Ballot Box Balderdash: Californians for Humane Farms

The goal, vaguely described, is to place a proposal on California’s November 2008 ballot to “prevent cruelty to calves raised for veal, pigs during pregnancy and egg-laying hens.” No, it’s not a spoof to dramatize voter ineffectuality. Endorsed by four SPCAs — Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles — along with Global Exchange, Julia Butterfly Hill and Step-It-Up guru Bill McKibben, the campaign is out to collect 650,000 signatures by the end of February.

In reality, California has no commercial veal industry, and the measure comes down to the size of confinement areas for laying hens and pregnant pigs — who will still be expected to lay eggs and give birth and, when worn out, go to slaughter. Still, the proposal might sound benign enough — if one puts aside the additional endorsements of several animal ranchers.

The campaign website shows a denim-clad tot in the fresh air, feeding a friendly pig. The scene radiates idealized concepts of animal farms and family values. It’s a formula campaigners have used before: Last November, for example, saw the culmination of a campaign that poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Arizona’s Proposition 204, telling the media a “degree of space” for animals to turn in their pens is “all we’re asking for.”1 The Arizona Humane Society’s CEO publicly recommended that shoppers order from Niman Ranch, a pricey, California-based meat market that boasts online shopping and hundreds of family hog farmers.2 Proposition 204 passed; should it survive its seven-year phase-out period, it will mandate a new minimum pen size for pregnant pigs in Arizona. And Bill Niman, founder and chair of Niman Ranch, is now an endorser in the California proposal.

The Humane Society of the United States, spearheading the California campaign, promotes it as the first U.S. proposal to phase out battery cages for egg-laying birds. But what does this mean? Processed foods made with liquid or powdered egg ingredients from outside the state will still be readily available. Meanwhile, in-state producers of eggs in their shells would be selling at premium prices. The Humane Society assures farmers: “There are no close substitutes for eggs, and, as a result, consumers continue to purchase virtually the same number of eggs, even as prices increase.” The Humane Society further suggests that groups of producers could “pass increased costs on to consumers without a loss in profits” and that shoppers, in turn, would increase their yearly spending on eggs anywhere from 65 cents to $8.78.3

Now I fully understand that, contrary to the overblown warnings of corporate front groups, conventional anti-cruelty societies don’t exist to take a stand against commercial enterprises that breed, use, buy and sell animals. But this campaign openly dismisses the very point it claims to promote: reformed conditions. Its fact sheets include this note from the Humane Society: “Consumer perception of animal welfare is likely to be an important factor in producers’ choice of housing systems. For instance, although furnished cages have some welfare advantages over non-cage systems, consumers do not recognize a larger, modified cage as a significant improvement over conventional battery cages.”4

In other words, the campaign doesn’t necessarily assume “cage-free” is better for birds than modified cages; but it promotes the cage-free plan anyway. It’s an easier sell: “Eggs from hens confined in furnished cages,” states the Humane Society’s report, “do not enjoy the market premium of cage-free eggs.”5 So, in the interest of claiming a victory, the campaign perversely relies on an optimistic profit forecast for the purveyors of laying hens and their eggs. Today’s conventional humane movement, we see, has become so controlled by strategy that it can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from people who support a campaign based on words whose actual meaning may be unknown to them.6

Compassionate Carnivores

The California ballot measure would — if not overridden by state or federal law by its effective date of 2015 — also place pregnant pigs in something larger than seven-by-two-foot gestation crates. In the same pattern as the egg reports, the Californians for Humane Farms website includes documents covering such points as the profit potential of pregnant pigs with somewhat more space. The modification, says the Humane Society, could reduce farmers’ building investment costs, improve pigs’ bone and muscle growth, reduce stillbirths, and augment the “productivity” of pigs still more by inducing earlier pregnancies.7

Here again, activists note that the modification could lead to a market premium, citing a poll that indicates most Iowa consumers would “buy pork products from food companies whose suppliers raise and process their hogs only under humane and environmentally sound conditions.”8 In short: Space will be allowed by the ranchers to the extent that space will be paid for by the customers.

And what of those “environmentally sound conditions”? From an environmental perspective, expanding the space taken up for animal agribusiness makes little sense. And it doesn’t address the substantial emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and other dangerous effects of the industry. A vegan living in the United States will generate about a ton and a half less greenhouse gas this year than an omnivore consuming the same amount of calories. There’s a key message there. Yet across the planet, animal agribusiness is on the rise; and at its behest, forests, indigenous cultures, and free-living animals are all pushed aside.

On top of this comes a new trend in the affluent world known as compassionate carnivorism, one of whose leading stars is Michael Pollan, a former executive editor for Harper’s, and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Pollan became interested in the topic because of health and animal-welfare concerns, and wrote, “If I was going to continue to eat red meat, then I owed it to myself, as well as to the animals, to take more responsibility for the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat. I’d try to own it, in other words.”9

Pollan bought a calf. And Pollan chronicled the growth of the calf from nursing until the end of it all, at 14 months of age.

“Staring at No. 534,” wrote Pollan, “I could picture the white lines of the butcher’s chart dissecting his black hide: rump roast, flank steak, standing rib, brisket.”

Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal scientist at Colorado State University, has impressed Pollan as “one of the most influential people in the United States cattle industry.” Grandin “has devoted herself to making cattle slaughter less stressful and therefore more humane by designing an ingenious series of cattle restraints, chutes, ramps and stunning systems.” Grandin is also cited in the fact sheets prepared by the Humane Society and linked to the Californians for Humane Farms’ website.

Time magazine tells us “more consumers across the country are buying meat labelled as coming from humanely raised animals” and that activists, in turn, want a “federal law to end cruelty to farm animals.”10 But federal law can’t do that; nor can state ballots. As the human population continues to rise, as biofuels compete with agricultural land, as energy and water become concentrated in fewer hands, mass production will be the norm, in California and everywhere else. Only a select few will have the opportunity to trace what Pollan euphemistically calls “the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat.”

The only way to stop oppressing farm animals is to stop having them. For Californians, the activism should be less about what goes into the ballot box, and more about what goes into the bakeware.

* Lee Hall co-authored (with Priscilla Feral) the cookbook Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine, available from Friends of Animals, which Lee serves as legal director. The book contains easy-to-follow recipes for breads, soups and dips, salads and raw delights, and main courses, and desserts as eggless as they are timeless.

  1. Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services), “Prop. 204 Foe: Non-Farmers Don’t Understand,” Arizona Daily Star (23 Oct. 2006), quoting Cheryl Naumann, CEO of the Arizona Humane Society. []
  2. Ibid., again quoting Cheryl Naumann of the Arizona Humane Society. []
  3. “An HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages” (as visited at the Californians for Humane Farms website on 12 Nov. 2007; internal citations omitted). []
  4. “An HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages” (see note 3 above). []
  5. According to the HSUS report, consumers will pay “an average of between 17- to 60-percent more for eggs from non-cage systems.” Ibid. []
  6. The Humane Society’s report also cites a 2004 Golin/Harris poll for the United Egg Producers, in which most people surveyed said they’d pay extra for eggs with an “Animal Care Certified” label — even “without any information about what the label actually meant.” See “The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages” (note 3 above). []
  7. “An HSUS Report: The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Gestation Crates” (as visited at the Californians for Humane Farms website on 12 Nov. 2007; internal citations omitted). []
  8. Ibid., citing a 2003 Hill Research Consultants poll for the Humane Society of the United States. []
  9. Michael Pollan, “Power Steer,” New York Times Magazine (31 Mar. 2002). []
  10. Margot Roosevelt, “Campaign ’06: Treating Pigs Better in Arizona,” Time (6 Nov. 2006). []

Lee Hall is legal director for Friends of Animals, an animal-rights advocacy group founded in New York in 1957. Lee can be reached at: leehall@friendsofanimals.org. Follow Lee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VeganMeans. Read other articles by Lee, or visit Lee's website.

30 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Dustin Rhodes said on November 13th, 2007 at 11:03am #

    Lee:

    Thank you for being one of the clearest, most honest—and dare I say it?—sanest voices in animal advocacy. I can only hope people are listening.

    Thank you for another reminder of how each of us can effect positive change: by going vegan.

    You inspire. Thank you.

    Dustin Rhodes
    Friends of Animals

  2. Chloe P said on November 13th, 2007 at 11:26am #

    Maybe Friends of Animals can get a measure placed on the ballot requiring everyone to go vegan, effective immediately.

  3. Priscilla Feral said on November 13th, 2007 at 12:23pm #

    Each one of us decides what’s on our menu every day,
    over and over again. We don’t need government to
    channel one’s plant-based diet. All that’s needed is
    awareness, sensitivity and commitment No costly campaigns.
    It’s incremental change one person at a time.

    Priscilla Feral
    President
    Friends of Animals

  4. Lee Hall said on November 13th, 2007 at 1:55pm #

    A reader has written and questioned whether California really hasn’t any commercial veal production. This is indeed surprising; California has processed the young of dairy cows (i.e., produced veal) for many years. Yet regarding the current situation, a detailed article dated 5 October 2007 and published by Capital Press, “the West’s Ag Website”, states the following:

    “Christine Morrissey, director of East Bay Animal Advocates, an animal rights group involved in the [ballot] effort, charged that 20 million laying hens and about 15,000 sows are treated inhumanely by the confinement. There is no commercial veal industry in the state currently, but Morrissey said the measure would prevent reintroduction of crates.”

    Thus the coalition known as Californians for Humane Farms, states the article, is specifically focused on “advocating cage-free and crate-free management for laying hens and sows but acknowledges that production costs will be higher. The higher costs of those practices may also drive producers to other states.”

    See the article here: http://tinyurl.com/2jxpor

    Any updated factual details are most welcome. Yet they are indeed details. Again, the only way to stop oppressing farm animals is to stop having them.

  5. BlackPowderBill said on November 14th, 2007 at 6:09am #

    Odd sort of a group the vegans are supporting better living conditions for animals and they don’t use them. Why don’t you just come out and ask for an all out ban on farming?
    That is your goal is it not, to ban all animal use by humans?
    It’s not about the egg is it? It is about forcing the vegan lifestyle on the entire world no matter the cost.
    It is not an incremental change one person at a time. The Calif. Ballot drive if passed will force millions of Americans to pay more for food.
    Cost all taxpayers in the form of farm subsidies. Unless the Animal rights proponents are going to start donating money to food kitchens and the food stamp system.
    It is an incremental process the elimination of animals for humane use otherwise your religion would not pass the public’s sense or reality.
    The animal rights movement is as bad the government telling us it will pass and things will be better. We know what is best for you don’t worry. We’ll do all your thinking.
    Geeze and here I thought all you wanted to do was make more room for a chicken to lay and egg.

    Regards,
    Wm. Brookover, NY

  6. Priscilla Feral said on November 14th, 2007 at 2:24pm #

    Animal -rights is a social justice movement, not a government,
    not an empire, not an ego-trip. Friends of Animals is promoting
    a serious understanding of veganism in a human dominated
    culture. And yes, we should end the breeding and selling of
    animals as food, pets and commodities. These are real issues.
    Regulating the selling of which hens, calves and pigs meet their ends
    in a slaughterhouse is not the work of an animal-rights group or
    movement. Discussions about social justice and non-violence should be debated, and explored, not shunned as though speech forces a
    lifestyle.

    Priscilla Feral
    Friends of Animals
    Darien, CT

  7. Ellie Maldonado said on November 14th, 2007 at 6:39pm #

    Thanks, Lee, for calling our attention to the hypocrisy of these so-called “humane” campaigns, and for writing another great article!

  8. Irish Bear said on November 15th, 2007 at 2:46pm #

    I have had many vegan friends, acquaintances, and co-workers for decades. I have only adopted a vegan diet myself in the last couple of years (slowly and incrementally). It’s odd: all those years in between, and I can’t recall ever once being “forced” by a vegan, either literally or figuratively, to do anything. I cannot say the same for my government.

  9. Eric said on November 16th, 2007 at 7:22am #

    Isn’t FoA the group that opposed banning foie gras in California; and
    protested against the Vegetarian Society of DC’s Super Bowl party? Why
    can’t FOA get along with any other groups? All they do is dis on the
    work of other animal groups.

  10. Jamie Massey said on November 16th, 2007 at 8:53am #

    I’m not sure if Lee Hall is an industry stooge or hopelessly naive. Instead of eliminating the worst practices of factory farming, should we allow them to continue so everyone can see how bad they are and go vegan? Is that what I read? Of course, getting people to become vegan is the best way to make a difference, but how does one do that? Having helped Arizona pass a similar law, I was motivated by the thought that most of the people who signed the petition were simultaneously doing their very first good thing for farmed animals. And voting for the measure was the first vote they cast for compassion. Did that solve the problem? No, the problem is too big, but life for animals will be a little better and, as the industry knows, we’ll just keep chipping away. I happened to be the person who organized the campaign that banned cockfighting in Arizona. Would Lee Hall have opposed it because we didn’t also address cruelty to hens?

  11. Paul said on November 16th, 2007 at 3:19pm #

    Banning the worst cruelties forced on farm animals gains them legal protection that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Progress begets progress, and social change almost always occurs incrementally. Of course, none of us would ever wish for farm animals to suffer in cages and crates just to have a “stronger” argument in favor of vegetarianism. There’s a reason the animal agribusiness industry is uniting and spending millions of dollars to fight this initiative.

    During a statewide ballot initiative campaign, hundreds or even thousands of animal activists are mobilized around a single issue. More than 650,000 California voters will hear about the treatment of animals in factory farms when they sign petitions to place this measure on the ballot, and millions of Californians will see compelling images of factory farming abuses in TV ads and news coverage of the issue. This will be the first time that millions of Californians think about how their food choices affect animals, and will advance the cause of farm animal protection in a meaningful way.

    Here are some links worth reading which explore this issue:
    http://www.animalblawg.com/wordpress/?p=139
    http://www.veganoutreach.org/enewsletter/20070627.html
    http://www.satyamag.com/sept06/singer-friedrich.html

  12. Ellie Maldonado said on November 16th, 2007 at 4:35pm #

    Eric, foie gras was not banned in California, or anywhere else in the US. Groups that supported the legislation claimed victory, but in reality it allowed foie gras manufacturers until 20012 to invent a supposedly “humane” method of making it . Meanwhile, it protects foie gras manufacturers from all charges of animal cruelty until that time.

    No wonder the manufacturers agreed to it. And now they’re busy inventing “soft tubes” that will be used to FORCE FEED birds. Someone is even claiming to make foie gras without any tubes. So when 2012 comes around, there’s every reason to think the foie gras industry will continue. In fact, it will grow exponentially when it can be labeled “Humane”.

    Jamie, the same is true for other animal products labeled “Humane”. Farming is and will always be inherently cruel. So-called “compassionate methods” make very little difference to farm animals– they still experience physical and emotional pain.

    The other problem is they encourage consumers to eat animal products. You think you’re chipping away at the industry, but creating the illusion that farming is humane is exactly what the industry wants you to do. Instead of working with industry, it would be better to cultivate respect for animals, and to do that, they cannot be seen as products.

    Btw, it’s not hard to outlaw forms of animal use in the lower economic classes, especially if it’s connected to minority groups.

  13. Lee Hall said on November 17th, 2007 at 5:59pm #

    Thank you for writing. If the Paul writing is Paul Shapiro, the senior director of the factory farming campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, you should feel free to introduce yourself thusly; it’s obviously relevant to your comment. Indeed, I wish everyone would write with their full names, as I did when I wrote the article.

    Paul, you write:

    “Banning the worst cruelties forced on farm animals gains them legal protection that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

    In my opinion this ballot concept is not helpfully discussed as a “ban” of a practice, but rather an adjustment to the dimensions of containers used to warehouse particular subgroups of animals (unfortunately words such as “warehouse” and “storage” describe accurately the way these beings are treated — as stock).

    The real question here is whether such adjustments would make the industry any less oppressive.

    Corporations function to produce profit for their shareholders. Because companies invariably move to make up for losses, pressing these husbandry adjustments would be like pressing a bulge in a carpet along so it merely goes from one place to the next. To egg and meat corporations, choices of husbandry methods are not matters of sadism. These decisions exist within the company’s duties to shareholders and capitalism’s inherent growth needs.

    Thus, the way to address the worst practices in animal-use industries (leaving aside the matter of whether worst to least worst can really be ranked at all) is to opt out of support for the business. If not, one becomes a consultant to the industry.

    It’s worth noting that the ballot measure is named the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. Isn’t that a strange concept — cruelty-free farm animal products?

    “Progress begets progress, and social change almost always occurs incrementally.”

    The point of this article in no way dismisses incremental change. As Priscilla Feral already wrote, one can (and I think must) see incremental progress in terms of people discontinuing their commodification of animals. We don’t need government to tell us how to eat conscientiously; this is a decision, a commitment, which people must make for themselves.

    At issue here is a state ballot initiative to address overcrowding of animal bodies by storing some in a different configuration and then killing them, and often they will be forcibly and repeatedly impregnated before being killed. If an initiative makes animal products look better (e.g., it’s called the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act when we know that’s a far cry from the truth), it’s unlikely to be an advance.

    “Of course, none of us would ever wish for farm animals to suffer in cages and crates just to have a ‘stronger’ argument in favor of vegetarianism.”

    Good: I’m glad we agree that none of us would ever wish for animals to suffer on farms.

    “There’s a reason the animal agribusiness industry is uniting and spending millions of dollars to fight this initiative.”

    That huge sums of money are being squandered in an argument over this ballot is troubling whether such squandering is done by for-profit corporations that use animals or by non-profits attempting to advise them on how to use animals. None of that indicates any growing environmental awareness nor any greater prevalence of respect for any of the earth’s residents.

    “During a statewide ballot initiative campaign, hundreds or even thousands of animal activists are mobilized around a single issue.”

    Animal activists should not have their energies diverted to such a task, but should instead envision a world in which less space is taken up by animal agribusiness. That’s the point of this essay.

    You argue that each signature represents a California voter who will hear about the treatment of animals in factory farms. But the campaign materials have directed the signature collectors NOT to educate people who are signing the petition. The campaign provides guidelines (called “Tips for Successful Signature Gathering” and dated 24 Oct. 2007) which instruct the signature collector as follows: “Be quick — Say as little as possible, and find a line that works for you, such as ‘Have you signed to support humane farming?’ To make the ballot, we must now use our valuable volunteer hours to gather signatures not educate the public.”

    The segment of animal agribusiness which doesn’t support the ballot initiative led by the Humane Society of the United States’ is competing with it, having proposed its own state ballot measure. No matter which one were to attract more votes (assuming both got onto a ballot), any regulations that do get adopted on a large scale will fail to make the system of processing animal bodies into anything but the high-volume production it is.

    “…Here are some links worth reading which explore this issue…”

    I’d recommend readers go and check out a vegan cookbook instead, or to talk about vegan cuisine, and the reasons for withdrawing support from animal agribusiness in general.

  14. Lee Hall said on November 17th, 2007 at 6:40pm #

    To further clarify: Ending the commodifcation of animals incrementally will mean people discontinue their support for the industry by opting out of its products.

    This, in turn, will mean progressively less space taken up by animal agribusiness (I do not mean to suggest that this movement stop at any point short of completely discontining the custom).

    As I wrote in an earlier essay in Dissident Voice:

    [I]f corporations were to take free-range seriously — not just removing cages, but buying access to pasture — then it’s a matter of finding those communities able to pay for the bodies of animals who, when living, took up the most space. That flunks the straight-face test. From both an animal rights and an environmental perspective, space for animal agribusiness doesn’t need to be expanded; it needs to be phased out.

    Already, most of the landmass of the contiguous United States is taken up by agriculture –primarily for resource-guzzling animal processing. Worldwide, the demand of six billion humans for physical space is vastly expanded as animals are bred into existence to be food commodities. These domestic animals now outnumber us by an estimated factor of three to one. [Reference: George Monbiot, "Why Vegans Were Right All Along: Famine can only be avoided if the rich give up meat, fish and dairy" - The Guardian (24 Dec. 2002).] There is nothing sustainable, let alone kind, about animal agribusiness.

    Meanwhile, as precious time passes, the other animals of the world — those living on nature’s terms, those who might have a chance to keep their territory and thus their freedom — are pushed to the margins of the land.

    …Joining their energies and educating relentlessly, the environmentalist and the animal advocate could effectively shield what little pristine environment is left in the world, and what freedom is still possible for animals who call it home. Thinking and working together, they could replace the fantasy of sustainable and humane animal farming with a plain-speaking movement that gets to the point: We just don’t need to buy what animal agribusiness is selling.

  15. Mathias said on November 20th, 2007 at 9:55am #

    “Of course, none of us would ever wish for farm animals to suffer in cages and crates just to have a “stronger” argument in favor of vegetarianism. There’s a reason the animal agribusiness industry is uniting and spending millions of dollars to fight this initiative. ”

    You’re right, there is a reason the animal agribusiness industry is uniting to fight this initiative. It’s called fighting for their livelihoods. Sure it’s easy to say egg farms, for example, should go for cage-free, but do the activists realize the damage this would do to these farmers … you know, the one’s putting NATURAL food on your tables? The industry would all but be destroyed. Many if not most of these farmers don’t have the space needed for a cage-free system. Many would altogether lose their line of work, therefore losing money to support their families. Shouldn’t that be the most important factor, keeping families alive and well? Instead, people are all ga-ga over the ethical treatment of animals, not thinking about the long-term circumstances of what it will mean to families, to this country’s economy.

    How did we ever get to where we are in this world? I mean, didn’t we once hunt for our food? Did people have a problem with that? It’s called survival of the fittest. You do what you can to survive, and that’s all these farmers are doing.

  16. Lee Hall said on November 26th, 2007 at 4:18pm #

    Mathias said, “[T]here is a reason the animal agribusiness industry is uniting to fight this initiative. It’s called fighting for their livelihoods.”

    First, some segments of animal agribusiness are not united to fight; some stand to gain from it. Lunny Ranch and Bill Niman of Niman Ranch have endorsed the ballot initiative.

    Mathias said, “Sure it’s easy to say egg farms, for example, should go for cage-free, but do the activists realize the damage this would do to these farmers …”

    The term “cage-free” means little. Europe is now developing a model of egg production without battery cages, frequently resulting in multi-tiered systems with an awful lot of birds in stuffed into one building.

    Not all work benefits human health, other living beings, equitable distribution of resources, or the environment. Some work degrades all of these at once. And there’s no general rule barring corporate egg producers from doing other kinds of work. They could, for just one example, grow crops for human consumption. We support meaningful work for people, without the commodification of other animals.

    Mathias asked, “How did we ever get to where we are in this world? I mean, didn’t we once hunt for our food? Did people have a problem with that? It’s called survival of the fittest.”

    Before developing a systematic horticulture, nomadic humans gathered most of their food for immediate use. Anthropologist Donna Hart says we were more concerned with avoiding becoming prey than with hunting others. The leopard-bitten skulls of early humans at sites in Asia and Africa, says Hart, support a “Man, the Hunted” theory of evolution. Even today, about 174 kinds of animals prey on primates in various regions of the world, with even the nonhuman great apes vulnerable to leopards and lions.

    Later in the archaeological record, weapon-making and cooking appear. At some point our ancestors decided it would be acceptable to kill another animal for food, or safety, or the safety of our food. Turning animals into commodities followed constraining and taming and learning to manipulate reproduction and breeding.

    Some future discoverer of the ancient culture called humanity might assess Homo sapiens as an insecure lot. Until the end, we kept fighting and vanquishing animals by deforesting their habitat, polluting their air, water, and earth, and ignoring their numbers when they fell in the wars we waged. By only permitting them to exist insofar as we could take advantage of them. Do we have it within us to find another way?

    Finding patterns of co-operative relationships in other animal networks, and acknowledging that we could evolve emotionally by respecting their members rather than stalking, capturing, dominating, training, and experimenting on them, could mean developing the altruism that guides us to a truly civil society, saving ourselves and other living beings. I know this is likely to be called utopian and impractical. But why assume it’s practical to think human beings can eat anything we fancy, appropriating ever larger swaths of land, each year wiping aside hundreds of the living communities with whom we’ve co-evolved?

    And is it practical to populate a small planet with 6.6 billion human beings who manage our affairs through the use of violence, and confuse the ability to consume the most with being the fittest?

  17. Spirit said on December 4th, 2007 at 9:09am #

    Cant we all just get along?? I am not a complete vegan but the only animal products I consume are eggs and milk. (Which I buy cage-free and organic milk). I believe that we can all do without animal flesh and let our animal friends be treated with dignity and respect and let them live out their lives just as we, humans do! I stopped eating any animal flesh about 5 years ago and I feel better than I have ever felt in my life!!! It’s something I never thought I could accomplish! I’m not against dairy farmers as long as the cows are allowed to roam the fields at every possible opportunity! I’m not against chicken farmers if they allow the chickens to roam freely at every possible opportunity! Just my opinion!!!

  18. Lee Hall said on December 21st, 2007 at 9:08am #

    Important post script:

    I contacted Global Exchange about my concern with their listing as an endorser (see the article’s first paragraph).

    On 10 December 2007, I received word from Kirsten Moller, Executive Director of Global Exchange, that “that Global Exchange has not endorsed Californians for Humane Farms.” I gave Kirsten Moller the URL to the Californians for Humane Farms website, showing that the coalition was, in any case, advertising an endorsement from Global Exchange.

    The name Global Exchange is now deleted from the endorsement page.

  19. Nora Kramer said on January 1st, 2008 at 11:10pm #

    There’s so much to reply to I hardly know where to begin.

    I’m the Bay Area coordinator of the campaign, and there are a couple of points I’d like to make without spending my whole evening doing so.

    First, the reality is that 20 million animals in California of the type affected by this initiative are living in conditions that are eggregiously cruel, where they cannot even turn around or lie down. However, despite this cruelty, the overwhelming majority of people have not thus far been persuaded that this is reason enough for them to stop purchasing eggs. I believe that many of these people will never be convinced of that. This initiative will enable people who would otherwise continue to purchase eggs from battery-caged chickens out of ignorance or convenience to instead purchase eggs from chickens who have been raised more humanely. It will also give people an opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to consider how animals raised for food are treated, and will do so in a way that may not have them feel defensive or closed off if they already know they do not want to go vegan.

    Should animal activists want animals to be treated as horribly as possible so that more people will theoretically go vegan as a result? Why aren’t more already going vegan giving how terrible the treatment currently is?

    This initiative is moderate, but it is also extremely significant for these animals, who would have a far better quality of life if this initiative passed. Would it be perfect? No. But laws rarely are. Laws do, however, add credibility and legitimacy, and they build momentum. The initiative in Arizona led to institutional changes from the prok and veal industry, which, following that initiative’s passing, both pledged to begin moving away from gestation and veal crates, respectively.

    One final thing I love about this campaign is that many of the people gathering signatures for us have never done any activism before in their entire lives. People are motivated by the real concrete change–improved conditions for animals–this campaign offers. Surely, following this experience, these new activists will continue to do great things for animals in the years to come. Ballot campaigns build up activist communities and lead to great partnerships and strides for years to come.

    Finally, while it is repulsive to me that an animal advocate would try to get an organization to rescind its endorsement of this initiative (shouldn’t FoA be busy promoting veganism?), I want to clarify Lee Hall’s statement about Global Exchange. Kevin Danaher, the founder of Global Exchange, personally filled out and signed the endorsement form for the initiative. It seems that he either signed as himself or did not go through the proper channels within the organization such that the ED was informed about this, hence the confusion. The apparent implication that Californians for Humane Farms just made this endorsement up or something is absurd.

    Ultimately, activists in California should consider whether they think it would be good for animals to have some of the cruelest housing systems on factory farms outlawed or not. The answer is obvious to me: chickens would prefer to be able to nest, dust-bathe, and move around, and pigs would prefer to lie down and move, rather than the terrible conditions they are currently raised in.

    What good could possibly come for animals from this initative failing?

    We only have two more months to gather signatures. Please sign up to volunteer at http://www.humanecalifornia.org.

  20. Lee Hall said on January 3rd, 2008 at 12:23am #

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Nora.

    First, I have the greatest respect for Global Exchange and everyone who makes Global Exchange work. They are a phenomenal group of activists and highly recommended for all who are researching or wanting to support fair trade. It is because of my respect that I wrote to Global Exchange to convey the opinion that the trade in animals is not fair trade. At that point, I found out that I had incorrectly named Global Exchange as an endorser (because it was incorrectly listed as one on the Humane California website), whereupon I moved to rectify the error; doing so was a fully appropriate, respectful action.

    You’ve stated, Nora, that pigs and chickens in California are living in egregiously cruel conditions. But corporate heads have a duty to maximize profits for shareholders; as long as we as a society allow the commodification of conscious life, there will always be the bad and worse situations. As you’ve probably noted, company leaders will insist that no cruelty is involved, and that the husbandry standards to which they adhere are adequate, if only because farm animals’ financial productivity depends on the level of basic treatment.

    That said, we can agree that the reality of animal farming is deplorable. Of course no animal activists want animals to be treated as horribly as possible to make their point; we’ve dispensed with that bizarre and insensitive claim in previous comments. The question becomes how to effectively and ethically take action, so let’s discuss this in good faith.

    We could go from state to state and every corner of the globe measuring and attempting to ameliorate the worst. That’s commonly known as hacking at the branches. Or we could begin a movement that gets to the root of the problem: one that straightforwardly says conscious beings aren’t appropriately transformed into commodities.

    You ask why more are not already vegan given how terrible the treatment currently is. But do people go vegan based on a feeling that animals are being treated in particularly bad ways? Or is it, rather, because they are encouraged to envision the human potential to actually disengage from the whole custom of consuming animals?

    The founder of the Vegan Society became a conscientious objector to animal agribusiness in reaction to having visited a family farm and witnessing the death of a pig. On this farm, each animal was known as an individual. There were no cramped cages. It was a scenario far better than the Californians for Humane Farms hold up as a model. (Factually, your claims about the requested adjustments — e.g., that chickens would “be able to nest, dust-bathe, and move around” sound overly sanguine. In general, it’s hard to distinguish birds from “cage-free” operations and battery systems: Birds from both systems have ravaged feathers and skin; both groups routinely have much of their beaks seared off to prevent pecking; deformities are the norm; the males of both groups are destroyed early on, and all of the females face the same fate when their productivity declines.)

    The mode of husbandry wasn’t the point of forming a vegan movement. The point was, and still is, that consuming animals itself is violent and it’s disrespectful; and the notion that animals would be grateful to us for a few more inches of crate as they endure forced pregnancies, separation from their parents and offspring, and eventual slaughter was not voted on by these animals. What would the animals want? Surely, not to be consumed at all.

    In fact, millions of people throughout the world have been convinced of the rational argument for ethical objection to animal agribusiness, and have become vegans. Why not encourage millions more?

    Making animal products look good might be something companies do to try to keep up with our success, but it’s not our work. If anything, promoting some animal products, even half-heartedly, reaffirms the idea that we are in charge of making the decisions and that all other animals are ours to use. And companies actually get richer when they sell their so-called humane products at a premium, further fortifying the industry.

    I can believe your observation that many of the people gathering signatures are new activists. To the extent that such people genuinely seek change, presumably they could have been motivated to begin truly respectful activism. Instead, resources are perennially diverted into husbandry promotion binges. Real, measurable change entails showing people how to cook without pig flesh and without eggs, to gather together and enjoy life without doing so at the expense of other animals. The California campaign, alas, shows no such thing.

    As you know, Europe is phasing out the conventional size of battery cages for laying hens by 2012. The European Commission originally predicted the total additional production costs at up to 15 percent — an underestimate. So the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals then recommended reductions in animal feed costs and subsidies to egg producers to make the adjustments work. Are you prepared to ask the national government to support egg farmers, so that their adjustments are financially viable? Because that’s right where your path leads.

    You also haven’t addressed a key reality: the human population is growing and so is animal agribusiness. This means deforestation, water pollution, monocultures, heavy chemical use, and vast greenhouse emissions. It also means habitat destruction and predator control. In contrast to the notion that animal advocacy is solely about expanding operations for domesticated animals (brought unnecessarily into a commodified existence), veganism is about respecting ~all~ conscious beings, including those who are being pushed off the face of the earth by business concepts such as bigger farms.

    Vegan living and vegan activism is direct action that spares animals from being used in the first place. No activism, no form of acting on one’s respectful views, could be more critical. Every time someone opts out of animal agribusiness entirely, many, many chickens and pigs are spared from this life of ruthless exploitation and death — and that’s truly measurable change. In the place of old, bloodied customs, new and life-affirming ideas arise and flourish.

    Those who would like to prepare wonderful dishes that go light on the planet and avoid animal use entirely could try ~Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine~, available at http://www.friendsofanimals.org/ Proceeds from book sales go back into vegan education and community advocacy.

  21. Whitney Smith said on January 25th, 2008 at 6:24pm #

    After reading yet another misguided analysis of the this ballot initiative, I would like to offer my thoughts as a campaign coordinator for this Humane Society California Factory Farm Reform initiative. I classify this dismissive evaluation as part of the Animal Rights “kumbaya” wing–in which one is urged to just get out there and convert everyone to give up animal foods & products INSTEAD OF INCLUDING that effort in conjunction with LEGISLATIVE attempts to modify cruelty inherent in the system. I wonder what a cow in chains, a pregnant pig stuffed into a crate or an egg laying hen suspended in a wire cage compressed against others would say to Lee Hall if they could have a dialogue? Does Lee think that it is not a progressive move to AT LEAST alleviate the immediate daily suffering of crated farm animals–while we work on converting the populace? In my own family circle I feature a score card of: 0 conversions. Despite my constant advocacy, and the fact that my family has to listen to me (and not walk away like a stranger) not my sister, brother or father have given up meat. My mother, a very compassionate activist in her own right, is down to chicken and fish, on her own accord. So according to Lee, I should continue the quest to convert my family and friends and leave the farm animals to suffer BY THE MILLIONS in their daily life. That is the correct priority? A lobbyist for the Humane Society shared with me that ANY protective legislation for animals–even weak–IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Why? Because in case anyone hasn’t noticed, the world is very unconcerned with animal rights, or animal protection. Legislators shy away from getting involved with “crazy animal people.” They would much rather find legislation to help children, the uninsured, the homeless you name it. Animal legislation is considered “soft” politcs. I hope this is not a news flash to Lee. No matter how much in one’s heart animal welfare and animal activism is a number one concern, the bigger society that we live in is not in agreement. It takes almost super human effort to get a single piece of animal protection legislation into action. And as for “farm” animals–Mr & Mrs John Q. Public have never HEARD of the abuses that our petition is putting in front of their eyes. Does Lee not agree that a ballot initiatve called “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty” opens dialogue and education on a topic that is soundly ignored by the media on a daily basis? Could a brilliant mind not grasp the concept that if people don’t even know about whats going on at the farm, they might never be motivated to choose NOT to participate? What better way to launch this topic into society? Does Lee think that TMZ will be featuring Vegan news tomorrow? I wonder how many people Lee has gotten, personally to give up all meat and animal products in the past month. Just wondering. Well, the animals will continue to be slaughtered (dismal practical reality)and it would be the Happiest Day Of Our Lives if everyone would just stop participating in the cruelty. But until that time I believe the ethical animal Welfarist AND Animal Rights activist should support the BABYSTEPS it takes to turn an entire culture of Factory Farming around. Or, like Lee you can choose to sit philosophizing about a vegan world, preach to your neighbors and participate in the status quo at the Factory Farm by doing absolutely nothing to compel change.

  22. Harold Brown said on January 27th, 2008 at 2:19pm #

    I would like to offer another perspective on a comment made concerning the industry expending vast sums of money to fight this initiative.
    The idustry is indeed spending money on fighting this initiative and it begins at the grassroots through farm organizations to build solidarity against what is framed as ‘radical’. Well sure, they can afford to spend $1, $5, $10 million in California, that is nothing for them. But it is argued that they must hate these organizations that are proposing the intitiative and occationally someone trots out an article from an industry publication full of hyperbole about the ‘animal rights agenda’. On the other hand they are selling more flesh, dairy, and eggs than ever before according to the USDA and the food industry. One must ask themselves, ‘Would the industry make changes that isn’t in the best interest of their shareholders?’ Not in a free market system they don’t. You see, the indsutry can afford to play this game on both sides, by ‘fighting’ the intitative because if they win they loose nothing and can implement the changes they choose to in their own good time. If they loose then they agree that making these changes will cost money but in both the short term and long term they buy into a very profitable ‘natural’ food market which has been their goal all along.
    When the leader of a national animal protection group is part of the USDA Food Animal AGriculture in 2020: Future Trends in Animal Agriculture conference in Washington,D.C. and gives a Powerpoint presentation on how they can partner with agribusiness to create win-win scenrios it should give us pause as to the motivations behind all parties involved.
    So when you read or hear about the industry hating the parties involved remember it is just double-talk and hyperbole. They are not the slow witted sod busters that many think of, they are shrewed business men with million of dollars to buy the best PR firms in NYC to develop strategies to further their agenda’s.

  23. Dustin Rhodes said on January 29th, 2008 at 2:31pm #

    Whitney:

    I sense the frustration and urgency of your e-mail–and the questions you pose, to be sure, are worthwhile. That said, I think you are missing Lee Hall’s point. What you seem to be describing as welfare measures–things that maybe(?) could or would make the difference in the life of a farm animal–is not what Lee Hall is talking about, as far as I understand the point of Hall’s argument. Lee is talking about how most of the measures really do NOT mean *anything* for the life of a farm animal. I have to wonder whether the criticism lodged against Hall’s call for more effectively directed activism–vegan advocacy, for instance–is not misguided. The kind of “reforms” put forth in this kind of initiative are practically meaningless—and, like you say, if we really care about the animals, and hold their best interests, we have to acknowledge initiatives such as these are deceptive and wholly ineffective. Yes, there is a sense of urgency that all activists feel; the dire-ness of the situation is decidedly overwhelming. But that shouldn’t stop us from questioning the validity and effectiveness of siding with industry to appease consumers who want to believe in the myth of “humanely raised.” Slightly altering animal agribusiness is not where we should be placing our efforts; they should be directed at dismantling the industry altogether.

    Dustin Rhodes

  24. Dave Shishkoff said on January 29th, 2008 at 3:51pm #

    I agree with Dustin’s response to Whitney Smith, and would add a couple more points.

    Of course, if we could speak with a farmed animal today, they would want less discomfort (or better said: to be left alone). But let’s look at it a little more critically.

    Any change in the social movement is dependent on us activists. We’re small in number, and have a limited amount of time and resources to put into this. When our goal is the end of animal agriculture, why is it that we’re putting so much of our limited resources into *enabling* our opponents? They’re being enabled by getting behind them, supporting them, and making their production ‘desirable’, all under the misused terms of ‘animal rights’ and advocacy. It’s a disgrace and an insult.

    Despite the fact that conditions in cage-free operations are deplorable (have you ever even *seen* a typical cage-free operation?) what about the habitat that will be destroyed in order to enable this industry to grow?

    Cage-free operations require SIGNIFICANTLY more space. The switch to cage-free is going to result in yet MORE land being used for animal agriculture, further displacing these free-living animals.

    Hardly anyone speaks for these beings, who will be shoved into already shrunken habitats… Are you going to ask these animals about their suffering? About their increasingly dwindling numbers, all so that humans can continue to eat eggs ‘with a conscience’?

    This campaign is wildly naive and misguided, and doubtless *all* animals in question are thanking their lucky stars that someone like Lee Hall is taking a few extra moments to actually think about what these actions are going to result in.

  25. Priscilla Feral said on January 29th, 2008 at 7:18pm #

    Our sense of urgency shouldn’t be a chicken feather in the cap of an HSUS apologist whose repetoire includes a hodgepodge of animal husbandry measures — aimed at regulating an animal exploitation industry — nor should such uninspiring, money-making work get passed off as victories for animals.

    I’ve seen huge, commercial cage-free hen operations, and there’s very little, if any, extra space occupied by the many hundreds of birds packed onto a floor, who hardly have room — if any — to turn around. It’s a mystique to think we can’t do better, and we should settle for much less, all because it allows the HSUS and the myopic flock of groups they attract to market such work as worthy of anyone’s financial or moral support.

  26. Peter Kobel said on January 30th, 2008 at 10:41am #

    To follow up on Priscilla’s comment on commercial cage-free hen operations. Michael Pollan, mentioned by Lee in her article, writes about visiting such a facility in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I’ll quote him because he doesn’t have a vegan “agenda”–he remains a so-called conscientious omnivore. But where is the conscience in this situation:

    “The chicken houses don’t resemble a farm so much as a military barracks: a dozen long, low-slung sheds with giant fans at either end. … [As I stepped inside] twenty thousand birds moved away from me as one…. Twenty thousand is a lot of chickens, and they formed a gently undulating white carpet that stretched nearly the length of a football field. …

    “Compared to conventional chickens, I was told, these organic birds have it pretty good: They get a few more square inches of living space per bird (though it was hard to see how they could be packed together much more tightly), and because there were no hormones or antibiotics in their feed to accelerate growth, they get to live a few days longer. Though under the circumstances, it’s not clear that a longer life is necessarily a boon.”

    This is the humane improvement to be gained by the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act?

  27. Jamie Massey said on February 4th, 2008 at 9:09am #

    I heard nothing from the critics of the California effort that amounts to more than sitting on one’s hands. Envision a better world means nothing, certainly not to the majority that don’t give a crap. Does Friends of Animals have any kind of plan to, say, get rid of veal crates? That once was a lofty goal, but now it’s not worthy of accomplishing because it doesn’t go far enough or because some sap will then think veal is okay? It is damned hard to accomplish anything and one shouldn’t dismiss others’ efforts. One writer alluded that banning cockfighting was easy. Not so, but even if it was, shouldn’t some respect be due to the first successful ballot intiative in U.S. history on behalf of domesticated animals? That was 10 years ago and now cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. Florida banned gestation crates. Arizona added veal crates to that. Now California is adding battery cages to that. If that’s not impressive, then tell us all, ye wise ones, how do we do better? Pray to Jebus?

  28. Ellie Maldonado said on February 4th, 2008 at 2:38pm #

    Jamie, I’m sure it wasn’t easy to ban cockfighting in Arizona, and I agree with your effort to end the practice, rather than try make it so-called humane. Still, I think if cockfighting had been openly practiced and gambled on by affluent Americans, it would have been much harder to outlaw. Cockfighting was once a royal pastime, and we might consider why it eventually fell from grace, as this is relevant to all animal advocacy.

    I think one reason is that it’s associated with gambling in the lower economic classes, which isn’t about animal advocacy at all. Another is that we’ve reached a point (long before the California Ballot Initiative) when many Americans find cruelty to animals objectionable, even while they continue to use animals for what they consider acceptable reasons. But the biggest reason, I think, is that animal advocates rejected cockfighting completely. They did not say cockfighting is so rampant and abusive, it should at least be regulated; and they did not work with industries that profit from it. When they brought their initiative to the public, they did not present a compromise. If they had, we might now have legalized gambling on regulated animal fights, instead of a ban.

    I’d like to think advocates understood that regulating animal fighting would be of little (if any) benefit to the animals involved, and that it’s just not acceptable to treat animals this way. So why is it so hard for some advocates to accept this is the same for animal agriculture? I agree with Dave Shishkoff– any change in the social movement is dependent on us activists– we shouldn’t be enabling our opponents.

  29. bonnie shaw said on March 24th, 2008 at 6:31pm #

    Eating animals is one of the biggest enviornmental problems out there…
    we all know the list of reasons why… and everyone, from the Pope on down, is concerned about the enviornment and wants to see change.

    Sadly many, if not most, leaders of the enviornmental movement eat meat and so find it convenient to ignore the impact an animal based diet has on the planet. It is easier to focus on trying to get big, polluting corporations to make changes instead of seriously considering personally going vegetarian/vegan and then asking others to do the same for the sake of the planet.

    I think it is time to hold their feet to the fire and then work together to end the polluting, wastful, cruel, unhealthy practice of eating animals.
    Could be a strategy well worth pursuing. If I were a factory farmer, there is probably nothing that would scare me more than to hear that the animal groups are joining forces with the envionmentalists.

  30. Carol D McEver said on September 14th, 2008 at 9:04pm #

    I, too think Prop 2 will do little to eleviate the torturous lives of animals born to be killed horribly to be eaten. However, comparing this effort in any way to regulating more humane ways to let animals fight to the death, is just ignorant. And, believe this! If it was still the wealthy elite that was into cockfighting, it would still be legal.
    Meat eating is, to say the least, 1,000,000% more accepted than staged animal fighting. Not only because it is and has been promoted on the media since there was media, but also because hardly anyone knows the conditions that food animals live in. It never crosses their minds.
    Long before I stopped eating flesh, I would look through the meat coolers at the store and I would have to try really hard to envision what I was looking at as the delicious meal I would serve later. Mostly, I only saw dead animals.
    But most shoppers looking at the same thing only see their dinner, not the animal it was sometimes only earlier that day.
    If the initiative, the petition and the whole controversy will make people actually realize that the pork chop they are eating WAS Wilbur “one amazing pig”; that all the flesh they put in their mouths was a just born darling little baby who wanted a life like any other baby born, then it will have at least started people thinking about it.
    People are a self-centered, greedy lot, but most are not sociopaths who cannot feel any pain but their own. But if facts are not spelled out or put right in front of them or shoved down their throats, usually the suffering of others is not what they are thinking about.
    Animal activists spend most of their time thinking about the suffering of animals, ways to get their feelings across to anyone and everyone and opportunities to influence anyone who just maybe could help make a difference. Factory farming is a 20th century thing and it takes a long time for people to get clued in to what’s going on around them. Especially when it is the rich and therefore powerful who are doing it and doing whatever it takes to make it appear that it is OK.
    No, Prop 2 won’t help much, and yes a vegan society is way way off in the future. It just helps to know that some people who never would have thought about it just might!!
    ********************************************************
    “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
    ********************************************************
    If EVERYONE had to watch those horrible videos of the cruelty to the crippled, injured or sick animals going to slaughter and unlike when the news showed it, they also had to hear the horrendous screaming of the cows, I think a lot of people would go back that meat counter with thoughts other than dinner on their minds.
    Except of course, the many that feel animals are only here for our use will never see them as feeling beings such as themselves, the higher ups on the “food chain”.
    In China’s dog farms they torture and kill dogs for their pleasure much like they do farm animals here. They don’t see them as living beings either, even tho, loyal to the end, the dogs are wagging their little tails till their fur is being burned off with a blow torch.
    Abuse sucks, cruelty sucks, brutality sucks and by the way….can anyone tell me where they find so many people to work in all the slaughter houses. I wouldn’t think there would be that many people with whatever it takes to do that.
    Kinda like with murderers, they have something I certainly don’t; or they lack something I have; because just the horror of it would kill me.
    So, there is my 2 cents for now.

    ***************************************************************
    “They have no voice, please make the
    choice to help stop animal cruelty!”
    Voice 4 The Voiceless
    http://www.geocities.com/ifonly_tct
    ten.labolgcbsnull@ytleurcpots