by Bradley Miller
(Bradley Miller founded the Humane Farming Association, www.hfa.org, for which he is national director, in 1985.)
It all comes down to one square foot.
After wasting ten years, squandering over $10 million dollars, and subjecting millions of animals to years of preventable cage confinement, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) can no longer deny the obvious:
Literally millions of egg-laying hens are still locked in battery cages throughout California, even though voters were told they had outlawed those cages years ago
by passing what was known as Proposition 2.
The reason for this failure could not be clearer. It is due to the stunningly negligent drafting errors made by HSUS and its inexplicable refusal to correct those errors prior to putting the measure on the ballot.
These blunders include:
- Never bothering to specify in the actual text of the measure that egg factory cages would be prohibited. (Proposition 2 was promoted to activists, the media, and voters as a ban on cages.)
- Neglecting to specify anywhere in Proposition 2 how much space would be minimally required to comply with the law. (HSUS was adamant, however, that the law required nothing less than 216 square inches of floor space per hen.)
- Refusing to heed the vigorous and repeated warnings of the Humane Farming Association and many others that, if left uncorrected, Proposition 2 would fail exactly as it has.
Proposition 2 – Take Two
Less Space for Hens –
More Years of Cages
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s response to the Proposition 2 debacle, and to the years of animal suffering caused by his refusal to fix Proposition 2’s fatal flaws the first time around, is not to go back and do it correctly.
Instead, Pacelle has rekindled his unholy alliance with United Egg Producers (UEP) and invited it to write a replacement measure consistent with the industry’s vision for the future. That vision: Tightly packed confinement buildings providing only one square foot per hen.
The United Egg Producers is the egg industry trade association. It has been remarkably candid about its intentions, even going so far as to openly acknowledge its goal of controlling and diluting the meaning of “cage-free.”
“It’s time for egg farmers to get involved in setting the agenda, especially defining what a cage-free system looks like.”
––United Egg Producers
UEP’s partner in this venture, HSUS, has been less candid. It is going to great lengths to obscure the fact that the egg industry inserted its very own pre-existing standards, literally verbatim, into this 2018 redo of Proposition 2.
This is what it would mean if that measure is approved in California next November:
- The egg industry would not only be allowed, but it would also be incentivized, to construct multi-level egg factories that provide hens with a mere one square foot of floor space.
- The measure would allow the industry to pack 33% more hens into egg factories than what HSUS promised throughout its entire Proposition 2 campaign, as well as throughout the decade that followed.
- Although voters thought they had outlawed cages back in 2008, this measure would explicitly legalize battery cages until the year 2022. And when that year finally arrives, we can count on the industry seeking to push the date back even further. That is exactly what we all witnessed with Prop 2’s supposed 2015 “deadline” — which HSUS famously assured everyone was ironclad.
Pushing the deadline back to 2024
And, as it turns out, we don’t have to wait until 2022 to see how tentative and fluid that date is. Just weeks ago, the Association of California Egg Farmers introduced a second measure that would push the date back to 2024.
Regardless of these ever-changing, never-arriving, deadlines – what each version of these measures shares is this primary function: They would each corrupt California law so as to immediately legalize battery cages throughout the state. And they would each allow the confinement of laying hens with as little as one square foot of floor space per bird.
If either of these two rotten egg initiatives is enacted, hens would suffer a major reduction in floor space from what HSUS itself had always said Proposition 2 required. And, after openly ignoring Proposition 2 voter intent for all these years — the egg industry would be rewarded with an ever-increasing number of years to keep tens of millions of California laying hens in battery cages.
The Interstate Commerce Smokescreen
Pie In The Sky — Hens In A Cage
The obvious challenge for HSUS is how to sell this toxic mess. Its strategy is to change the subject entirely.
For misdirection, HSUS is relying on some language it inserted purporting to regulate out-of-state producers of pork, veal, and eggs. It is very instructive to note that the Association of California Egg Farmers is playing the exact same game in its own competing ballot measure. That’s right: California egg producers are also claiming that they will regulate Iowa pork producers. Just as long as we all agree to legalize battery cages!
No one should fall for these tactics. Even in the highly unlikely event that these constitutionally questionable provisions survive the inevitable years of legal challenges, the U.S. Congress is already in the midst of advancing preemptive legislation (HR 2887) that would render all such interstate commerce regulation null and void.
In fact, drafts of the rapidly approaching 2018 Farm Bill are virtually certain to include amendments that would nullify any such provisions. In other words, the interstate commerce sections of the HSUS/UEP ballot measure may very well be nullified even before it is voted on next November.
No reason to capitulate
The bottom line is this: In 2008, California voters were told that Proposition 2 would make battery cages illegal. Based on that belief, voters approved the measure by a landslide. There is every bit as much, if not more, public support for farm animal protection laws today than there was ten years ago. A ballot measure clarifying that battery cages are illegal in California right now would win. As would a measure clarifying that hens must be given more than just one square foot. This was proven ten years ago. There is absolutely no valid reason to capitulate on these issues now.
No amount of wishful thinking about controlling the behavior of out-of-state pork producers by regulating interstate commerce can compensate for the very tangible harm done if either one of the egg industry’s ballot measures is enacted.
Patty Shenker says
Not only did HSUS dupe Californians, & animal activists, with Prop 2, but they then went on to the fallacious concept of ‘humane meat’. What a betrayal to the animals & people who fight for them! This organization is corrupt & they have lost my support & confidence. I will not be giving money or time for this new proposition; I have learned! Thank you for this educational article; I hope everyone reads it.
Christine Heidt says
I will stop my support for the HSUS right now. Bloody hypocrites !
Ruth Feldman says
Thanks for this information, Merritt and Beth. Now, what can we DO? Another, well-written ballot measure? How much money and time would that take? Your informative article might have laid out the constructive steps you suggest for rectification. Is a call for ENFORCEMENT of INTENT of Prop 2 enough? Probably not because of the lack of specific numbers to denote actual CAGE-FREE space. Again, how do we fix this problem of wording so our intent, humane Space for each captive laying hen, is clear and enforceable?
Jamaka Petzak says
Regular readers of ANIMALS 24-7 knew this in the beginning and we still know it now. Unfortunately, double-talk and double-dealing are the rule, rather than the exception, in societies such as this one — and they always have been. Power, control and money have always trumped compassion, caring, and the value and quality of lives. I wish I had something less cynical to say, but I don’t.
David Cantor says
Since there’s never been a reduction in animal abuse in more than 50,000 years under the Animal-Abuse Revolution, all concerned should realize by now that the entire paradigm by which civilization abuses nonhuman animals, humans perceive and understand them, and organizations advocate for them are rooted in unreality, not in serious strategy or in an understanding of what it would take to have an effective movement for equal rights of all animals. Small changes that are needed can only be approached after a new paradigm for total liberation — including their not being ours to love — is established.
Karen Davis says
Thank you for publishing this HFA article. It is hard to see what can be done for animals who are being mass-produced for mass-consumption. It is often hard, even for us animal activists, to picture the “processes of production” in which hens and other animals mass-produced for “food” are trapped. The egg industry, like all animal production industries, is a transnational operation including, but not limited to, taxpayer-funded export programs and more. That said, HSUS misled activists and the general public about Proposition 2 and by doing so, they betrayed the birds.
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org
Eric Mills says
And it’s not only the chickens who will suffer. Back in the Proposition 2 days, the late Virginia Handley (California Coordinator for The Fund for Animals),
I (Action for Animals) and others bemoaned the fact that replacement heifers for the dairy industry were not included in Prop. 2. And why not? Those calves suffer nearly as much as the calves in those godawful veal crates.
I don’t doubt HSUS’s good intentions. But perhaps they should drop this version of the initiative, rewrite it with the needed corrections and additions, THEN make another attempt to help farmed animals, a Proposition that EVERYONE could support (excepting the egg industry, of course).
HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle may be emailed at: email@example.com
The CA state coordinator for this effort will likely again be Paul Shapiro, email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Annoula Wylderich says
If you are to quote anyone about this issue, I would hope it would be a representative of an organization that has demonstrated a clear, sincere intent regarding animal protection. I am not aware of HFA passing any legislation relating to the confinement of farm animals nor supporting anti-factory farming campaigns that have been placed on a ballot. While other groups such as Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary (and yes, HSUS) fought against factory farming interests in various states, this group was a bystander.
Merritt Clifton says
The Humane Farming Association, emerging in 1985 from a background of vegan advocacy, was legislatively advocating for farmed animals and exposing the routine cruelties of agribusiness through undercover investigations long before either Farm Sanctuary (founded in 1986) or the Humane Society of the U.S. had any legislative or investigative programs addressing farmed animal issues, and nearly 15 years before Mercy for Animals (founded in 1999) existed.
One noteworthy HFA undercover investigation led to a 15-year series of successful prosecutions of major players in the veal industry (1994-2009) for misuse of hormones and steroids, including the criminal convictions of the Dutch entrepreneurs who brought the crated veal industry to the U.S. in the first place, circa 1962.
The exposé Slaughterhouse, published in 1997 by longtime Humane Farming Association investigator Gail Eisnitz, remains essential reading for anyone addressing any aspect of the slaughtering industry.
Undercover video obtained in 2000 by the Humane Farming Association of shackled and hoisted cattle having their legs hacked off and being skinned alive at the Iowa Beef Processors [IBP] slaughterhouse in Wallula, Washington, helped to introduce the use of videography for which Mercy for Animals in particular now is known. Meanwhile the Humane Farming Association used the video to pursue a prosecution of the slaughterhouse executives and to seek updates and reforms in how the 1958 Humane Slaughter Act is enforced (or, mostly, not enforced.)
From 1999 to 2003 the Humane Farming Association pursued a successful case against factory hog farming on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Along the way, the Humane Farming Association has time and again accurately identified fatal flaws in legislation advanced by Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the U.S., in particular, often resulting from Farm Sanctuary and HSUS compromises with agribusiness, which have resulted in laws being passed that actually rolled back protection for farmed animals, loosened standards, could not be effectively enforced, and have nonetheless been touted as “victories” when they not only won nothing but actually lost previous gains. A 1994 “downer” law passed in California was the first obvious example. It was successfully enforced only once, amended in 2008, and then in 2012 was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Proposition 2, passed by California voters later in 2008, was––as the Humane Farming Association pointed out all along––mostly unenforceable, through flaws in language which could and should have been corrected before it was ever put on the state ballot. Now, as Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller has explained here, HSUS and Farm Sanctuary are repeating and compounding many of the same obvious mistakes in their current proposed update.
Not to be overlooked, incidentally, is that HSUS has also recently claimed legislative “victories” in Vermont which reduced puppy mill cage sizes by from half to 75%, and in Pennsylvania, where the “victory” in question appears to have legalized pigeon shoots. (See Update: Vermont Gov Scott signs HSUS bill to cut puppy mill cage sizes and Did HSUS & Humane Pennsylvania sacrifice pigeons to NRA demand?