California voters on Nov. 6 have the opportunity to make the lives of farm animals slightly more comfortable with a yes vote on Proposition 12. Also known as the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, it would ban the sale of meat from calves raised for veal and breeding pigs, and eggs from egg-laying hens confined in areas below a specific number of square feet.
Voters passed Proposition 2 in 2008, banning the confinement of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens in a manner that did not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The law went into effect in 2015, but opponents, such as the Association of California Egg Farmers, whined that Proposition 2 was “too vague” because it did not provide specific square feet. Factory farmers hate having to provide the most basic creature comforts — they’re all about the money.
Even if you’re not an animal lover or a vegetarian, it is important to know where your food comes from and how it is raised. For example, egg factory chickens are stacked in tiny cages from floor to ceiling in dank rooms the size of a football field. The tight spaces cause stress and disease, they defecate and urinate on each other, and that’s where your “$1.99 special” supermarket eggs — and those salmonella outbreaks — come from. As for veal calves, they’re left in crates in dark rooms unable to move — that’s how you get that pasty white, super soft meat. Pigs are in crates that don’t allow them to turn around or lie down — imagine being made to stand in one position in a hot, filthy cage packed next to thousands of other people in those same conditions for your entire life.
WHAT PROPOSITION 12 WOULD DO
Proposition 12 would repeal and replace the restrictions based on behavior with actual square footage those icy-hearted factory farmers can understand. Beginning in 2020, it would ban:
- whole veal meat from a calf that was confined in an area with less than 43 square feet of usable floor space per calf (about the size of a small driveway);
- whole pork meat from a breeding pig or the immediate offspring of a breeding pig that was confined in an area with less than 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig (about the size of a parking space at Trader Joe’s); and
- shell eggs and liquid eggs from an egg-laying hen (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl) that was confined in an area with less than 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen (about the size of a small kitchen chair seat).
Beginning in 2021, producers would be required to confine egg-laying hens in “cage-free” housing systems based on the United Egg Producers’ 2017 cage-free guidelines. That’s still too small for my taste — I only buy pastured eggs, where chickens are allowed to roam freely in natural grass. I am fortunate enough to have neighbors with pet chickens so I know all the girls (I bring them treats like sunflower seed kernels, which turn their yokes a bright orange). But for chickens not fortunate enough to be pasture raised, Proposition 12 is your chance to speak for them and all the other factory-farmed animals that give their lives to put food on America’s tables.
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The Pet Food Express Bay Area Pet Fair is in the books for 2018, and once again shelters and rescues found a record number of homes for their animals — over 1,500 during the two-day event. A huge shout-out to Pet Food Express owners Michael Levy and Mark Witriol for sponsoring this annual event, and to Director of Community Outreach Mike Murray, who puts his heart and soul into producing the fair all year long and runs the show.
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Contra Costa Animal Services has been at capacity this summer and is offering no- or low-fee adoptions to qualified homes. If you’re looking for a new best friend, check out their Facebook page (@ccasd), visit their website (ccasd.org), or visit them in person (4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez; open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You can also give them a call at 925-335-8300.
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And finally, don’t forget about the Bummer’s Ball, a two-night event Oct. 5 and 6 held at the Haight Street Art Center benefiting Rocket Dog Rescue. Last year, artists including Emmylou Harris, Steve Earl, and Bob Weir sang away the evening. Harris is headlining night two this year, but there will be surprises and special guests both nights, according to founder Pali Boucher. It’s sure to sell out, so get your tickets soon at rocketdogrescue.networkforgood.com.