Nice Try, Big Ag: This Time, the Animals Win
Great news for fluffernutters like the adorable ducklings above from California courts: two important animal welfare laws intended to mandate humane conditions for food animals will remain in place, despite the best attempts of the industry. In two different cases, big agriculture attempted to strike down ballot measures giving more rights to animals raised for food products, and in both, the court told the plaintiffs to take their balls and go home.
There’s a big debate on whether we should be raising animals for food at all, and a lot of strong arguments represent the vegetarian camp. But we can agree that if we are going to be eating animals, they should be raised in humane, ethical conditions where they have access to the best possible treatment. Because all animals deserve respect, and fighting for better conditions for food animals is an important step in improving conditions in the agriculture industry.
That’s why California voters passed Proposition 2 in 2008. The law forbids the confinement of veal calves, hens and breeding pigs, mandating that farmers keep them in pens with enough room to freely move around. And it allowed plenty of time for agricultural companies to adapt to the changes: it doesn’t fully implement until 2015, providing ample opportunity for renovations and other changes to facilities. 63% of California voters said “yes” to animal welfare.
Big agriculture said otherwise, taking the law to court three times in an attempt to get it struck down. Litigators for the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups went to bat for animals and won. They sincerely hope this is the last time they’ll have to battle over Prop. 2 in court; despite claims that the law is “too vague,” judges have insisted on multiple occasions that it’s easy to interpret, and it’s time for factory farms to throw in the towel. Animals have the right to turn around freely in their enclosures. End of story.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals was also taking on a challenge to the law banning force-feeding of ducks for the production of foie gras. This French delicacy actually can be produced humanely, but is classically made by ramming high-fat foods down the throats of ducks and geese to fatten their livers for a faster-developing product. Californians were not amused by the practice and banned it in 2004, allowing a term of seven years for farmers to phase it in.
Some protested, taking the matter to court and trying to get the ban struck down. They were unsuccessful: the judge in the case ruled that since California has a legal mandate and the authority to oversee animal welfare and the humane treatment of animals, it could pass a law banning inhumane farming practices. The court success means inhumane production methods will stay out of California farms, as well as stores and restaurants.
Animals: 2. Abusers: 0.
Photo credit: Melanie Hughes.