Upgrading California’s humane standards for farm animals

Categories: Advocacy

By Nancy McKenney; originally published in the Marin Independent Journal on 1/1/18

For most of us who chose to make California our home, the state’s progressive policies are what make it a great place to live. California has always been on the forefront of important issues, including environmental protection, equal rights and animal welfare.

egg-laying hend
Economic analyses from the egg industry itself show that it would cost only about a penny or two more per egg to go cage-free.

In 2008, Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2, the landmark legislation regarding the cruel confinement of some farm animals, despite facing well-funded opposition by egg producers and other agricultural industry groups. Two years later, the legislature enacted an additional law applying Proposition 2’s standards to eggs sold statewide, regardless of whether they came from California hens or not. Agricultural trade groups, backed by politicians in other states, sued to overturn California’s rules but ultimately lost in court.

While California may have been on the cutting edge then, we’ve since been surpassed not only by other states but also by corporations like McDonald’s, Costco and Taco Bell in terms of where our food comes from and how it’s processed.

Much of the pork sold statewide still comes from factory farms that confine pigs in cruel gestation crates in which the animals are unable to even turn around. Veal from crated calves is still sold in the state, too. And eggs sold in liquid form (a third of egg products available in California) can still come from caged hens. That’s why the Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of organizations, including Marin Humane, called Prevent Cruelty California are working to place a critical measure on the November ballot.

The new measure will upgrade California’s laws to prohibit the sale of products derived from the cruel and extreme confinement of farm animals. And, just as important, it will protect the consumer from substandard food with a higher likelihood of contamination. The effort needs more than 365,000 “hard” (versus electronic) signatures for placement on the statewide ballot.

Economic analyses from the egg industry itself show that it would cost only about a penny or two more per egg to go cage-free, something the largest retailers are already doing. In fact, McDonald’s is going 100 percent cage-free and says it won’t raise its prices even a penny. Costco, Walmart, Safeway and more than 250 other major retailers have made similar cage-free pledges, with different dates of implementation. The ballot measure will help assure consumers that the food retailers will abide by the promised standards.

According to an article in the San Francisco Daily Journal, written by animal law expert and Marin Humane board member Bruce Wagman, “It’s a simple concept. Californians have made it clear that they do not want to eat or buy eggs that are the products of animal cruelty. California laws repeatedly emphasize our right to prevent the products of cruelty from being sold in our communities. Just two months ago Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 485, which will (as of 2019) prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits produced and raised in cruel conditions. Just like with the hens, we have determined that there are serious health and welfare problems with how pets are being raised. And that we don’t want those ‘products’ of animal cruelty sold here.”

Marin Humane, which has a long history of going above and beyond its role of animal sheltering, is proud to be a part of this initiative. Science shows that pigs, chickens and cows are intelligent, social animals that experience not just physical suffering but mental. Here in Marin, we value the welfare of our pets. Let’s make sure we extend that concern to all animals.

To learn more, go to preventcrueltyca.com. To add your signature towards getting this important initiative on the November ballot, look for signature gatherers out and about in Marin, visit our Novato campus or contact us at 415-506-6209.

Nancy McKenney is the CEO of Marin Humane, which contributes Tails of Marin articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community.