Proposition 2, the “Standards for Confining Farm Animals Initiative Statute” is a modest proposal, whose value to California communities outweighs the supposed costs to factory farmers and retail grocers. Voting yes on Prop. 2 would not only end the inhumane practices of cramming veal calves, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs into cages not much larger than their own bodies, but would help to open new markets to small family farmers and producers.
Opponents of the bill have pandered to “experts” to produce empirical evidence in their favor. The fact that what they have brought to the table is nothing but rhetoric and junk science is part and parcel of that lobby’s philosophical adherence to the “agribusiness” model of economics – that is a model that treats a living creature as merely a raw material input, a machine devoid of sensitivities or a standard of health. Such a system is untenable, destructive to the environment, and degrades the health of those who eat of its fruits.
As the beef and pork industries have been phasing out veal-crating and gestation crates under self-policing policies (most likely stemming from the recent adoption by other states of similar confinement laws pertaining to pregnant sows and baby calves in particular), it seems California’s large egg industry feels the most threatened by Prop. 2 as it is the first law of its kind to address the confinement of laying-hens in battery cages. The egg industry has raised a substantial lobby of agribusiness interests to make sure current production methods aren’t disrupted. This lobby has spent copious amounts on a misinformation campaign to scare the public into settling for the lowest possible standards of food production. These entities claim to look out for the health and welfare of their animals, the environment and the communities they operate in, but it is undeniable that their practices run contrary to these claims and place us all, as consumers, at undue risk.
For all 27 nations of the European Union are currently phasing out battery cages and several EU and American studies have shown little, if any economic impact on the cost of production. A one-cent per egg production cost increase for cage-free eggs is hardly the gloom and doom picture opponents of proposition 2 paint for California’s egg industry if this measure is passed. The law would not even take effect for another seven years, giving factory farmers more than adequate time to convert their infrastructure. This logic also ignores basic economics—our economy abhors a vacuum. Let us see more small producers crop up in light of this initiative! By encouraging the decentralization of food production, Prop. 2 will more than likely open the door to entrepreneurs and homesteaders alike who would gladly fill the supposed production void to ensue.
The viability of the conventional model of food production is what lies at the heart of this issue: should Californians depend on a concentrated, non-transparent, or, to put it more succinctly, “industrial” approach to getting their farm produce, or should they trust in smaller entities to take the reigns and compete to offer honest ecology and safer, more wholesome food? Voting yes on Prop. 2 would send a clear message to agribusiness oligarchies such as the United Egg Producers, who worry more about their bottom line than the health and welfare of their customers – a message that their practices are agriculturally, and speaking in a broader sense of the word, economically unsound.