Calif. Animal Rights Plan Splits Humans
By Phil Brennan
A California ballot measure designed to expand animal rights would all but kill egg production and raise the price of eggs in the Golden State, opponents say.
The measure, Proposition 2 on the ballot, prohibits the practice of caging animals such as chickens, sows, and veal cattle.
“This is a well-intended initiative for animals with some very negative unintended consequences for people,” Julie Buckner, a spokeswoman for Californians for Safe Food, the leading anti-Proposition 2 group, told The Associated Press. “It’s going to wipe out the California egg farmers, and it’s going to raise the food costs for consumers. And this is at a time when our economy is hurting.”
“Wealthy, narrow-minded elitists” who do not understand its real-world consequences are pushing the measure, Buckner told AP.
“This is an organization raising money from upper-middle-class white women writing $100 checks,” she said.
The measure's supporters however, deny those objections, claiming that Proposition 2 is an act of kindness for those animals whose bodies and byproducts are dining-room fare.
“If animals are going to be killed for food, the least we can do is treat them with decency and give them a semblance of life,” Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, told AP.
Both parties agree that the ballot issue will prove to be the most expensive and probably the most bruising animal-rights campaign ever, according to AP. The Humane Society alone has contributed about $4 million for the campaign for Proposition 2, about half of what Pacelle thinks his side will spend before the Nov. 4 election.
Californians for Safe Food, however, raised more than $6.7 million by the end of September, federal election documents show. Scores of donations have come from agricultural operations around the country, including egg companies in Colorado, Georgia, and Minnesota who fear they might see similar measures in their states.
California is the nation’s fifth-largest producer and No. 1 consumer of eggs, producing an estimated $337 million worth in 2007, AP explained. Nationwide, the country produces about 77 billion table eggs a year — 250 per American — valued at about $6.7 billion.
Ads by supporters, show images of abused animals on so-called factory farms, while opponents’ commercials have warned that the measure would lead to the importation of unsafe eggs from Mexico, AP said.
Opponents say that Proposition 2, which would require that animals be provided room to turn around, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs, could expose birds, via contact with their own waste and that of other animals, to such dreaded diseases as salmonella and avian influenza. Standard egg-laying cages, which the AP said are little more than 8 inches square, actually protect hens from aggression by other birds and predators.
Dr. Nancy D. T. Reimers, a poultry veterinarian who has been paid for her work for Californians for Safe Food, told AP that people often do not understand the work that veterinarians do on farms.
“The folks that are involved in the food supply know what we have to do to keep the animals and the food safe,” Reimers said. “And they are, by and large, opposed” to Proposition 2.
The economic slowdown also could affect the campaign, AP noted. although polls have shown Proposition 2 leading, veterinarian William Grant, said he was surprised at how many people had expressed concern about “the fiscal impact on the state, rather than how we care about the animals.”
“Had this been up last year, I think this would have overwhelmingly passed without any discussion,” said Grant, a veterinary surgeon in Garden Grove who is president of the California Veterinary Medical Association. “But in some ways, the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear, and that may be affecting how they’re looking at this. In fact, I know it is.”
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