Thursday, November 6, 2008

Consumers ask animal farms to exhibit modest humanity at minimum

These lucky cows live at a sanctuary that rescues animals from factory farms.

Way to go, California!

America’s most populous state made a resounding statement against cruelty on election day, with 62 percent of voters coming out in landslide support of Proposition 2. Animal lovers around the nation were jubilant as they took heart in the hard-won victory.

The ballot initiative takes aim at the inhumane confinement of animals on factory farms by banning gestation crates, veal crates and battery cages. Used to confine breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens, the animals spend their entire lives cramped into these tiny spaces before they are slaughtered for food. They can’t stand, stretch, turn around, or conduct any of their natural behaviors. I can’t imagine who would deny compassion to the sad, desperate eyes of animals in the photographs supplied as evidence.

The proposition puts forth a simple and seemingly obvious premise: all animals, including those raised for food, deserve humane treatment.

Agribusinesses from around the nation spent $9 million in a futile attempt to defeat Proposition 2. But money couldn’t buy votes for cruelty, and the grassroots work done by animal lovers in the field triumphed over big money.

And the side of right wasn’t completely unfunded – 25,000 people gave from their own pockets to support the campaign, which included the purchase of television spots to defeat deceptive advertising and scare tactics floated by farming industry lobby groups. Animal activists weren’t deterred. They respectfully gathered the necessary signatures and got the facts out.

Hairstylist Carey Bear, a vegan and animal activist from Long Beach, California, has been committed to getting the word out since she signed a petition outside a grocery store many months ago. She later donated money to help buy advertising in support of the proposition.

“The first time I saw the commercial on TV, I was freaking,” Bear says. “I didn’t think we could pull it off. They kept sending these desperate emails saying that we don’t have enough money for commercials.”

When I was in California in late July, I was invited to a few barbecues that were casual rallies supporting Proposition 2. Serving up vegan burgers, hotdogs and other veggie snacks, the gatherings were encouraged by a host of animal welfare groups. They generated support from the ground up, proving that an army of individuals committed to an honorable mission can indeed make a difference.

This victory was important beyond the boundaries of California. It sets a bar for other states, and puts farmers on notice that people don’t want to consume cruelty.

The factory farming industry has six years to phase in more humane confinement for the animals in their care. Let’s hope that they hear their customers’ voices loud and clear, and speed up their timeline for compassion.

Animal advocate Carey Bear relaxes with her rescue cat Gilbert.

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