This board bears recent witness to the controversies that beset our town this election season. That said, I hope we can generally agree on Proposition 2, which requires food producers by the year 2015 to provide enclosures that allow agricultural animals to stand, turn around and extend their limbs. It is authored and advocated by the Humane Society, a mainstream animal advocacy group very distinct from “animal crazies.”
I am anticipating that the food industry will soon invite us to gorge on a diet of scare tactics about skyrocketing prices, Mexican and Chinese eggs flooding our markets, and diseases caused by more healthful confinement (even Chicken Little wouldn’t buy THAT one). They will also argue that people come first.
Please note that the price effect will be negligible on veal and ham, which are not produced in large quantities in CA now (the measure would set a general standard for future operations), and only pennies per dozen eggs. And the requirements don’t kick-in ‘til 2015!
Further, no Mexican or Chinese eggs come here now (or Canadian eggs for that matter, but we don’t much fear those crafty Canadians), nor will they in the future. A significant share of the egg market comes from other states, and will continue to do so. (For those eggs, you need to look for a label like “cage-free” on the carton).
I won’t dignify the silly disease claim, but the “people first” claim does go to the heart of the matter. Ag and food animals vastly outnumber our pet population – like hundreds-to-1 at any given time. We wouldn’t dream of cruelly confining our pets, and even though most ag animals are ultimately destined for digestion, our humanity suffers when they suffer needlessly.
Scripturalists are aware of the Bible’s verse that grants mankind “dominion over the animals.” But since before the first anti-cruelty laws were passed in England in the 1820s, society has grafted a stewardship responsibility onto that “dominion” privilege. The lives of these animals matter, as do their deaths – they should be treated humanely, and Prop 2 is a small gesture in that direction.
Finally, we really are what we eat, and our food’s healthfulness does relate to the health of the animals who comprise a significant part of our diets. The ag industry today is where many others were fifty years ago – all economies of scale, and insufficient concern for "quality." Its grim processes are mostly hidden from view (read the bestseller “Omnivore’s Dilemma” for a dispassionate description). This Prop is a step toward healthier food from healthier animals. And that’s good for them AND us.
A famous philosopher (Bentham) once wrote “the question is not whether they can think, or talk – but whether they suffer.” Ag animals are intensely vulnerable and depend on us to relieve their suffering.
Please vote YES on Prop 2. Thanks!