Poultry Power

November 11, 2008

Last week’s voting results have been bittersweet. We have elected a person of color to the White House, a building built by black slaves. At the same time, California robbed it’s gay and lesbian citizens of a basic civil liberty; Florida and Arizona also passed bans prohibiting same-sex marriage. I’ve seen many blog posts about these issues, and rightfully so. One mandate was an uplifting example of how far we’ve come, and the other was a stark, discouraging example of how far we have left to go. Having said that, in California there was another ballot initiative of significant importance, this one a cause for celebration, that has not gotten enough attention on the progressive blogosphere. Proposition 2, also known as the Standards for Confining Farm Animals, passed; marking a very important step forward in the fight for animal rights.

The statute introduced by Prop 2 eliminates veal crates (where young calves are stolen away to, ripped from their mothers soon after birth, pumped full of antibiotics, and left without space to stand) and gestation crates (two-foot wide metal stalls where pigs are imprisoned for their four month pregnancy, unable to move or interact with other pigs, resulting in tremendous suffering and lameness). It is excellent that California decided to rid itself of these unjustifiably cruel practices, but the biggest improvement is the end of the state’s acceptance of battery cages, a ban that will help allow hens to lead better, healthier lives.

No more battery cages!

No more battery cages!

California produces about five billion eggs a year. Before Prop 2, 95 percent of the state’s chickens were kept in tightly packed wire enclosures too small for the six to eight inhabitants to spread their wings or take more than a few small steps. The hens know nothing more than these small cages until  their egg laying is no longer deemed up to par; they are then killed.

The Standards for Confining Farm Animals statute, which will come into effect in 2015, does away with this disgusting practice, mandating that California’s many millions of chickens are cage free. This is a significant, albeit modest, advancement that will do a great deal to decrease suffering in a state that is one of the country’s largest suppliers of eggs.

A great deal remains to be done, though. There is still huge amounts of room for improvement within California (cage free is not as good as free range, for example) and it is likely that many of the larger egg producing farms will simply move out of state to avoid the new, more humane standards. On the legislative end of things, we must work to implement stricter, ethical treatment of our farm animals nationwide, on both a federal and a state level. You can help by donating your time or money to the Humane Society’s  Factory Farming campaign, here. But one of the best, and the easiest ways of working for change is to switch to free range meats and eggs, ensuring that you are only economically supporting those farmers who are least cruel to their animals. Even better, you can go vegetarian or vegan, and say no to contributing to animal suffering, period.

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