Do farm animals have rights?  Do they deserve legal protection during their lives before they meet their deaths on your dinner table?  In California, Proposition 2 is November 4 ballot initiative — better known as the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act” — and I wonder why we even need to provide that protection and why we don’t naturally have it in us to humanely tend those that feed so many as part of our basic human nature.

Yes On Prop 2 is an activist site that promotes animal welfare:

This November 4, Californians should vote YES! on Prop 2 – a modest
measure that stops cruel and inhumane treatment of animals, ending the
practice of cramming farm animals into cages so small the animals can’t
even turn around, lie down or extend their limbs….

It’s simply wrong to confine veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying
hens in tiny cages barely larger than their bodies. Calves are tethered
by the neck and can barely move, pigs in severe confinement bite the
metal bars of their crates, and hens get trapped and even impaled in
their wire cages. We wouldn’t force our pets to live in filthy, cramped
cages for their whole lives, and we shouldn’t force farm animals to
endure such misery. All animals, including those raised for food,
deserve humane treatment.

It is our human shame that we need Proposition 2 to instruct us how to properly take care of our farm animals — why wouldn’t we want to take the best care of any animal under any circumstance

If you’re eating animals that are stressed and compressed — wouldn’t that tension and pain become part of you as you bite, chew, and swallow the forsaken so you may live?

Opponents have pressed a line of attack that suggests that Proposition
2 — which would require that animals be provided room to turn around,
lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs — could expose birds,
via contact with their own waste and that of other animals, to such
dreaded diseases as salmonella and avian influenza. They also argue that standard egg-laying cages — a
little more than eight inches square — actually protect hens from
aggression by other birds and predators.

I certainly hope Proposition 2 passes — but I am concerned that general human cruelty will win the day in the advance of money and convenience over caring and consideration. 


  1. To me the need for good animal conditions seems like such a… the word in Aramaic (of Talmudic times) is p’shita, which can be translated as something that is patently obvious.
    All meat should come from conditions that are at least in the same ballpark as Kobe beef, whereby the animals are given space and lovingly tended to. You are what you eat; do we want to eat stress upon stress upon stress or something that had care put into it? (I’d vote for care any day.)

  2. Yes, Gordon, it does seem strange that we need to remind people animals are alive, they need space and they need a bit of freedom in order to grow and be healthy and — “worth eating” — if you know what I mean… shudder…
    It’s interesting that there are some veterinarians in California AGAINST Prop 2 because, they feel, the animals are just fine confined and they don’t need to roam around when their lives/purposes are so short. It’s a waste of money, they argue, to treat farm animals as pets when their intention is the slaughterhouse.

  3. Yes they most certainly have rights to as comfortable a life as possible.
    AH – for once in the UK we are more humane – we have had legislation in place governing the keeping of animals for food for quite a while.

  4. David,
    The faster this comes into effect the better it will be for farm animals in that part of the world.
    I can’t imagine why anyone – unless they are in the business and are concerned about the cost of putting this into practice – would be against this.
    I agree that it’s interesting that the vets are siding with their customers over their patients.

  5. I think, Nicola, it’s important to have standards for live animals and not just the bits of their bodies found in the grocery stores later. We should treat the whole animal and not just the remains. I’m glad, once again, the UK is leading the way.

  6. Dananjay —
    It does all come down to money as the NYTimes piece indicates Prop 2 will raise the price of eggs for everyone if it passes. Too many people think animals are stupid and unfeeling — so why bother giving them space and pleasure when they are incapable of enjoying it or recognizing the extra effort?
    The vets are paid by their customers and not their patients and so, sadly, the patient always loses in the end.

  7. Hi David,
    I always wanted an equipment that could translate the animal sounds into human language.
    We need to know what they are actually thinking about us, that might probably be able to whip us up to the reality.

  8. Ooo! I love that idea, Katha, but do you think the government and farm interests would ever let such a device be invented? They would argue it would starve the economy and make everyone vegetarian!

  9. Living where I do we have a lot of farm shops – most of them are organic too. When you go to the shops you can see the living condition of most of the animals and birds – ie you can see the chicken wandering around in the orchards, you can see their wings are not clipped and you can see that there is an ample sized barn for shelter at night.
    The same applies to cows, sheep and pigs.
    A lot of our supermarkets have caught onto the “competition” from these organic farm shops and are now bringing out ranges of ethically raised animals and meat and eggs are labeled with the names and locations of the farms they were bred.

  10. That sounds like the kindest way to do it, Nicola.
    In the USA, we had “beak shaving” for a long while where the beaks of chickens were shaved off with a “hot razor” so they wouldn’t peck each other to death in the close quarters of their pens. Outrage finally took over with the help of PETA awareness and Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s and Burger King and others all agreed not to buy their birds from farms that used that cruel shaving and penning.

  11. Protecting the food supply is paramount, Nicola, and the healthier the animals are, the better the bodies will be that ingest them. I love the RSPCA website and the cause is good and noble!

  12. The RSPCA has achieved much in the last twenty years – Jamie Oliver has started two campaigns – looking at what was being served up as school dinners – and the latest real chicken campaign.

Comments are closed.