I love meat. My affection for barbecue lies on the border that separates obsession from creepy. The sizzling noise of a cooking cow is on my iPod. I tell you this so that when I explain that I support Proposition 2, also known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act, it is not because I think those delicious meals on four legs need our protection. Proposition 2 needs to be passed purely as a matter of public health and safety.
The opponents to Proposition 2 will most likely present two arguments. First, they will wonder why we should care about animals that exist only to either produce or become food. From a morality standpoint, I do not particularly care.
However, believing that the way we treat them is irrelevant is a dangerous way of thinking. Factory farms looking only to make a profit are incredibly dangerous to public health.
When a company thinks entirely of profit, the public inevitably suffers until the government can act as a shield. It is profit-minded thinking that has made the world scared over mad cow disease, which is transferred from cow to cow when parts of the cow are ground up and fed to (oh dear God) other cows. A number of other diseases can be spread more easily thanks to a lack of animal comfort. In close quarters, bird flu, salmonella and a variety of other problems are likely to spread in egg-laying hens with the current caging conditions, since hens do not even have the space to stretch their wings.
Proposition 2 goes beyond animal treatment. It also changes the way farms are forced to dispose of their waste. Currently, factory farms spread untreated waste by contaminating local water supplies and air. Southern California water tastes terrible, so maybe this is why.
The second reason people may not pass it is that it will increase the price of farm products and possibly drive away business. However, this is only half true because it will increase the price of eggs by one cent per egg. That means that you may need to pay an extra 12 cents a dozen for the drastically reduced possibility that your eggs could contain any number of contagious diseases. From the consumer’s perspective, it is not an enormous deal. Plus, there will be money saved by the decreases in disease and increase in quality of food.
From the producer’s angle, there is concern over how this will affect business. Would people be discouraged from buying California eggs? At an extra 12 cents a dozen, it is hard to imagine great change in the egg market even in such dire economic times. A similar proposition was passed in Arizona and there was no damage to their farming market. Besides, consumers are increasingly demanding products created by better conditions. In terms of jobs, cage-free farmers need more people to work for them.
There are only two reasons not to vote for Proposition 2 and they fail to be at all significant. We could shrug off these animals as nothing to be concerned about, but ignoring where your food comes from is irresponsible and foolish. Business is an especially big concern given the economic landscape, but the proposition is a modest proposal that will have minimal impact on the economy and will only serve to benefit public health.
Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.