June 23, 2008

Whale of a Fight

I was saddened and more than a little awestruck by the remarkable story last year of a bowhead whale who was killed in a June 2007 hunt by Inupiaq whalers off the Alaskan coast. Embedded in the whale’s layer of blubber, between the neck and shoulder blade, was a fragment from a bomb lance manufactured in the late 1800s in New Bedford, Mass. Whalers fitted the small metal cylinder with an explosive and time delay, so that it would detonate after it had been fired into the whale from a heavy shoulder or darting gun, fixed to the harpoon shaft.

In other words, this whale had been hunted more than 120 years ago, survived the trauma, and had passed the entire 20th century without further harm, before being killed by Alaskan hunters just last year. When Edison was working on the phonograph, this whale was feeding on plankton and diving in Arctic waters. Before Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill, much less became president of the United States, this whale was learning his migration routes.

Minke whale
© iStockphoto

It’s rare to see a whale that old, and it’s all the more remarkable when you consider the decimation of whale species that the last one hundred years has wrought. This magnificent creature had survived a century’s worth of rapacious whaling, environmental despoliation, overfishing, and other threats.

For four decades, The HSUS and its international affiliate Humane Society International have been working to protect whales and other marine mammals from harm. One of the most important venues for the protection of whales is the International Whaling Commission, which begins its 60th meeting today in Santiago, Chile. Our staff experts participate in the meetings of the scientific committee and help national delegations to assess and develop proposals being considered by the full body.

While the IWC is an important gathering place for all people and nations interested in whales—for harm or good—The HSUS's work to protect whales is carried out year-round. Throughout this last year we continued our successful supermarket campaign in Japan to end the sale of whale and dolphin meat in stores.

Moreover, just several months after IWC 2007 ended in Anchorage, Alaska, our affiliate Humane Society International-Australia won an historic lawsuit, as the Australian Federal Court ruled that a Japanese company killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary was conducting an illegal hunt that violated Australian law.

We worked with other non-governmental organizations throughout the world on a blueprint for the IWC’s future, laying emphasis on its accomplishments and its potential as a cetacean conservation entity. You can read the joint publication of this coalition, A Time to Refocus, here.

And last week, as IWC delegates began to gather in Santiago, we secured a unanimous congressional vote on House Concurrent Resolution 350—authored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.)—which instructed the U.S. delegation to the IWC to stand strong on the moratorium on commercial whaling adopted in 1982. This was an affirmation of long-standing U.S. policy on whales, and especially important as the run-up to this year’s meeting was awash in rumors that a deal to permit commercial whaling under a new guise is in the works.

Figure from
© Wilf Swartz and Daniel Pauly
Our new report targets the misleading rationale for whaling.

Some months ago, continuing our efforts to deflate the political argument that “whales eat fish and so must be culled”—a specious argument that plays on anxieties about food security in developing nations—we commissioned a new study by a renowned fisheries expert, Dr. Daniel Pauly. Today, at 1 p.m. in Santiago, Dr. Pauly will discuss his work along with representatives of HSI, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Pew Environmental Trust/LENFEST. The three organizations, each one issuing a report on some aspect of the global fisheries argument, agreed to stand together in this important forum. And Dr. Pauly will also speak to a worldwide media audience in a 4 p.m. teleconference call organized by HSI.

Patricia Forkan, president of HSI, first attended the IWC in 1973, a decade before the moratorium was adopted, and has played a role in virtually all of the crucial victories gained in the worldwide struggle to save whales. She’s missed just one IWC meeting in all of those years. I often try to convey to readers that we’re hard at work every day on any number of fronts to help animals. But as Patti’s dedication to advancing our work at the IWC and elsewhere attests, we’re also in it for the long haul.

You can read daily dispatches from our team at IWC here. And you can take action to support whales here.

June 20, 2008

The Dog Ate My Blog

This morning, local network TV affiliates in Washington, D.C. visited The HSUS’s Gaithersburg, Md. office to interview some of our best campaigners. I’m afraid a few of them may have drooled on the microphone.

Camera crews did live broadcasts from our office throughout the morning in celebration of Take Your Dog to Work Day. At The HSUS offices, every day is take your dog to work day, and our dogs in the office policy has been running without a hitch for more than a year now. So it was just another day at the office in showing off our policy to the press. It's great for the dogs and also their caretakers, who save on doggy day care costs. With this policy, there's no separation anxiety on the part of person or pooch.

Our office dogs are so well-behaved there are times we almost forget they are here. The times when they announce their presence—through the squeak of a toy, a woof of excitement, a stray snore, or the thump of a tail wagging against the floor—serve to keep our spirits up and remind us of who it is we’re working for.

Dawn Lauer, a Companion Animals outreach assistant who brings her dog Katie to work, said it best: "The ability to step away for a moment and give Katie a belly-rub can really help to alleviate the stress and provide us with renewed inspiration to continue our work of protecting animals."

Even if you don’t have dogs in your office or in your life, let’s celebrate the day with a bit of fun. Piper, a timid Chihuahua mix pictured below, comes to the office with Beau Archer, our shelter services coordinator. What do you think is on Piper’s mind? Suggest a caption for this photo either by offering a comment or sending an email. Then I’ll print your ideas next week and pick a favorite.

Dog Piper at The HSUS office

June 19, 2008

A New Dawn

When Karen Dawn told me she was writing a book, I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a predictable primer on animal advocacy. I knew she’d have some surprises in store for us, and also knew that she’d make a valuable contribution to the literature on animal protection and provide us with a practical guide of getting people involved. Karen is known for her irreverent sense of humor, and “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals” doesn’t disappoint.

Rather than simply trying to shock or shame readers into making animal-friendly changes in their lives, Karen offers a more light-hearted view, mixing serious subjects with jokes, cartoons, and pop culture icons. (For example, when discussing the possibility of insect sentience, Karen quips, “I’ve heard that if a woman in New York wants to get the cockroaches out of her apartment, all she has to do is ask them for a commitment.”)

Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn But this isn’t a flip treatment of the issues. Karen paints a vivid picture of the cruelty we routinely inflict upon animals, and she unhesitatingly wades into discussion about contested issues in the humane movement.

Addressing the abolition-reform schism that is a fault line within most social movements, Karen argues that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in our campaigns, and that we should welcome incremental gains for animals. She refutes the view that we should accept nothing less than perfection by citing the human rights movement. Karen asks, “Can you imagine Amnesty International campaigning against laws that forbid the torture of political prisoners because the prisoners shouldn’t be in jail at all, and because their case will be stronger if the torture continues?”

I’m also impressed by Karen’s cogent arguments in favor of the animal movement becoming more politically engaged—a conviction I’ve held for two decades now and done my best to put into practice here at The HSUS. Indeed, winning the argument does not necessarily translate into the protection of animals. We must prevail in the political domain, and translate our ideals into public policy if we are to have a real-world effect for animals. Karen is correct to note that the movement has become increasingly effective in the public policy arena and that this has been the pathway for many of the most significant advances for animals. And, it’s obvious, there’s much more to be done in this arena.

Perhaps her most powerful commentary is on the subject of factory farming, and her passion and outrage stand out. Karen examines each sector of the animal agribusiness industry, giving a brief glimpse into the institutionalized abuses that have become routine practices. In these industries, we’ve come to treat sentient animals as little more than meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines.

She offers a very pragmatic view of how each of us can help reduce farm animal suffering, whether by taking animals off our plates altogether, reducing our animal consumption, or avoiding the products that cause the most cruelty, such as battery cage eggs. At a time when we have learned about many innovations in animal cruelty—such as animal cloning and Internet hunting—she offers a hopeful embrace of in vitro meat production, which, she says, offers the promise of feeding people yet moving us past the factory farming of animals.

Karen has served the movement through the years with her outstanding and timely DawnWatch, which offers analytical accounts of press coverage on animal protection. Now, she’s given us yet another valuable contribution in the form of "Thanking the Monkey," and I recommend it especially for those inquiring about the emerging debate in society about our treatment of animals.

A footnote: You can meet Karen at this year's Taking Action for Animals conference in the D.C. area, where she'll lead a session about taking animal issues to the mainstream media. If you are free the weekend of July 19-21 I hope you'll join us—registration just opened and you can also see the complete schedule.

June 18, 2008

Petting the Pain Away

The waters are receding in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where our Emergency Services team has been working around the clock. But much work remains. We have more than 700 animals in an emergency shelter at Kirkwood Community College and our focus will be on reuniting people with the animals remaining at the shelter. And we are on notice about flooding problems in Missouri and other areas that might require a redeployment.

On Monday the AP’s Rich Matthews followed our Animal Rescue Team as they came to the aid of animals in distress and reunited weary Iowans with their pets. Homes have been swallowed or damaged and entire towns turned upside down, but that devastation disappears for just a moment during a reunion with a beloved pet.

June 17, 2008

A Measure for Everyone

The HSUS does not have the luxury of focusing its resources on a single campaign, or even a couple of major efforts. At a time when our disaster team is fully deployed in Iowa, we are also at work on hundreds of other projects—from our life-saving work at our animal care centers, to promoting spaying and neutering throughout the nation and helping shelters, to lobbying in state capitols across the country and in the Congress, to conducting pin-pointed undercover investigations, to taking on corporations or the government in the courts when they are not following the law, to negotiating with corporate leaders on a raft of animal welfare reforms. And that litany hardly conveys the breadth and depth of our daily work.

Calf in a veal crate
© Farm Sanctuary

Yet, there are campaigns that have such far-reaching effects that we bring an extra measure of attention and focus. The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, a ballot initiative for the general election ballot in California in November, is one such campaign. It targets the most cruel and inhumane confinement practices on factory farms, and offers the prospect of improving the lives of animals trapped in enclosures that do not allow the animals to turn around or even fully extend their limbs. Veal calves are chained by the neck and confined in tiny crates, pigs in metal cages barely larger than their bodies, hens with less space than a letter-sized sheet of paper per bird, and the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty measure seeks to put an end to those practices.

We are now just a little more than four months away from the election and we are hard at work, with thousands of HSUS supporters in California, to make the case for the ballot measure to the people. Already, nearly a hundred other animal protection organizations, including Farm Sanctuary and the State Humane Association of California, have endorsed the measure. So have the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club California, and the Center for Food Safety. Leaders of the Episcopal, Methodist, and Catholic churches are backing the measure, and so are nearly 400 veterinarians in California.

Last Thursday, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein endorsed the measure, stating that "this Act is an important step in assuring the welfare of farm animals." This past weekend, the California Democratic Party threw its support behind the measure, as did the Democratic Chicano-Latino Caucus, Rural Caucus, Environmental Caucus, and three other caucuses. This is perhaps the first time that a major political party has supported a major legislative initiative to improve the lives of farm animals. We'll now reach out to the Republican Party and to every other group or association with a stake in the well-being of animals, the health of the environment, and the safety of our food—and that's just about everybody.

Some weeks back, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production—an independent panel chaired by former Kansas Governor John Carlin and that included former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman—said the California ballot measure includes “the types of modest animal welfare public policy improvements that the Commissioners recommend implementing.” That's the first independent commission in the United States to weigh so forcefully on the issue of farm animal welfare.

For us, the issue is simple: all animals deserve humane treatment, including those raised for food. But it's also true that factory farms increase their profits at the expense of our health. (Forbes magazine has reported that the egg industry is raking in record profits and boasting triple-digit revenue growth by charging consumers more, even while they cut corners and treat egg-laying hens inhumanely.) The Humane Society of the United States’ investigation of a Chino slaughter plant exposed the cruel treatment of sick and crippled cows—which then went onto school lunch tables all across California. It is also unhealthy to crowd animals by the tens of thousands into windowless buildings. If we were to squeeze every person in Fresno or Oakland into a high school gym, we’d create an environment that promotes stress and the spread of disease, and that’s precisely the environment we’ve created on factory farms. In its report, the Pew Commission said, “Practices that restrict natural motion, such as sow gestation crates, induce high levels of stress in the animals and threaten their health, which in turn may threaten human health.”

We as a nation can do better than to crowd animals into cages on factory farms and treat them as mere production machines. The California ballot measure is a test of our humanity and decency. We hope you'll join us and get involved at www.HumaneCalifornia.org. And mark your calendar for July 27 to host or attend a Vote Yes for Farm Animals house party—there will be parties nationwide to support the campaign.