There comes a time in all successful social movements when the seeds of reform that have long been sown finally begin to grow roots and take hold of the soil. When it comes to our fight against the most extreme confinement of animals on today’s factory farms, I see that process developing, and in the end we will see a flower bloom.
After a comprehensive two-year study, the prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production concluded that factory farms pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and animal welfare. The Pew Commission explicitly recommended the phase-out of confinement practices such as battery cages (for laying hens), veal crates, and gestation crates (for breeding sows), and it made the announcement earlier this week at a press conference in Washington, D.C. These three confinement practices constitute the three core elements of a pending California ballot initiative that The HSUS is strongly backing and that is set for a vote in November.
While this conclusion may seem run-of-the-mill for animal advocates, it’s important to recognize just who sits on this esteemed commission. Indeed, it’s comprised of some of the most respected and knowledgeable voices within the agricultural and scientific community. Some members include former Kansas Governor John Carlin; former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; former Dean of the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Michael Blackwell; Bon Appetit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio; Niman Ranch founder and rancher Bill Niman; author and professor Marion Nestle; and Colorado State University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Dr. Bernard Rollin—just to name a few.
For years, The HSUS and virtually all other legitimate animal protection groups have been calling for an end to the confinement of animals in these archaic and abusive cages and crates; animals built to move should be allowed to do so. The validation of this position by the Pew Commission comes at a good time for the California ballot initiative, and for our efforts to work with corporations to phase in these reforms.
With each successful corporate campaign against battery cage confinement and with each new state law banning veal and gestation crates, our movement is making definite advances for farm animals. In a society where Americans express a love and appreciation for animals, confining living and feeling beings in cages so small that the animals cannot turn around is just not acceptable or ethically consistent.
My respect and admiration go out to the Pew commissioners and their staff for the rigorous work and deliberations. It was the Brambell Committee in the United Kingdom in the 1960s that set that nation on the path to phasing out these inhumane confinement practices, and perhaps the Pew Commission will ultimately achieve the same effect in the United States. Policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels should heed their recommendations and take action now for the welfare of animals and people.