By Michael Goldberg
When California’s unprecedented animal welfare legislation, Proposition 2, passed in 2008, animal activists cheered. Many residents who voted for the law believed the result would be “cage-free” hens thanks to how the proposition was marketed.
Sure, the law wouldn’t take effect until January 2015, but when it did we all assumed that the millions of California laying hens would finally be freed from the horrible confinement of the small battery cages – which provide each bird with as little as 67 square inches, substantially less than an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper – in which most birds who lay eggs live out their short two-year lives.
Among those celebrating the victory was Princeton’s Peter Singer, author of the landmark book “Animal Liberation.” Newsweek magazine published an essay by Singer who wrote in 2008 that the new law might signal the beginning of a major societal shift in the public’s attitudes toward animals.
Yet slightly more than a year after Prop 2 took effect in January 2015, the law is a failure, and its promise “has turned out to be more fiction than reality,” according to the international animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), who during 2015 found “crowded, filthy conditions” and “hundreds of diseased animals, some dying or already dead” at one of the states largest and most well-known egg suppliers, JS West of Modesto, CA – a company that has received an AA rating from the USDA.
Additionally, DxE found that the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Prop 2) requires no inspection of farms where laying hens live, and that there was no enforcement of the law during 2015 despite evidence that the law was violated by at least three farms in the state including the one with the AA rating, JS West, which houses 1.5 million hens. According to a 2015 California Shell Egg Food Safety (SEFS ) inspection report, JS West was “not compliant” in providing the SEFS minimal space requirement of 116 square inches per bird, even less than what is required by Prop 2.
A high-ranking California animal services officer who viewed the DxE video of conditions at JS West said during a recent interview that she believes Prop 2 is “virtually unenforceable.”
“The crowding is so severe that most of the birds will never have a moment where they have sufficient free space,” veterinarian Dr. Sherstin Rosenberg wrote in a statement provided to DxE after viewing the DxE footage.
“Putting hens in 116 square inches of space – that is beyond hell,” the animal services officer said. “You get these birds that are just psychotic out of their minds. They resort to cannibalism, they’re stressed, they’re mad, they’re diseased.”
In a statement to the Modesto Bee, JS West denied that they are in violation of Prop 2, without explaining the “not compliant” Shell Egg Food Safety inspection rating one of its barns got last year.
Read the rest of this story at The Daily Pitchfork.
– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –