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Ag guy talks about prop 2

A recent Mustang Daily post (the newspaper of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), with my comments inserted in brackets:

Prop 2 threatens Californian agriculture
By: Ian Nachreiner
Posted: 10/23/08
There is one thing that Oprah, Ellen and I have in common: we are all talking about California Proposition 2. However, as a conservative and an agriculturalist I have a completely different take on the issue. And given the public safety and economic effects of this provision, Proposition 2 warrants a much closer inspection.

Proposition 2 is a California ballot measure that would take effect in 2015 and seeks to eliminate cages for veal calves, swine gestation crates and battery cages used for egg-laying hens. The proposition is being sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, an organization whose mission is global veganism. They should not be confused with ASPCA or your local humane society - those two organizations promote the spaying and neutering of cats and dogs. [what nonsense - all of these organizations are focused on animal suffering. Besides which, this is essentially an ad hominem argument - attack the supporters]

So how would Prop 2 affect California if passed?

Veal calves will be mostly unaffected by Prop 2 because there is no substantial veal calf production in California. What most people percieve to be veal calves in this state are actually replacement dairy calves. When they reach the right size and age, they are moved and eventually cycled into milk production. California's swine production will also be largely unaffected. Currently no commercial swine operations have breeding programs, due in part to state regulations. What few swine are raised here are born out of state and shipped in order to be raised.

While swine and veal are unaffected, California's egg production will be destroyed. Egg companies could no longer afford to do business in California due to the large space requirements involved in producing range free eggs. Our economy is bad enough now as is, so why cause more pain to California's agriculturalists?

Prop 2 is also a danger to consumers. First are the health effects. While there are a slew of health issues that can be transmitted from free-range operations [and those are??? Funny how nobody complains about the eggs they buy from friends who raise chickens], my most important concern comes from the fact that we will have to import all eggs consumed in California. The United States has the most stringent health regulations in the world [not actually the case - look at the EU for instance] and California has the strictest safety standards in the country [which doesn't mean they are adequate, if so]. If Prop 2 passes, we could feasibly be importing eggs from Mexico, a country with very lax safety standards. They say don't drink the water, but do you want to eat the eggs? [We already do import eggs from Mexico, along with a great deal of our produce and other food]

Secondly, you as a Californian voter are being used for your progressive stance on issues. This proposition is essentially gateway legislation to get similar laws passed throughout the nation. If California does it everyone else should too, right? [Oh brother]

In understanding Prop 2, it helps to take a look at what practices are currently in place for veal, swine and egg production.

I personally disagree with the practices involved in veal production, but I do believe in free markets. If there is a client for the product, why should we as a state vote no, especially when there is no major veal production in California?

Swine gestation crates is a topic I have personal experience with. As a 4-H and FFA member I raised dozens of pigs through sow and litter operations. Prop. 2 deals with gestation crates, which are commonly confused with farrowing crates. Gestation crates are used to separate the animal from other sows. In general I disagree with the use of gestation crates; production practices that I used involved moving the sow to a farrowing crate when we knew she was within three to seven days of birthing. That way if the sow was to give birth in the middle of the night and my family was unable to assist her, the likelihood of the piglets surviving would increase substantially. These crates are also beneficial because they protect the piglets from the sow lying down on top of them. While this ballot measure does not directly affect farrowing crates, the banning of gestation crates would be important gateway legislation to ban farrowing crates as well. [Does not follow]

And lastly, the egg production issue. One of the arguments being used to try to pass Prop 2 is in regards to debeaking. Proponents argue that this practice is cruel to the birds. The reality is quite different. Debeaking is done to reduce cannibalism in chickens. Due to genetic selection, the number of times a bird needs to be debeaked to reduce its likelihood of killing another chicken has dropped from seven to eight times per bird in the '70s to only once per bird today. This, in conjunction with battery cages and low intensity lighting, actually reduces the number of birds that die. So which is better: a slightly more confined bird that is well-cared for or a dead bird? I'll let you decide. [The reason debeaking is even necessary is that the birds are too confined. It isn't necessary with birds that have the freedom to roam.]

As we consider Prop 2, a distinction needs to be made between animal rights and animal welfare. Most of the proponents of the measure contend that animals have the same feelings and cognition as humans do and that they therefore deserve the same rights as humans. These are the same radicals who compared animal abuse to slavery and human rights atrocities in a 2003 PETA campaign. [I guess I'm a radical.]

Now don't get me wrong, I think animals should be treated humanely and with respect. However, as callous as this may seem, hogs, sheep, cattle, dairy cows, chickens and other livestock are tools that we use to sustain our lives. They are not companion animals like cats or dogs, nor are they working animals like horses and mules. They are not and should not be placed on the same social, ethical, emotional, or philosophical plane of existence. They are animals, and frankly we outrank them on the food chain. We do need to be conscious of our decisions, but consciousness does not equal disuse. [Ridiculous. Contradictory. He thinks animals should be treated humanely and with respect, but after all, economics is more important. It's more important that people pay a few cents less for a dozen eggs.]

Prop 2 is a big issue, and hard to fully summarize in a column. Bottom line: I urge you to vote no. I'm not alone in this endorsement; the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Modesto Bee, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and other newspapers have all endorsed a no vote on Proposition 2. If you would like to learn more, there will be an informational forum about "The Ramifications of Proposition 2" at the Performing Arts Pavillion on campus (next to Phillips Hall) next Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. I encourage you all to attend this free event and learn more about the full implications of Proposition 2.

Ian Nachreiner is an agricultural science senior and Mustang Daily political columnist

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