Living With Animals: Proposition

Proposition 12 has earned enough signatures to appear on California’s November 6 ballot but, not surprisingly, the measure (a.k.a., the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative) is already hotly debated. Proposed animal-related legislation always raises hackles, but this time it’s particularly interesting since the nation’s largest, most influential animal advocacy organizations are fighting each other. (PHS/SPCA is not an affiliate of, nor receives any funding from, any of the large organizations with national-sounding names.)

Back in 2008 Proposition 2 was passed by the voters, banning the confinement of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying chickens in a manner that did not allow them to turn around, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Most voters understood this was about animal welfare, not some vegetarian agenda. However, Prop 2 did not provide specifics for acceptable caging. Prop 12 aims to correct that, and there’s the controversy.

For example, Prop 12 would require (effective 2020) confining egg-laying hens to cages with no less than 1 square foot usable floor space per bird. Humane Society of U.S. (HSUS) and ASPCA, among others, argue 1 foot is a minimum for humane care, while PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Humane Farming Association, among others, contend that simply normalizes and perpetuates the suffering of millions of birds throughout California. This debate makes strange bedfellows of PETA and groups like the National Pork Producers Council on one side, HSUS and United Egg Producers on the other. Why don’t the animal advocates agree?

“1 square foot” per bird equals 144 square inches (12×12), an increase over the 116 inches set by the State in 2013. The 8½ x11 paper in your printer is just under 100 inches. Picture even a dead bird from the grocery on something not much bigger than that, and it’s obvious that what’s being proposed as minimally humane is abysmally small for the life of an animal. At its core, the argument is whether a small step is better than nothing vs. small steps are simply not worth taking. A voter initiative, you get to decide in November.


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