Friday, October 3, 2008

Nava backs fixes in farm animal rights


At a news conference yesterday at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Assemblyman Pedro Nava endorsed state Proposition 2, which aims to modify state laws that allow farmers to keep chickens, cows and pigs in spaces so small the animals can’t fully extend their limbs or roll over.
Nava called the existing laws “abusive,” and said it’s high time corporate farms begin treating animals like animals, not assets.

“As a civilized country we have no excuse for this,” he said. “What has brought about these inhumane conditions is factory farms where the livestock is treated as an asset to be exhausted and discarded.”
In the case of female pigs, the proposition would no longer allow farms to confine the pigs to a small gestation crate, which Nava said is apparently done to lessen the risks of complication during pregnancy and delivery.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the pigs are kept in the crates for up to four years, during which time they are impregnated seven to 10 times.
After 10, four-month pregnancies, when the reproductive life of the pig is exhausted, he said the females are slaughtered and turned into low-grade pork products.
Calves, which are turned into veal, are subjected to similar treatment, Pacelle said.
He said veal calves are tethered in a 22-inch pen, where they cannot move. The lack of exercise atrophies the muscles, and the end result is more tender meat.
“The slaughtering part is now the most merciful part because they’re suffering so badly in these intensive confinement conditions,” Pacelle said.
In the case of egg laying hens, Nava, who at the age of 15 worked on an egg ranch, said the hens are housed eight to a cage.
He said each hen has space equivalent to two-thirds of a piece of paper, much less than is needed to allow the hens to simply spread their wings.
If approved, the proposition will create standards that require calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely, according to the Web site
Nava said at least two attempts by California lawmakers to pass legislation has failed, but he said recent polls show as much as 70 percent of the state’s population could support the proposition.
Pacelle said Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have all adopted new laws to treat animals in those states more humanely.
Opponents of the proposition have warned that such laws could prompt animal farming away from the state.
Nava said that’s ridiculous. He cited the fact that the laws won’t go into effect until 2015, and said economists have estimated that providing slight space improvements for hens would result in a one cent increase per egg.
And whether it costs more for the farmer, consumer or not, Nava said he feels such laws could not only ensure animals are treated better, but could be a small step in encouraging the creation of small family farms, which struggle to compete with larger operations.
“This ain’t Old McDonald had a farm,” he said. “Those days are gone and factory farming actually makes it harder for family farms to succeed because of [the larger farm’s] practices.”

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