Today’s editorial pages at the nation’s biggest newspapers are a tale of two starkly different worldviews. One, The New York Times, slams the hideous government-financed cruelties documented at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. The other, The Wall Street Journal, slams California voters and legislators for enacting modest animal welfare standards through Prop 2 and a closely related law restricting sales of eggs from hens in extreme confinement, and calls for the latter measure to be overturned.
Since Prop 2’s passage in 2008, almost all the nation’s leading newspapers—The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, even The Des Moines Register and The Kansas City Star in the heartland—have come out against the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. Most people know it’s unacceptable to confine animals in cages that immobilize them and deny them their most basic biological and behavioral needs. With few state or federal laws to constrain this sort of routine cruelty, it’s been a race to the bottom with the major sectors of animal agriculture. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has remained silent on these abuses—only speaking out when someone dares to confront the problems, and then denigrating those efforts to reform.
Again, nothing from the Journal about the abuse of downer cows; the drowning of chickens in scalding hot water and their exclusion from humane slaughter laws; and attempts to make it a crime for whistleblowers to document, expose, and call out abuse on factory farms. Nothing either about the billions in handouts to animal agriculture sectors, a giant enterprise in state-sponsored industry welfare – from buy-ups of surplus products, to predator control programs, to waste-management subsidies, and much more, all adding up to billions in largesse for a private industry and to the cheap prices it claims to so value for consumers.
The Journal did, however, chime in and support Rep. Steve King’s attempts to preempt state animal welfare laws. Like King, it apparently wants no federal laws to help animals, or state laws. No laws is what it wants. And remember, it’s backing the views of a man so extreme on this topic that he does not even believe in laws against dogfighting.
The Journal uses the canard of egg prices going through the roof for poor people, yet egg prices always fluctuate throughout the year based on feed, transportation, and other costs going up and down. That’s how the free market works. In fact, egg prices have been more stable recently than rising costs for beef and pork.
The Journal also claims that The HSUS worked to pass Prop 2 as a de facto national standard after Congress rejected nationwide legislation. In fact, we went to Congress after we passed Prop 2 with an overwhelming majority, showing that the public opposes extreme confinement. And Congress took a big pass on nationwide animal welfare standards for the egg industry because of intense lobbying by pork and beef producers opposed to any federal animal welfare regulation—not, as the Journal suggests, for lack of evidence of the cruelty of battery cages, which numerous scientific studies have condemned. California has every right to disallow eggs sold to its citizens from hens kept in overcrowded, inhumane environments that pose food safety risks.
Polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans oppose the extreme confinement of farm animals, and support laws to protect them. Major American food corporations—from Starbucks and Nestlé to Safeway and Burger King and Cracker Barrel—have pledged to move away from selling products that come from animals locked up in crates and cages so tightly that they can’t even turn around. It’s long past time for the Journal to catch up with Main Street. Cruelty to farm animals is not a partisan issue—it’s an issue of basic human decency.