Six years ago, California voters were right to overwhelmingly pass Proposition 2, the historic animal welfare ballot measure that took effect last month. The law, which requires more space for hens, calves and pigs, unsurprisingly came under very heavy attack from the animal agribusiness industry.
Last week, however, a group calling itself the Humane Farming Association also came out to criticize the measure (“Flawed ballot measure is coming home to roost,” Viewpoints, Feb. 11).
This group doesn’t appear to have ever met an animal welfare improvement it liked. While the group was neutral on Proposition 2 during 2008 and is only now condemning the measure, it actively opposed California’s 2004 law prohibiting factory farms from force-feeding ducks and geese to produce the notoriously cruel product known as foie gras.
The group’s claims about Proposition 2 reflect a profound unfamiliarity with farm-animal confinement issues, which is perhaps one reason the group has never supported any law that passed anywhere on the issue.
During the Proposition 2 campaign, all sides agreed that the result would be a de facto conversion to cage-free egg production systems. Perhaps this is one reason the egg industry’s trade group, the United Egg Producers, announced just days after the measure’s passage: “Cages for laying hens and sow gestation crates will certainly be outlawed.” And why UC Davis’ economic analysis stated that it “would eliminate the use of cage systems for laying hens in California.”
Since, some egg producers – and the Humane Farming Association – have flip-flopped on this issue, and cite new California rules that allow cage confinement of hens. In fact, these rules are unrelated to Proposition 2, and producers must comply with them, as well as the higher Proposition 2 standard.
The good news is that many egg producers and retailers are following Proposition 2 and have gone cage-free. Some major food companies – including Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo – have already converted to 100 percent cage-free shell eggs in their California operations. California-based Bon Appetit Management Co., a food-management giant serving more than 500 locations, recently wrote that “every company, lobbyist, and lawmaker should get on board with cage-free compliance.”
Food retailers and egg producers should heed those words and honor the outcome of the democratic process. All retailers and egg producers in California should go cage-free.
Jennifer Fearing, former deputy director of the Humane Society of the United States, managed the Yes on Proposition 2 campaign.