Proposition 2 and online debates

California’s Proposition 2 has stirred up plenty of controversy, both between the animal exploitation industries and the animal protection industry, and between animal advocates.

Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that will be voted on this November, is intended to eliminate certain confinement practices used by animal agribusiness, albeit with some exemptions. Basically it would require that, for the majority of each day, calves, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that would allow them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely. In other words, it doesn’t eliminate confinement systems; it merely modifies some of them to be slightly less restrictive (in the case of California, this mainly affects egg production). Exceptions are built in for seven-days prior to a pregnant pig’s expected date of delivery, and for 4-H programs, rodeos, fairs, research, veterinary purposes, slaughter, and transportation. Violations of the regulations would be misdemeanors, restricting the potential fine to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 180 days.

Recognizing the disagreement between different types of animal advocates over Proposition 2, Doris Lin, the host of About.com‘s new animal rights topic, is hosting a debate on Proposition 2. Professor Gary L. Francione, author and abolitionist animal rights proponent, represents the con argument, while the the pro argument is offered by animal welfare proponent Paul Shapiro, the Senior Director of the Humane Society of the United States‘ Factory Farming Campaign. Shapiro calls the ballot measure Making History for Animals, while Francione calls it A Losing Proposition. Of course, it’s a strange debate because there’s no real back and forth between the two debaters, not to mention the fact that HSUS’s mission is modifying animal use, not abolishing it.

While you’re off reading online debates, you might be interested in some other topics hosted by Opposing Views. The site asks a lot of controversial questions, not just animal-related issues, and it seems to be fairly well designed and easy to navigate. In addition to calling on “experts” (mostly special interest groups) to debate the subject, Opposing Views invites your comments, involving you directly in the debate. The issue of “pet” ownership finds Francione and HSUS in opposition once again. You can also read their arguments and the arguments of other “experts” on a variety of related topics, including using animals in research, keeping animals in zoos, and “meat”-eating. There’s no debate on Proposition 2 over there as of yet, but they do take suggestions for topics, and maybe Opposing Views would provide a better format for that debate than the statements offered at About.com, seeing as how it allows for counterpoint and objections.

Back to Proposition 2, of course the animal exploiting industries are totally opposed. They don’t want animal advocates making any inroads on regulating how they use animals. They see the measure potentially leading to other regulatory reforms around the country, so they have more or less united in their opposition to it.

Seems intuitive how an animal-friendly person might vote, right? Well, consider that this measure does not come close to questioning animal use; it merely modifies how animals are used in such a way as to make it seem somewhat less objectionable. Also consider the following:

1. Veal crates and gestation crates (for pigs) have already been phased out or are being phased out by the industries in California as this debate goes on. At this time, there is no indication that doing so is harming the industries or reducing consumption of flesh products from calves and pigs.

2. Proposition 2’s regulations apply only to producers in California. It is not a ban on products produced using these methods. Stores seeking less expensive eggs to sell their customers may buy them from out-of-state producers, and egg companies that don’t want to follow the new regulations can move their operations out of state.

3. Proposition 2 does not end the confinement and torture of animals from their artificially-induced births to their untimely killings. If successful, sustained, followed, and enforced, Prop 2 will only allow certain animals a bit more space to move and adjust their position while they are being confined, and for only part of the day. Even then, all bets are off during transport and slaughter. It does not address the myriad other harms caused to animals throughout the production process.

4. Egg production systems in Europe have gone cage-free, and the barn systems they are using there have even received a seal of approval from the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, which leads consumers to believe that the animals’ welfare is being given top priority. The video below shows that there are plenty of problems inherent in cage-free systems.

What do you make of all this debate over Prop 2? What do you make of the proposition itself? Share your comments below

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16 comments

  1. Hi Eric,Shapiro (perhaps intentionally) doesn’t mention this, but not all of the industry is opposed to Prop 2. In fact, over 80 groups and corporations in the animal industry are supporting it (see humanecalifornia.org), because they would make better business if it passes (“humane” farmers, etc). Of course, this just rounds out the picture of Prop. 2 being a classic welfare campaign as it basically shows the industry the way how to adapt to be more marketable, instead of attacking the very existnce of the industry itself.Barna

  2. “Seems intuitive how an animal-friendly person might vote, right?”I don’t think this statement is really what is at issue. This seems to indicate that you think the debate over the proposition amongst animal people is centered on what they should write on the ballot. This is a mischaracterization of the issue.I can’t speak for Gary, but as an abolitionist myself if I were voting I would vote yes. However I don’t agree with this as a means to the end of abolition, and I certainly agree with Gary that these kinds of measures are only of value to advocates of welfare who have no qualms with the use of animals in general.The question isn’t should we vote yes or no on prop 2, but whether we should be wasting valuable resources on campaigns that, at best, do nothing but maintain the status quo.

  3. This is a sad time for animals and the activist who want to protect their interests. Te animals interests like anyones’s” is NOT to be used and killed. This prop 2 is a sham and will cause more people to eat animals. This proposition will only do ONE thing. It will make people feel more comfortable about consuming animals and their products. In my life I never thought I would see the time when so much useless energy would be spent on something so damaging to the plight of animals. This is a horrible time.It really is equivalent to providing softer mattresses for the condemned in Auschwitz.HSUS and FARM Sanctuary should both be ashamed.

  4. Thanks all for your contributions here in comments.I’m particularly interested in the idea jonben raises, that we should vote yes (I certainly don’t see a point in voting “no,” per se, but would our vote be pointless here?). Presumably, jonben, you state that you would vote yes because you expect that the measure actually will succeed in meaningfully reducing animal suffering. Or is it because of a perceived symbolic success on behalf of animals, even if a meaningful reduction suffering is not achieved? Because you don’t want to see all that money go to waste?I’d like to hear more about this.My primary concern as an animal advocate is whether or not the measure will actually reduce suffering in an observable way. I have little doubt that, as an abolitionist, I can be in favor of reducing suffering. Everyone wants to see animals suffer less. However, I have much doubt about whether welfare reforms will lead to a meaningful reduction in suffering. I’m also gravely concerned that they make exploitation more economically efficient and facilitate the acceptance of animal exploitation by perpetuating the demand for animal products and by reinforcing the idea that animals are our property.

  5. I’m a bit baffled by jonben’s comment. Why would he vote “yes” on something that in his own words, “at best, do[es] nothing but maintain the status quo.”?I think the problems with Prop. 2 go beyond it just being a waste of time and money. I believe that it is positively detrimental to the interests of animals and to the goals of the AR movement, for reasons that have been laid out before, and are also summarized in Francione’s essay.For those reasons, which are both theoretical and practical, if I could vote, I would vote “no” on Prop 2. A “yes” vote on welfare measures, even though our goal is really animal rights, is the very definition of new welfarism. So while I don’t speak for Gary Francione, I would be *shocked* if he’d recommend that abolitionists vote yes.

  6. Well, I think the Abolitionist vs. New Welfarist debate centers around differing views of reality. New Welfarists think welfare reforms are stepping stones to abolition (in a society openly hostile to abolition, but semi-open to welfare reforms), while Abolitionists think welfare reform is either useless or counter-productive to the goal of abolition. I can see points from both sides. On this Proposition 2 debate, there’s an important point that it seems you are missing – outlawing veal crates is essentially the same as outlawing veal production (because the production of veal depends on the non-mobility of the calf), so in that sense, this is an important step forward, even if the sale of veal from other states is still allowed.Increased costs for producers (who either have to make more space for animals, thus reducing efficiency and increasing overhead or have to initiate a costly move of production to another state and then pay additional transportation costs to CA) will result in increased costs for consumers in CA and therefore will reduce consumption (at least for some who may not be able to afford the new price) – this will not cause more people to eat animals.This is not a classic or typical welfare campaign because CA is the lead agricultural state in the USA and is even something of a leader worldwide. If this bill passes, it would likely result in other bills in other states (and maybe, in reference to my first point, the effective ban on veal production).The original post makes many good points, but the ban on veal crates I think is key. And if the majority of the agribusiness industry is opposing it (even if 80 farms support it), I can’t see that it’s not a good thing. They’re not stupid people running these multi-million dollar businesses and they don’t give away money for free – they see it as a bad thing and this logically implies they foresee some significant extra costs/inconvenience and/or loss of profit if it passes.So, while I agree it’s not extremely wonderful, I would definitely vote yes. I’d also vote for softer mattresses for prisoners at Auschwitz (or Guantanamo Bay) if that was on the ballot. It wouldn’t make me initiate a campaign for softer pillows, though. 😉

  7. luQ, you actually have some bad information, I think.This law would not banish or even harm the veal industry at all. The veal industry has been moving away from crate systems for a while now, and the veal industry is doing just fine. Take a look at the “Animal Rights” episode of Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days” series (FX) for an example of a “calf ranch” that meets the requirements of this proposition. Ending the use of old-fashioned veal crates has not and will not end the use of calves for veal.Further, gestation crates are already also being phased out in California. The law will mainly affect California’s egg industry and, as we’ve seen in Europe, there is nothing to indicate that egg consumption has gone down (or up, as far as I can tell) as a result of the battery cage ban.<>I’d also vote for softer mattresses for prisoners at Auschwitz (or Guantanamo Bay) if that was on the ballot. It wouldn’t make me initiate a campaign for softer pillows, though. 😉<>I think that more or less gets to the heart of what JonBen was writing, though analogies to human rights abuses don’t always hold up as well as we’d like them to, given that our law classifies nonhuman animals as property, unlike humans.

  8. Barna is right to say that Jon Ben’s recommendation is extremely misguided. Voting ‘yes’ for Prop 2 is a terrible idea. Prop 2 is not just a waste of money. Prop 2 is, like all welfarist measures, a disaster for nonhuman animals and for the future of any potential animal rights movement. No abolitionist would vote in support of Prop 2 or any other welfarist measure.But I do not think that the correct answer is to vote ‘no’ either. To my mind, it would be best to spoil one’s ballot (perhaps with a short statement of protest) and, outside of the voting booth, to explain to as many people as possible why the ballot initiative is morally illegitimate. If California’s voting system makes it impossible to spoil one’s ballot (perhaps it is a certain kind of electronic system – I have no idea), then one would do best to abstain from voting and explain one’s decision to as many people as possible.

  9. Hey all,Let me clarify what was going through my head when I said that.I had assumed that I was voting either yes or no, of course there are other options that I failed to consider… more on that below.This is implicitly a lose situation for abolition, if I could have my way I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. I would like to put forward a consistent message that exploiting nonhuman animals is wrong. I don’t think welfare works and I don’t think anyone should be wasting their time promoting welfare campaigns. It’s clear that I can’t vote no, since that would be sending the wrong message. It would seem to imply that I’m okay with how nonhuman animals are being treated. This is the reasoning that led me to say I would vote yes, but as several posters have pointed out this is problematic.I was assuming that the welfare reform in question was going to result in less suffering overall (I’m certainly not saying that prop 2 does). If this is the situation then it’s as if someone came up to you and said they were going to exploit an animal and you could choose if they did it in a slightly less horrific way or not. My intuition said that, after failing to communicate to this person that any exploitation is wrong, I should tell them to take the slightly less horrific approach. Upon reflection this is in fact misguided. I should not tell someone to do that, I should tell them that no use of the nonhuman animal is justified and I should refuse to answer their question which is causing me to make a moral concession that I don’t agree with. In short I should either abstain from voting or spoil the ballot. Better yet I can try to leverage the ‘buzz’ about prop 2 to inform people of the moral problems inherent in any use of nonhuman animals.Thanks everyone for posting your comments and prompting me to think through this situation.

  10. From all I have read, heard, and watched (including the Peaceful Prarie materials), my conclusion is that battery cages are such a severe form of constant torture that banning them in California, which is a major agricultural state, will probably reduce suffering for millions of animals.According to Paul Shapiro, industry considers Prop 2 to be a de facto ban on battery cages in California, and that’s sigificant.barna is right that some industry groups support Prop 2, but the big players which represent the vast majority of animal agriculture are against it.pattrice jones notes that birds at her sanctuary who are rescued from battery cage facilities are in worse physical and pyschological shape than even the most un-enriched cage-free operations.Of course there are cruelties besides battery cages that exist in animal agriculture, and one reform measure is not going to get rid of all of them. But if the public can abolish one cruel practice, there’s no reason why they can’t ban others in the future.In addition, opposition to battery cages is not merely a NIMBY situation. The public seems to be opposed on moral grounds (which is something we advocates should be able to capitalize on and leverage). So there may be resistance to out-of-state eggs from battery cages. Furthermore, if Prop 2 is successful, it’s reasonable to assume that similar referendums will pass in other sections of the country, and maybe outside the country.It may be true that confinement systems are on their way out, and that may be in part because voters have voiced their opposition to them for several years now, and of course industry wants to save face and appear proactive. Nonetheless, with 95% of eggs still coming from battery cages, there’s nothing wrong with pushing the process a bit.Of course vegan advocacy is vital. But as public attitudes shift, our laws should catch up, although granted there will be a lag time. Prop 2 helps to accomplish that. I think it’s good to consider limitations and negative side effects that may occur as a result of Prop 2. For instance, like most regulatory laws, Prop 2 is weakened with loopholes. There is also the question of how well it will be enforced. And some of the slogans cropping around around Prop 2 suggest that Prop 2 ends cruelty. But to be fair and open-minded, we should also consider that there may positive side effects from the effort, such as increased awareness of animal agriculture cruelty, growing skepticism of industry claims, and more emathy for farmed animals and their interests. In addition, if the regulations – and possible future regulations – push up the price of producing meat and eggs, that opens the market for vegan alternatives.Finally, I think it would be more accurate to state that HSUS’s position is to reduce animal suffering rather than modify animal use. And in some cases (e.g., fur, dogfighting, cockfighting) their position is more or less abolitionist.

  11. As a CA voter and an animal advocate/abolitionist, I am very torn over this proposition. Yes, Proposition 2 is a disaster. Pass or not pass, it will do virtually nothing for the animals. Either the welfarists or the exploiters (given that there is a difference) will claim “VICTORY” and animals will continue to suffer. The best thing about prop 2 is that it gives me opportunities to educate others on abolition. People (usually omnivores who are self proclaimed “animal lovers”) feel ccmpelled to engage me in conversation about the proposition and I am armed with a response AND abolitionist literature that I am handing out to them. Ultimately, I have to agree with “phatp” that this is a collosal waste of money, time, and energy when something cold be done that would truly make a difference. It just makes me sad.

  12. I came across a very interesting article related to this debate, where pattrice jones argues that coalition building is of utmost importance and, while we in the animal liberation movement may have differences of opinions in terms of methodology, we should at least stand united in support of the animals. That is, we need to not only consider the larger picture of human-nonhuman animal relations as a whole, but also the cases of individual animals. In cases where suffering may be alleviated but not eliminated, the right choice will often be alleviation (i.e., come out of the theoretical clouds of long-term strategy to consider the real animals being affected right now). This is not to say that abolitionism is an incorrect goal (I believe it is the theoretical ideal), but that we should not categorically dismiss any and every animal “welfare” legislation without serious evaluation of the effectiveness to <>individual<> animals as well as the effectiveness of each <>specific<> measure within the context of the goal of ultimate abolition. She goes on to talk about the battery cages aspect (as gary did above).The article is: < HREF="http://pattricejones.info/blog/wp-content/uploads/perplexed.pdf" REL="nofollow">Strategic Analysis for Animal Welfare Legislation: A guide for the perplexed<>. Like I said before, softer mattresses for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is not a bad thing (while you may not choose to spend your time/energy promoting that change, assuming that you care about the well-being of those prisoners, I don’t think there’s inherently a reason to oppose [in advocacy or voting] such a measure either – even if the prisoners only get the softer mattresses 5 nights a week).

  13. I’d like to compare this issue to a person with a very painful, deadly disease. The doctor says that the disease is curable, but it will take a few years. In this case, it makes sense for the patient to seek two goals at the same time: cure of the disease and mitigation of the painful symptoms until the disease is cured. Obviously, curing the disease is the main goal, but there is value in alleviating the suffering.It only becomes problematic in the case of limited resources. If we don’t have the resources to support both goals, then we must choose the cure of the disease.So as long as we have the resources, we should seek to alleviate current animal suffering as well as pursue the more important goal of abolition of animal use.We should also be aware of the political nature of this. Our discussion here is very detailed and nuanced. The general public, however, has no idea about the philosophical differences between animal welfare and abolition. If 98% of the population vote against prop 2, it’s really easy for the general populace to interpret this as “people don’t really care about animals”, even if the majority of these 98% voted against prop 2 for abolitionist reasons. However, if only 2% of the people voted against prop 2, then that sends a message that “the people care about animals”. This gives future politicians an easy way to broach the topic of legislating abolition, since obviously there seemed to be broad support for animals.In other words, a vote against prop 2 for abolitionist reasons will be communicated as a vote against animal welfare. It’s basically a false dilemma: you’re asked “Are you for animal welfare or against?” and you want the third option: abolition. It’s kind of like your vote for Perot really being a vote for Clinton.

  14. While I do think most of the people involved in Yes on Prop 2 mean well. HSUS should have been spending their millions of dollars and their army of well intentioned volunteers on grass roots vegan education. THAT’S IT!!! Even if you were only able to create 1000 new vegans in the last year or two that in itself would reduce more suffering and death than creating thousands upon thousands of brand new, new age, green thinking compassionate animal consuming paper signers that will believe that somehow, someday this proposition will eventually make things better or someway magically end the use of animals raised for food. What a miserable waste of….. EVERYTHING!This prop2 effort is just like if people spent a year or two and millions of dollars educating voters to vote on making the conditions a bit better for dogs grown in puppy mills (who will even enforce that?) Rather than educating people not to buy puppies at pet stores or from breeders. This would be the same thing…. same terrible waste of time as what prop2 will accomplish. More puppies and dogs suffering on puppy mills and being killed in shelters. Prop 2 will = More suffering for farm animals.

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