In Charlotte’s Web, healthy animals romp around the farm, playing with their families, and enjoying a full life, fearful only of seeing their life reach its end. Many of us grew up believing farms were really like that, the image reinforced by commercials for burger joints and frozen foods. The reality of factory farms, unfortunately, is quite different.
During pregnancy, pigs are locked alone in gestation crates – metal cells only two feet wide. Without enough room to turn around, they often develop joint disorders that leave them unable to walk. They will bite at the metal bars, desperate to escape, but of course they are helpless. Hens on egg farms are crammed into battery cages, never once enjoying the freedom to spread their wings, let alone engage in natural behaviors such as nesting or dust bathing. Veal calves are taken from their mothers, just hours after birth, to live in crates with their necks chained in place, never able to move, held in a single position until the day they are butchered.
The animals’ torment is bad enough, but these conditions produce meat and eggs that threaten consumers’ health. Such stressed animals become sick, and because they are unnaturally crowded together, they spread diseases to one another at an accelerated rate.
Hens forced by their cramped conditions to defecate on their own eggs produce eggs that can spread Salmonella. More than 50,000 Americans fall victim to this disease every year, and a recent study found that facilities using battery cages were 20 times more likely to be contaminated than those that were cage-free.
As the Center for Food Safety put it, "Extreme intensive confinement can have potentially serious public health and food safety implications and should be phased out as is being done in the European Union."
Next week, California voters will finally have a chance to see these conditions phased out here. Proposition 2, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and endorsed by an array of consumer health and safety groups, will guarantee, very simply, that all California farm animals get enough room to turn around, stand up, lie down, and stretch their limbs.
This proposal is modest enough. Similar laws have already passed in Arizona, Colorado, and other states. Though factory farms decry this as government regulation that will hurt their profits, many family farms already practice the ethical standards Prop 2 would set. By their success, these family farmers prove it is possible to earn a fair profit while treating animals humanely and protecting consumer safety.
Unfortunately, these ethical farmers suffer a disadvantage when their competitors are allowed to cut corners. The status quo rewards farms that feed us sick and suffering animals, and it punishes farmers who raise animals in a natural, healthy fashion. Prop 2 will solve this. By requiring all farms to raise their animals humanely, Prop 2 will help ethical farmers enjoy more competitiveness while helping consumers find safer food. It is no surprise that more than 100 family farms in California support Prop 2, even while their big-agribusiness counterparts spend millions trying to defeat it.
Bottom line for voters: Prop 2 will deliver healthier food from more compassionate farms. This one deserves to pass overwhelmingly. Please support Prop 2.
And here's a video made by students: