Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Historic California Ballot Measure Launched to Ban Abusive Factory Farming Practices

An historic ballot initiative signature-gathering effort is now fully underway in California to place on the statewide ballot a measure to outlaw the cruel and intensive confinement of pregnant pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens on industrialized factory farms. Californians for Humane Farms, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals, are working all over the state to gather a goal of 650,000 signatures by February 22, 2008, to place a measure on the 2008 November ballot.

For decades, California’s family and small farmers raised animals in a humane manner, allowing them access to the outdoors and the ability to engage in their natural behaviors. Today, many family farmers have been displaced by corporate farming interests, and it’s not unusual for the corporate farmers to set aside animal husbandry standards and instead raise some animals in intensive confinement. It’s a confinement so severe that the animals cannot even turn around in their cages or crates. The extreme, overcrowded conditions cause suffering for the animals while contributing to air pollution, contaminating groundwater and threatening human health. This ballot initiative is intended to revive California’s tradition of humane farming and protect animals, the environment and human health.

Veal Crates
The veal crate is widely known as one of the most cruel and deplorable animal husbandry techniques being used today. Young calves are kept in tiny stalls, confined so restrictively that they are not even able to turn around or extend their limbs. Research has shown that, as a result of these conditions, these calves exhibit abnormal coping behaviors associated with stress and fear. These behaviors include head tossing, head shaking, kicking, scratching and stereotypical chewing. After 16-20 weeks, these weakened animals are sent to slaughter for veal.

Battery Cages
California has approximately 19 million egg-laying hens. The vast majority of them are confined in cages – known as “battery cages” - so small that they can barely move. In fact, each caged hen has less space than a sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live for more than a year before she’s slaughtered.

These birds are crammed in filthy, barren spaces where they can’t even spread their wings. With no opportunity to nest, dust bathe, perch, and walk, these birds endure lives filled with suffering. Poultry scientist Dr. Ian Duncan states unequivocally: “Battery cages for laying hens have been shown (by me and others) to cause extreme frustration particularly when the hen wants to lay an egg. Battery cages are being phased out in Europe and other more humane husbandry systems are being developed.”

Gestation Crates
Arguably cruel and inhumane is one description of the way female breeding pigs are treated on factory farms. Breeding sows are confined in barren metal cages for almost their entire lives. During their pregnancies, the sows are severely restricted in individual “gestation crates” measuring just two feet wide. Like the veal calves, they are unable to exercise, turn around or even extend their limbs. After giving birth to an average of five or six litters of piglets in four years, the sows are sent to slaughter as well.

Both veal and gestation crates have been outlawed in several countries. In the U.S. the gestation crate was outlawed in 2002 by passage of a precedent-setting citizen initiative in Florida, and both veal and gestation crates were banned by initiatives in Arizona in 2006. Californians could have an opportunity to weigh in here on the veal and gestation crate and the battery cage issues if this measure qualifies for the 2008 general election.

For more information on these issues, on Californians for Humane Farms, or on how to get involved, you can contact them at:

Californians for Humane Farms
6311 Van Nuys Blvd; PMB 438
Van Nuys, CA 91401