High Price of Caging Progress

By on September 9, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

If animal advocates needed any validation that the November vote on Proposition 2 is a defining battle over the welfare of farm animals, they need only look at the reported income for the No on Proposition 2 campaign on a single day last week. On that day, more than 120 agribusiness companies from across the country—many with atrocious records on animal welfare, environmental protection, and worker protection—donated $4.55 million to defeat the ballot measure.

Egg-laying hens in battery cage
© The HSUS/Fearing

To date, opponents have raised about $7 million, and they have sought to supplement that with a $3 million complementary spending plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Egg Board—for a total of $10 million. The YES on Prop 2 committee and The HSUS have sued to halt the $3 million expenditure as violating the federal law that authorizes the work of the American Egg Board. The case is set for a hearing on Sept. 22 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The contributions put the lie to the argument advanced by the paid political operatives of the No on 2 campaign that passing the measure would shut down the California egg industry and allow out-of-state egg producers to take advantage of this market opportunity. If that were the case, then Cal-Maine and Moark and other out-of-state egg factory farmers would not be financing the opponents’ campaign. If the rhetoric had any truth, they’d be ecstatic about expanding the 50 percent share of the California market that out-of-state egg corporations already enjoy to 100 percent.

But they know, as we know, that Proposition 2 is likely to trigger nationwide reforms in the egg industry. Farmers won’t be driven out of business, just pushed to do their work in a more humane way. A vote in favor of Proposition 2 will result in more space for 20 million veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens in California, but it will also prompt retailers and politicians throughout the nation to demand more humane housing conditions for the 280 million laying hens in the United States, the 5 million sows in gestation crates, and the hundreds of thousands of veal calves in tiny stalls.

Whether you are a vegetarian or an inveterate carnivore, you can feel good about supporting Proposition 2 because it advances the notion that all animals deserve humane treatment, including those raised for food.

Americans don’t want to see animals abused and they don’t want to see industrial farms cause harm to the environment or threaten food safety, as we saw in our Chino slaughter plant investigation. That’s the debate at hand—higher standards of animal welfare, environmental protection, and food safety, or the status quo. The deceptive arguments of the opponents are being exposed, and all one has to do to see that is look at the log of contributions for the incontrovertible proof.

We don’t have the big money of the national agribusiness industry, but we do have the public on our side and we’ve got a grassroots campaign to be proud of. Money can buy many things, but it cannot cloud the truth. This proposition is about yesterday versus tomorrow.

Farm Animals

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