California Proposition Two passage rattles agribiz cages

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:
LENEXA, Kansas–California Proposition Two, overwhelmingly
approved by voters on November 4, requires only that “calves raised
for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways
that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their
limbs and turn around freely,” by 2015.
“The new law is simple and hardly earth-shaking,” observed
Grist columnist Tom Philpott in a post-election wrap-up. “Yet
industrial-farming interests are squawking like hens about to lay a
huge egg. That the industry finds such a commonsense requirement
intolerable reveals just how dependent it is on imposing cramped
conditions. The backlash against Proposition Two also betrays a very
encouraging fear that California’s code will go nationwide.”
Chuck Jolley of the Cattle Network acknowledged as much on
November 19, 2008. Animal agriculture trade organizations, said
Jolley, “should conduct unannounced member audits and be ready to
immediately dismiss any company caught violating the strict
standards. And publicize the expulsion.”

“Let me quote a most disturbing story from,”
Jolley elaborated. “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
released a video showing workers at an Aviagen turkey-breeding
operation abusing live birds. PETA sent an individual to work
undercover at several Aviagen operations in West Virginia between
September and November of this year, according to the video that was
posted on the organization’s web site. The video depicts Aviagen
employees breaking turkeys’ necks and stomping on their heads while
they are still alive. PETA also alleges that a supervisor saw workers
kill 450 turkeys with two-by-fours.”
Jolley denounced similar abuse videotaped by PETA at MowMar
Farms in Bayard, Minnesota, exposed in mid-September 2008.
Greene County, Minnesota sheriff Tom Heater on October 22,
2008 served arrest warrants against six of 18 MowMar employees whom
PETA accused of “hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a
concrete floor, and bragging about jamming rods into the anuses of
sows,” summarized Amy Lorentzen of Associated Press.
Now headed by former USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection
Service chief Ron DeHaven, the American Veterinary Medical
Association responded to the MowMar case after it was exposed by
declaring that “The practices documented in the video are not only
disturbing, intolerable and inhumane, but may also be in violation
of state laws.” The AVMA urged “an immediate and thorough
But Jolley argued for language stronger than that. After
the turkey abuse case broke, “Aviagen representatives told the New
York Times that they ‘promised to pursue further investigations that
could eventually lead to the employees in the video being fired,'”
Jolley recited. “Their promise is unacceptable. The weak-kneed
phrase ‘could eventually’ should have been replaced with ‘will
absolutely.’ As in the case of the Hallmark scandal,” a cruelty
case at a California slaughterhouse exposed in 2007 by the Humane
Society of the U.S., “the next step should be criminal charges filed
against those employees as well as their immediate superiors.
“The alternative,” warned Jolley, “is to allow PETA and
HSUS to continue publicizing animal abuse,” and “will lead to the
not-so-gradual spread of even more restrictive legislation from
Responded HSUS factory farm campaign coordinator Paul
Shapiro, “In a clear and unequivocal voice, 63.3% of California
voters sent the strongest message yet to animal agribusiness: The
time for change has come. No doubt, some defenders of agribusiness’
status quo will argue that producers should just dig in their heels
and hope to do a better job of ‘educating consumers’ about standard
industry practices, but the egg industry has just waged the most
expensive ‘educational campaign’ in agribusiness history concerning
battery cages, yet still lost in a landslide.”
“What Proposition Two and experience over the past decade
have shown,” Shapiro assessed, “is that the more consumers learn
about the ways in which many farm animals–especially caged laying
hens–are treated, the more disturbed they become. With each
campaign, with each release of video from whistle-blowing employees,
with each split between future-looking farmers and those who cling to
the status quo, consumers gain a real understanding of the routine
suffering too many farm animals endure.”
Proposition Two passed in the same week that a Florida ban on
confining pregnant pigs in gestation crates took effect, six years
after passage. The Florida bill, the prototype for the pig
provisions of Proposition Two, resulted in the two pig farms left in
the state at the time going out of business, and in an ongoing
effort led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce to dismantle the
process by which the law was adopted.
Of growing concern to all sectors of the livestock industry,
nationwide, is that increased public concern about farm animal
welfare will undermine agribusiness resistance to stricter regulation
of emissions and effluents. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007
that greenhouse gases emitted by livestock may be regulated as air
pollution, and the Environmental Protection Agency has already
proposed regulations for the livestock industry under the Clean Water
Act. Factory farms currently release about 56 million pounds of
phosphorous, 110 million pounds of nitrogen, and two billion pounds
of sediment per year into U.S. waterways.
Contributing to agribusiness concern, the California
Regional Water Quality Control Board on November 21, 2008 warned
Armstrong Farms that the egg ranches it operates in San Diego County,
keeping about 660,000 chickens at any given time, may be fined for
allowing polluted runoff.
Owner Ryan Armstrong prominently opposed Proposition Two.
After Armstrong asserted at a hearing on Proposition Two that he had
“nothing to hide,” HSUS obtained county inspection records that
reportedly document the pollution and turned them over to the water
quality control board.
The Proposition Two requirements parallel European Union
legislation. The EU phase-out of battery caging for laying hens is
to be completed by 2012, but 81% of the laying hens in Northern
Ireland are reportedly still battery caged. Producers in other
regions may be no quicker to replace their caging.
The next major area of farm animal welfare legislation may
address how poultry are killed. Poultry are exempted from the U.S.
Humane Slaughter Act, and from the humane slaughter laws of most
nations, but this may change with the introduction of controlled
atmosphere killing, app-roved for use in Britain in 1995 and
recommended by PETA to replace slaughter by hanging birds upside down
and beheading them.
The Asda supermarket chain in Britain in November 2008
began requiring suppliers to use controlled atmosphere killing. “The
suppliers will load chickens into crates, which will be passed
through a multi-stage machine in which oxygen levels are reduced,
leaving the birds to breathe only carbon dioxide until they are
dead,” explained Rachel Shields of The Independent.
This method uses one of the major greenhouse gases.
Despite the PETA endorsement, “From a welfare point of view, it
would be better if carbon dioxide wasn’t used,” Compassion in World
Farming policy advisor Peter Stevenson told Shields. “Carbon dioxide
causes the birds respiratory distress–hyperventilation and gasping,”
Stevenson explained. “The reason slaughterhouses want to use it is
because the alternative–high levels of nitrogen or argon,” which
are also greenhouse gases, “can cause reflex wing flapping. The
birds are unconscious, but they flap their wings. That can damage
the carcasses.”

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