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Politics and Issues

Prop. 2 would reduce pollution from chicken factories

October 2008

By Paul Mason, Deputy Director, Sierra Club California

Sierra Club supports Proposition 2, the Standards for Confining Animals Initiative, formerly known as the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. This Humane Society-backed initiative would set minimum standards for the humane treatment of confined chickens.

Prop. 2 requires that confined chickens be able to stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs. Currently in California approximately 19 million egg-laying chickens are packed into tiny "battery cages" in factory farms and are unable to extend their wings.

California's enormous chicken factories besides being cruel to animals seriously pollute the air and water in part due to the density of the confined animals. Prop. 2 would reduce the density of the animals, and therefore the intensity of the air and water pollution.

Many family farmers who raise animals humanely support Prop. 2, because the cruel (but profitable) practices of large factory farms make it difficult for small farms to compete financially. Sierra Club supports family farming, and this initiative helps level the playing field by requiring big agri-business to apply some basic standards to their treatment of animals. Vote YES on Prop. 2.

"To get a chicken's eye view of these conditions, picture yourself standing in a crowded elevator. The elevator is so crowded, in fact, that your body is in contact on all sides with other bodies. . . . And one more thing to keep in mind— this is your life. . . . . Your only release will be at the hands of the executioner.

"By the way, in your picture of the elevator, you may have imagined the other people trapped with you as doing the very best they can to hold still, and not make things difficult for you. But what if all the others do not have the ability to understand what is happening? What if they react to the terror of it all with raw instinct, without even a trace of a civilized veneer? What if, like you, they have powerful territorial needs, and the utter frustration of the situation has driven them literally insane, prone to erupt into violence with or without provocation?

"Now imagine further that the floor of the elevator is slanted sharply, so gravity tends to push you all in one direction. The ceiling is so short that you and the others can only stand upright towards one side, and the floor is made of a wire mesh that is terribly uncomfortable to everyone's feet. And to complete this approximation of the living conditions in today's factory farms, what if some of the others trapped with you in the elevator have, in their madness, become cannibalistic?"

—John Robbins