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    Miriam YardenThe Other Side of Farm Animal Cruelty

    by Contributing Editor C. Miriam Yarden, B.Sc., MS

    [Editor's introduction: Later today (Oct. 14), Oprah Winfrey will devote her nationally broadcast show to a discussion of "How We Treat the Animals We Eat." On November 4, CA voters statewide have an opportunity to enact Proposition 2 whose official title and summary is: "Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Initiative Statute. Requires that 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. Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes. Provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days." To view the measure's full text, click here. The measure is opposed editorially by the Press-Telegram and others likeminded. Contributing Editor C. Miriam Yarden expresses her opinions on this timely subject below.

    (Oct. 14, 2008) -- When Upton Sinclair wrote his monumental book The Jungle, he caused the government to take a close look at slaughter houses and abattoirs in the U.S. These businesses were unregulated, dismal places of cruelty to animals and the human workers. They were also unhealthy, unsanitary and posed serious health risks to consumers.

    We have finally reached a time when we must examine closely and carefully the manner in which farm animals (animals raised for human consumption) are treated and cared for before they are delivered for slaughter.

    Hens -- a space less than 8-1/2x11 inches (smaller than a letter sized sheet of paper) is allotted to each bird which prevents them from moving freely, stretching their wings, preening -- all natural behaviors. They are also electrically de-beaked to reduce pecking at each other, which would not happen were they given more space. They are kept in perpetual light to force egg-laying on a large scale. Male chicks are destroyed in large numbers by suffocating them in plastic bags or fed alive into grinding machines.

    Pigs -- sows are kept in tight enclosures, on metal flooring, unable to get up, turn around or even move, and other than providing the piglets with milk, unable to nurture and care for their young who are removed as soon as they stop suckling. Then they are bred again and again, kept on metal floors in the same condition all their lives.

    Veal -- calves are removed from their mothers at birth and denied their mothers' milk. You can hear the cries of the mothers and the calves for days. They are kept in a 2-foot wide space, chained all through their short lives, unable to turn around, or lie down. Their food is heavily laced with antibiotics to prevent infections, kept in dark buildings to eliminate the sunlight, and are deliberately made anemic. They never feel grass under their feet, run with their peers or feel the sunshine. This results in anemic and unhealthy white meat, and the abundance of antibiotics passes into the consumers.

    For some inexplicable reason (money?), the opponents of Prop. 2 can't find it in their hearts to admit, let alone accept that these are not .exceptions to the rule in factory farming. These ARE the rule! They cannot accept that cruelty toward these animals is not, and should not be an integral part of food production. They will not admit that we are being sold unhealthy and diseased animals and animal parts.

    Their arguments are based on a variety of scare tactics. It is also interesting that they zero in on egg production, but omit the condition of pigs and calves.

    The opponents maintain that free-range hens are at risk of diseases. Of course, it is a scientific fact that the more living beings are crowded into small spaces, the more diseases occur and spread virtually unchecked.

    They maintain that by improving the condition of the hens, farmers will be forced out of business. Prop 2 addresses factory farming, not the small, private farmers who know better and follow the natural way of production.

    They threaten that the cost of eggs will be so high that we won't be able to afford them, yet the industry's own economist admitted that it costs less than one additional penny per egg to stop cramming hens in cages.

    No, we will not have to bring in eggs from Mexico. No, thousands of jobs will not be lost. Family farmers will hardly be affected. FACTORY farms - yes, and about time.

    Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Oregon have already passed similar laws.

    Prop. 2 supporters include: California veterinarians, California family farmers, The Center for Science in the Public interest, the prestigious Pew Commission on animal agriculture, Republican and Democratic elected officials, Episcopal and Methodist church leaders, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the Consumer Federation of America, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club of California. Humane Society of the United States, and last but certainly not least. The California Clean Water Action.

    The list of opponents is long and unimpressive. They include entities that profit from the money saved by crowding, drugging and food made deliberately unhealthy for human consumption. Remember the drastic measures that were necessary to eliminate downed animals form our food chain? Those animals were classified as the "3D" animals, i.e., diseased, dying or dead.

    Prop. 2 is not an effort to eliminate the production and use of animals for food. Prop.2 is an effort to eliminate the cruel conditions and the threat to human health.

    When will we finally stand up and say to the proponents of this bill that human health is a priority, we will not tolerate the incredible cruelty which contributes to our own ill-health, and that only those who profit from such cruelty oppose this bill?

    When will we learn that cruelty is not a necessary aspect of out lives? Not toward each other and certainly not toward those who have no voice.

    Kindness does not cost money and humane treatment does not cut into profits. I urge a "Yes" vote on Prop. 2.

    To view ballot arguments pro and con, click here.

    Ms. Yarden and welcome your comments in response to this perspective piece. Please include your name, your general part of town, and a telpehone number [not for publication] so we can reach you.

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