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Calves in Confinement: The Gaping Loophole in California’s Landmark Animal Welfare Law

The California dairy industry, by far the nation’s largest, was, thanks to its political power, not included in the confinement ban of Proposition 2, unlike the state’s tiny veal industry.

SAUL ELBEIN:In 2008, Californians passed one of the country’s farthest-reaching initiatives to improve farm animal welfare: the Standards for Confining Farm Animals… Proposition 2, as it was known, was backed by a number of animal rights organizations and sought to end what advocates see as one of the worst practices of industrial agriculture: the extreme confinement of some farm animals for their entire lives… The statute, billed at the time as one of the most sweeping pieces of animal welfare legislation in American history, targeted what advocates saw as the worst categories: egg-laying hens, crammed together in battery cages; mother sows, confined with their piglets in tiny stalls; and veal calves…

In investigations from California to the Carolinas, DxE [Direct Action Everywhere] has probed the space between industry promise and industry practice, with often grotesque results… Julianne Perry, [a DxE animal rights volunteer], was driving through the Central Valley, checking out farms for an investigation into the dairy industry, when she made the inadvertent discovery. The California dairy industry — by far the nation’s largest, with 1.7 million dairy cows, each of which produces nearly a ton of milk a year — was, thanks to its political power, not included in the confinement ban of Proposition 2, unlike the state’s tiny veal industry. This was, to Perry, a triumph of semantics over common sense: “If the reason for [Prop 2] was to protect the welfare of baby boy cows, then why does it matter if it was for one product or another?”…

What DxE found in Oakdale points to a problem with Prop 2 – a relevant fact for California voters, who will go to the polls next month to vote on Prop 12, a referendum intended to close some of the loopholes in Prop 2. Although the on-the-ground investigation was conducted nearly two years ago, and DxE has not returned to the spot since, their findings point to a way in which the law still allows dairy calves — the vast majority of calves in California — to be held in tight confinement. That remains true whether or not Prop 12 passes… Note, too, that Proposition 12 only applies to veal calves. There is still no provision for other calves, which make up the vast majority of the calves in California and around the country…

By sneaking onto factory farms with cameras, DxE investigators had revealed mass cannibalism in cage-free chicken houses that supplied Costco. They found turkeys packed together with open sores, in six inches of feces, in a California farm that Whole Foods had marked as the best of the best. And when Smithfield, the Chinese-owned, Virginia-based corporation that is one of the world’s largest pig farmers, announced that they had phased out farrowing crates for sows, a DxE investigation alleged that crates continue to be used. Wayne Hsiung, DxE founder, faces 60 years in prison for the Smithfield investigation’. SOURCE…

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