Animal advocates & agribusiness split over California Proposition 12; Republicans split over Florida Proposition 13
SACRAMENTO, California; ORLANDO, Florida––The axiom that animal politics cut diagonally across partisan divides could scarcely be better illustrated than by the alignments for and against the two major ballot initiatives on animal issues going before voters on November 6, 2018.
Both California Proposition 12, concerning farmed animal welfare, and Florida Amendment 13, which would ban betting on greyhound racing in Florida, are heavily backed by the Humane Society of the U.S. and several other national animal advocacy organizations.
But both also have politically significant opposition.
Both measures are expected to pass––maybe
Most media observers appear to expect both California Proposition 12 and Florida Amendment 13 to pass.
However, support for California Proposition 12 has not been tested by major independent polling agencies, meaning surprises are possible.
Voter surveys by St. Pete Polls and Suffolk University suggest that Florida Amendment 13 may fall just short of the 60% margin it needs, as a proposed state constitutional amendment, to take effect.
Heavy hitters on either side
California Proposition 12 is endorsed not only by the Humane Society of the U.S., the major sponsor of the ballot initiative, but also by the American SPCA, Farm Sanctuary, Direct Action Everywhere, Compassion In World Farming, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as well as by the Sierra Club, the California Democratic Party, United Farm Workers, and the Center for Food Safety.
That would appear to be a powerful lineup.
Yet aligned against Proposition 12 are another constellation of animal advocacy organizations, including the Humane Farming Association, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.
“The Rotten Egg Bill”
The pro-animal organizations opposed to Proposition 12 deride it as “the Rotten Egg Bill,” in essence a “feel-good” measure that would actually change little or nothing if passed––or at least not change anything soon––while misleading voters and consumers to believe something substantive had been done.
Debates over Proposition 12 between Humane Society of the U.S. spokesperson Josh Balk and Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller have been aired by KPFA/Pacifica Radio of Berkeley, California at https://kpfa.org/player/?audio=297223; the San Francisco public broadcasting station KQED, at https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101867842/election-2018-prop-12-the-farm-animal-confinement-initiative; and the Pasadena public broadcasting television station KPCC at https://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2018/10/17/63803/airtalk-debates-2018-ballot-initiatives-prop-12-fa/.
Agribusiness endorsements of California Proposition 12 are likewise split in both directions.
Opposing Proposition 12 are the National Pork Producers Council and the Association of California Egg Farmers.
Supporting Proposition 12 is Central Valley Eggs, which calls itself “the largest cage-free egg producer in California,” but which the Humane Farming Association and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness point toward as an example of how Proposition 12 would reduce the standards for egg-laying hens to meaninglessness.
United Egg Producers
United Egg Producers, whose standards Proposition 12 would establish in California law, has refused to either endorse Proposition 12 or oppose it.
United Egg Producers from mid-2011 to 2014 partnered with the Humane Society of the U.S. in promoting federal legislation to establish the UEP standards nationwide––after HSUS withdrew support of ballot initiatives in Ohio, Oregon, and Washington which would have introduced stricter standards, if approved by voters.
Pacelle & Shapiro
Some of the division of animal advocacy opinion over California Proposition 12 results from lingering activist bitterness over the Humane Society of the U.S. having double-crossed activists who expected to win stronger legislation, by cutting deals with agribusiness via United Egg Producers.
The deals were orchestrated by former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle and former farmed animal campaigns manager Paul Shapiro, both ousted in early 2018 amid allegations of sexually harassing subordinates. Pacelle, however, has resurfaced campaigning in support of California Proposition 12.
Some of the animal advocacy opposition to California Proposition 12 may be philosophical and ideological in origin. In Defense of Animals, and Friends of Animals, for instance, would have difficulty endorsing any legislation which might tend to prolong the existence of animal agriculture.
Rolls back parts of Proposition 2
The Humane Farming Association and PETA emphasize, however, that while California Proposition 12 is promoted as reinforcing California Proposition 2, a ballot initiative approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008, it actually rolls back some of the key provisions of Proposition 2.
These provisions were never enforced in part because of loopholes that HFA pointed out before the petitions to place Proposition 2 on the ballot were circulated.
“Misleads kind consumers”
Wrote PETA executive Tracy Reiman in an October 12, 2018 commentary for the Sacramento Bee, “PETA has always supported changes that reduce suffering for farmed animals,” but “the standards pushed by Proposition 12 are a step backwards at a time when there is impetus for real change. This initiative ensures hens will continue to suffer far into the future. It will allow tens of thousands of hens to be crammed into giant warehouses with only one square foot of space per bird, the same amount that the farming industry already requires for ‘cage-free’ labeling.
“Proposition 12,” Reiman charged, also “misleads kind consumers into thinking that it’s ‘humane’ to purchase eggs. PETA investigations have revealed time and again that what people think ‘cage-free’ means is vastly different from reality.
American Humane Association undercut Proposition 2
In 2008, recounted Lynne Curry of the online food magazine Civil Eats, the Humane Society of the U.S. “and its supporters, the voting public—and even opponents, including the Association of California Egg Farmers—interpreted Proposition 2 as an outright ban on battery cages for laying hens. Slated to go into effect on January 1, 2015, it also affected crate sizes for breeding pigs and veal calves.”
However, Curry explained, “commercial egg producers, including J.S. West & Co., challenged Proposition 2’s vague language in court. In the absence of specifics—including the term ‘cage-free’—the California egg industry created its own standard known as ‘enriched colony housing systems.’”
After the “colony housing” advanced by J.S. West & Co. was endorsed by the American Humane Association, the Humane Society of the U.S. backed away from pursuing legal action to enforce the “cage-free” standard that voters mostly thought they had enacted. HSUS instead endorsed the United Egg Producers standards.
Provisions for enforcement
“Proposition 12 not only defines the minimum space requirements for hens, sows, and veal calves,” wrote Curry, “but also bans the sale of eggs and meat products from confined animals [raised in other states] that don’t meet the minimum standard. By 2022, it will outlaw cages for all laying hens, to be replaced with either cage-free or outdoor housing systems,” but even in those systems, laying hens will still get only one square foot of space apiece.
California Proposition 2 included no provisions for prosecution of violators.
“Under Proposition 12,” Curry summarized, “that responsibility will rest with the California’s Department of Food & Agriculture and Department of Public Health. In addition to any misdemeanor charge, violations will also be punishable as ‘unfair competition’ under the California Business & Professions Code.”
Also, Proposition 12 extends the scope of the law from just eggs in the shell to eggs sold in liquid form, now making up about a third of the total egg market.
Curry, Compassion In World Farming U.S. director Rachel Dreskin, and others have credited California Proposition 2 with helping to persuade more than 200 U.S. food sellers to pledge use only cage-free eggs, among them McDonald’s, Costco, Wendy’s, Safeway, WalMart, Ben & Jerry’s, Nestle and Taco Bell.
These pledges have mostly included long phase-in time, to allow egg producers time to pay off and rebuild their present facilities. If all of the present pledges to go cage-free are honored, the promises will not be fulfilled until 2025, multiple egg-laying hen generations from now.
Beyond addressing conditions for laying hens, Curry mentioned, Proposition 12 “requires that sows confined to gestation crates during pregnancy have 24 square feet of space, roughly an area of half a ping-pong table; male calves raised for the veal industry are afforded 43 square feet, or the size of a full-size ping-pong table.”
Sidestepping cow poop
But Curry––along with the Humane Farming Association and Direct Action Everywhere––question why both Proposition 2 and Proposition 12 have sidestepped any mention of the $6 billion-a-year California milk industry, which has about 1.7 million cows in production at any given time. Most of these cows never see open pastures. Their calves are housed in “hutches” having many of the same limitations as veal crates.
The biggest question ahead, though, if Proposition 12 passes, is whether any of the standards pertaining to eggs, veal, and pig products originating from other states can be enforced.
“Twelve other states,” noted Curry, “have passed farm animal confinement bans through similar ballot measures. A 2016 Massachusetts law—which, like California Proposition 12, bans the sale of products from illegally confined animals—is mired in lawsuits from other states citing an [alleged] violation of interstate commerce rules.”
Regardless of the eventual court verdicts, an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill by Iowa member of the House of Representatives Steve King would prevent any state from enforcing standards for farmed animal products that are stronger than those of any other. This amendment has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and may be included in the final reconciled version of the Farm Bill that is expected to be passed during the “lame duck” Congressional session coming after the November 6, 2018 election to wrap up unfinished business before the 116th Congress takes office.
Greyhounds & gambling
In contrast to the deep and bitter differences among animal advocates over California Proposition 12, there is no evident humane opposition to Florida Amendment 13, the gist of which is that the 11 greyhound tracks still operating in Florida––out of just 17 left, nationwide––would no longer be required to host greyhound races in order to keep their gambling licenses.
Currently, 10 of the 11 Florida greyhound tracks are believed to be running greyhound races at a loss, to be allowed to run card rooms, offer betting on simulcast dog and horse racing, and host other more profitable forms of gambling.
Opened in 1935, the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club is alone among Florida greyhound tracks in not having a card room. But it does offer simulcast betting, believed to account for most of its income.
Factory farmers & hunters for greyhound racing
Opposing Florida Amendment 13 are a raft of conservative organizations, including the Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Florida, Future of Hunting in Florida, and the Florida Sportsmen United Political Committee.
Together they allege that it “is supported by radical groups who want to use the amendment to end hunting, sport fishing and livestock farming.”
How exactly Amendment 13 could do any of that is not spelled out in their campaign literature.
Endorsing Amendment 13, are leading Florida Republicans including governor Rick Scott, now running for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent Democrat, Bill Nelson; Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, who was considered for a cabinet position by U.S. President Donald Trump; and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, now a Florida resident, whose daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Trump’s media secretary.
Also endorsing Amendment 13 is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, favored in most polls to narrowly defeat Republican nominee Ron DeSantis.
Conservative support of Amendment 13 appears to be linked to religious opposition to gambling, though Amendment 13 would restrict only one type of gambling and would not necessarily reduce the total amount of money wagered in Florida.
Greyhound racers don’t have to win to “win”
Two political action committees registered in favor of Amendment 13 have reportedly raised more than $2.5 million between them, of which $1.5 million has come from the Doris Day Animal League, a Humane Society of the U.S. subsidiary.
The Committee to Support Greyhounds, opposing Amendment 13, has reportedly raised barely $200,000. But it does not have to win the vote to “win” the election––just keep the margin of passage to less than 60%.”
Polls predict a photo finish
A recent survey by St. Pete Polls “shows a total of 50% polled are for Amendment 13, while 38% are opposed and nearly 12% are still undecided,” reported Florida Politics on November 4, 2018.
Carey Theil, senior advisor to the Protect Dogs/Yes on 13 campaign, told Florida Politics that “our internal projections indicate Amendment 13 will likely receive between 58% and 62% of the vote,” including approval from 59% of male voters, 62% of women voters, 63% of South Floridians, and 59% of North Floridians, with weaker support only in the east and west central parts of the state.
Thiel also said Florida Amendment 13 appears to have the support of 61% of voters under 34, 59% of voters in the 35-44 age bracket, 64% of voters aged 45-54, 60% in the 55-65 age bracket, and 58% of older voters.
“And we do well among voters who are white (61%), black (62%), and Latino (58%),” Thiel told Florida Politics.