by Brad Miller
Founder, Humane Farming Association
California Proposition 2, passed by voters who hoped to protect farmed animals in November 2008, officially goes into non-effect this week.
The Humane Society of the U.S. promised donors and the public that Proposition 2 would outlaw cages for laying hens and would result in a “cage-free” California. To this day, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle claims that was Proposition 2’s “clear intent.” The measure’s opponents also said that Proposition 2 would require cage-free. So, believing that they were voting to outlaw cages, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2.
Which, of course, brings us to one inescapable, infuriating, and heartbreaking reality: Had Proposition 2’s language actually reflected HSUS’s rhetoric, California would be ”cage-free” at this very moment!
Instead, millions of hens in California are still suffering in cages. Far from going “cage-free,” the egg industry is currently investing in new cages––as well as simply modifying their old cages.
“Negligence, arrogance, and outright dishonesty”
All of this could have been avoided if not for the negligence, arrogance, and outright dishonesty of HSUS.
More than six years ago, I personally, repeatedly, and with witnesses present, informed Pacelle that the continued use of cages would be the disastrous result of Proposition 2 unless HSUS corrected its fatally flawed language prior to circulation. As did several others. I also appealed separately to other HSUS staff. That was back when HSUS was seeking the Humane Farming Association’s endorsement and money for their campaign. Although there was still plenty of time to correct the language before the deadline––still plenty of time to clearly spell out exactly what was being called for––HSUS ignored all the warnings, refused to correct the language, and marched ahead with its hopelessly screwed-up ballot measure.
Now, the chickens have come home to roost. And, unsurprisingly, they’re being locked in cages.
As far as the meager amount of space within those cages, due to some confusing press reports, some people think that California’s 116 square inch standard is how Proposition 2 is officially being enforced. That is not the case.
Proposition 2 is not being enforced in any way, shape, or form! The 116 square inch requirement comes not from Proposition 2, but from separate regulations promulgated by our California Department of Agriculture. Those standards were adopted independently with the stated intention of reducing salmonella. The California Department of Agriculture has been explicit in stating that it is not enforcing Proposition 2. Like virtually everyone else, CDFA says that it has no idea how much space Proposition 2 calls for. Nor does local law enforcement.
No veal calves affected
To distract from HSUS’s historic blunder and abject failure to deliver on its promise of a “cage-free” California, Pacelle claims that Proposition 2 nevertheless “improved” the lives of veal calves. That is also bullshit.
Not one single veal calf is, or ever was, affected by Proposition 2. Not even slightly.
As HSUS is well aware, we got rid of veal crates in California more than a decade prior to Proposition 2 even being considered. Indeed, Pacelle himself openly acknowledged that the reason Proposition 2 included a reference to veal calves was to capitalize on the public awareness HFA had created on that issue. (Much in the way that, years later, he acknowledged that HSUS included references to strangling hogs in the Ohio ballot measure that it first promoted and then withdrew in 2010, in exchange for some largely unfulfilled promises from in agribusiness, in order to capitalize on the publicity generated by HFA’s 2006 Wiles Farm expose and ensuing court case.)
Went with symbolism
As before, HSUS intentionally went with symbolism––substance be damned.
The result: To this day there are calves in California suffering in crates where they cannot even turn around as described in Proposition 2. They are replacement heifers. They are the same species and the same breed as veal calves. That cruelty is still allowed because, against the vehement objections of HFA and many others at the time, HSUS deliberately excluded those calves from protection under Proposition 2!
In other words, HSUS decided to “outlaw” crates which didn’t exist, and which had not existed for years, while intentionally allowing the continued use of calf crates that did exist, and which still do!
If it is fair for HSUS to credit itself for “banning” egg factory cages, and for “improving” the lives of crated calves––as they have famously claimed for the last six years––isn’t it therefore also fair to assign appropriate blame when it ultimately turns out that the exact opposite has occurred on account of HSUS’s own negligence?
Jerry Friedman says
Can you cite your sources? Such as “The California Department of Agriculture has been explicit in stating that it is are not enforcing Proposition 2.” It would be a more powerful criticism if readers know where you’re getting your information from.
Merritt Clifton says
Brad Miller’s complete statement was that “The 116 square inch requirement comes not from Proposition 2, but from separate regulations promulgated by our California Department of Agriculture. Those standards were adopted independently with the stated intention of reducing salmonella. The California Department of Agriculture has been explicit in stating that it is not enforcing Proposition 2.” The relationship of the California cage size requirements to salmonella prevention was central to a lawsuit brought by Missouri attorney general Chris Koster in February 2014, in an attempt to overturn AB 1437, a California law which extends Proposition 2 requirements to all eggs sold in their shells within California, regardless of origin. Both the California Department of Agriculture and HSUS, as judicially admitted intervenors, defended AB 1437 as a measure meant to prevent salmonella contamination. See “Breaking News: Critical Courtroom Victory to Benefit Millions of Egg-Laying Hens,” posted by HSUS president Wayne Pacelle as the October 3, 2014 edition of his blog “A Humane Nation,” and “The Movement for Hens to Move,” posted by Humane Society Legislative Fund president Michael Markarian as the August 25, 2014 edition of his blog “Animals & Politics.” Federal court judge Kimberly Mueller dismissed the Missouri case on October 2, 2014.
Sherry E. DeBoer says
CDFA is not a law enforcement organization. It has no law enforcement power. It has no objection to laws being enforced.. In fact, The Secretary of Agriculture and the state veterinarian both endorse it. So what’s the problem? Years ago, John Lovell, lobbyist attorney who represents the Police Chiefs of California and the Peace Officers of California offered to arrange a meeting between law enforcement in California and the humane community to work out a state-wide beneficial, precedent setting arrangement for animal protection. HSUS turned him down.
Leadership! Law enforcement leadership. Hire a retired police officer to work in your community. Wow, do these guys know what they’re doing. I took my training at San Diego Humane Society under former FBI agent Fred Lee. He was fabulous and his humane officers were retired police officers who love animals. That was a dream experience for me.
We’ve got lots of laws in California. What we need is enforcement.
I’m disappointed to see such a weak commentary hosted on a site I normally associate with legitimate news about the animal movement. HFA never even endorsed Prop 2, let alone campaigned for it, and yet for years it’s taken false credit for advancements that have come about because of that campaign. And now HFA is complaining about it?
Congratulations to HSUS and the wide coalition of animal groups that actually worked hard to pass Prop 2. Millions of fewer birds are in cages (of any kind) as a result of it. Those who sat on the sidelines, like HFA, are the ones with explaining to do.
Merritt Clifton says
Apparently Steve Nelson didn’t closely read Brad Miller’s commentary, to which Nelson is purportedly responding, and has not paid attention, either, to the preceding seven years of debate. As Miller explained in the commentary, and has explained repeatedly to anyone who would listen ever since the Proposition 2 language was finalized in 2007-2008, he and HFA recognized from the beginning that the language would prove very difficult to enforce, and would not transition the egg industry to raising hens without cages because it did not explicitly prohibit cages. HFA believed an explicit prohibition of caging should have been included in the language. Instead, the Proposition 2 language allowed the industry the large amount of latitude that has brought about the present situation, in which somewhat larger cages rather than no cages have become the new industry standard.
Sherry E. DeBoer says
Remember the debate about who won the presidency, Bush or Gore? Bush just walked into The White House, the job, He took it. Why are we even arguing about cage size? Foster Farms let the hens out! The deed is done. Don’t bother arguing with the opposition or each other anymore. We won. The hens won. Hold this position! Don’t waffle, argue or give in. Man up for the hens and the win! Join together to make a steel wall of NO CAGES! That was the intent of the initiative!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is the law and it stands.
Sherry E. DeBoer says
When I do a rescue, I take charge, walk in and do it. I don’t stand around outside and discuss it with the perpetrators and ask if it’s convenient for them. Mr. Popularity and his wanna be important followers are so anxious to be perceived as nice guys and elite educated intelligentia, that their hubris has made them stupid. I’d have to see the balls to believe they have any.
Defend and enforce the laws in your own county.
Regarding the federal egg bill alluded to above, I recently listened to an AR Zone podcast featuring Paul Shapiro of the HSUS…and it made a lot of sense to me why they supported this measure.
Animal ag remains a blue whale to animal advocates’ goldfish. It was telling that the forces that killed the federal egg standards bill were not animal welfare advocates, but the beef and pork industries–they feared their industries would be next for animal-related legislation. It is no surprise that animal ag’s maneuvering would make sure things stay essentially the same. I don’t think animal rights and welfare activists are necessarily to blame for this. The animal agriculture industry is still just too powerful.
Amanda Smith says
I worked on Prop 2 and remember being baffled by the total absence of the Humane Farming Association. The egg industry was thrilled that HFA refused to get involved in the campaign, just as the beef and pork producers were thrilled that HFA took their side by opposing an EU-style federal ban on barren battery cages.
It’s hard to take HFA seriously.
Karen Davis says
Thank you for this enlightening article. Getting hens out of battery cages, whether barren or “enriched,” would have been a positive step of sorts for millions/billions of hens. The step is qualified by the fact that hens living in so-called aviaries or cage-free facilities are so crowded they can’t move, and suffocation of these hens is one of the things that happens to them because of all the dirt, dust, ammonia and other pollutions that cage-free – crowded and confined – hens are exposed to. Mass consumption means mass production. Hens will suffer as long as millions and billions of people eat eggs and buy processed foods with egg ingredients..
That said, the public and animal advocates were misled in being told that Proposition 2 would eliminate cages. Misled also in being told that all the hens in an “enriched” cage will be able to “spread their wings.” In reality, what is meant is that one hen at a time may be able to stretch one or two wings, but definitely not all of the hens in the cage simultaneously.
United Poultry Concerns joined the Humane Farming Association when HSUS switched from denouncing “enriched” battery cages to endorsing them. We created a webpage called “The Screaming Hen” with artwork by Sue Coe: http://www.upc-online.org/scream/130519curse_of_enriched_cages.html
Please make 2015 the year you go vegan if you haven’t already. There’s plenty to eat. We don’t need eggs or other animal products to be healthy, happy, and productive.
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org
Sherry E. DeBoer says
Regarding your comment, “Spread their wings”, Clearly Karen, the wing lifts will have to be, synchronized. (Please see Foster Farms, Ca.., how they raise their poultry.) Foster Farms in Ca. is like Tyson Farms back East..
OK, What I had in mind for the hens was “Open the Jail Doors.” Might I even pity the farmers who have to pick up the eggs without stepping on them because I suspect that the hens will increase productivity.
I think I’ve known Brad Miller and HFA for about 25 years. He has NEVER been wrong about ANY California legislation. If those of you back East had listened to Brad, the Downer Bill could have passed in California in the early 90’s. HFA is an honorable and effective organization with an honorable and effective leader. And thank you Brad, for leading us in opposing HSUS opposition to its own initiative going into effect.
Cathy Goeggel says
Thank you Brad, for laying out the harsh reality that has been all but smothered in self congratulatory hyperbole and news stories telling of the higher cost of eggs.
Sherry E. DeBoer says
While I agree almost always with HFA this time I must take exception to a couple of points. Prop. 2 states very clearly exactly how big the cages should be! Big enough so that the animal can lay down, turn around and spread its wings fully.. Which part of that does anyone not understand? There is precedent language in the Lockyer Pet Store Bill, SB1128, 1991. I have also seen egg farmers on the news with their chickens all over the place. ( not in cages) The farmer said that he believes the chickens are happier because they’re all clucking a lot, whereas when they were in cages they barely clucked at all. Months ago, Foster Farms declared themselves cage free and I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe that the big organizations weren’t also delighted. Let the truths be known. Through clarity of facts and information and pure motivation, we can help more animals as well as each other. There is no room for deceit or negative competitiveness.
Sherry E. DeBoer says
I forgot to address enforcement. Easily my pet peeve! With all the money HSUS has, why don’t they have a mighty law enforcement unit with former or retired police officers? Anyone can enforce a felony in progress. Anyone can be a good Samaritan to any living creature. What’s stopping you! No, I don’t mean a showcase for raising money and feeling good. You know exactly what I mean.
Spin has plummeted to a new low in this society and unfortunately that also means it has infiltrated organizations claiming to care for and about the other living beings with whom we are supposed to share this planet.
Alfredo Kuba says
Thank you Karen Davis for all your hard work on behalf of Chickens and birds exploited as commodities. Regardless of Prop. 2 with or without it, the animals always loose. It is still abhorrent and repugnant how politicians and the mass murder industries device schemes to continue business as usual. Nothing has changed and just keeps getting worse for the animals. And as Karen put it, it is consumers who are ultimately at fault for these atrocities to go on. Keeping people ignorant, desensitized and numbed to the pain and suffering, the brutality and mass murders of innocent sentient beings, that’s what our fascist government and corporations want and do very well.