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.
© 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.