Top grocery and restaurant companies like McDonald’s, Dollar Tree, Burger King, Taco Bell and Walmart began switching to exclusively cage-free meat and eggs. (Examiner file photo)

Prop. 12 helps animals, consumers, environment

The San Francisco SPCA respectfully encourages all Bay Area residents to vote Yes on Proposition 12 this coming Tuesday. Prop 12 would reduce the suffering of millions of animals while creating a safer, more environmentally-friendly food supply.

While our organization primarily focuses on pets, we know that all animal cruelty is wrong, regardless of whether the victim is a cat, chicken, pig, or dog. Locking animals in cages with barely enough space to move an inch—as some industrial meat and egg producers still do—absolutely qualifies as cruelty. California veterinarians, our fellow animal shelters and the world’s leading experts on farm animal welfare agree that these cages must be banned and that Prop 12 is the way to do it.

If this issue sounds familiar to voters, it’s because a decade ago during the Bush administration, California voters resoundingly passed Proposition 2. That measure, which required that hens, pigs and calves be given enough space to turn around and extend their limbs, was a fantastic start. Because of that vote, many California egg producers converted to cage-free facilities. Top grocery and restaurant companies like McDonald’s, Dollar Tree, Burger King, Taco Bell and Walmart began switching to exclusively cage-free meat and eggs. And other states followed California’s lead in cracking down on cages.

Fast forward to today, and many companies and some states have surpassed our existing standards. It’s time for California to take the logical next step. Prop 12 would explicitly require cage-free conditions and a minimum amount of space. The resulting conditions aren’t extravagant, but will make a world of difference for the animals. Proposition 12 would also require the same standards for meat and eggs produced elsewhere but sold in our state.

Caging animals is not only cruel to animals but also puts California families at risk. It’s not surprising that disease spreads like wildfire in factory farms where thousands of animals are crammed in filthy cages. Extensive research has found that egg-laying hens in cages are more likely to be infected with Salmonella. Tens of thousands of Americans are sickened every year with Salmonella-tainted eggs, and cages are a big part of the reason why. This is a food justice issue. Right now producers and retailers charge an artificially high premium for cage-free eggs, even though the egg industry’s own research shows that the difference in production costs are minimal. By making cage-free the norm, that artificial premium would evaporate, expanding access to safer food for all California families. That’s why the Center for Food Safety is a strong proponent of Prop 12.

For decades, California has seen reckless agribusiness companies push family farmers out of business. More than 100 of California’s remaining family farmers endorse Prop 12 because they believe that all food producers should be held to commonsense standards. Joining those farmers in backing Prop 12 are the United Farm Workers (founded by Cesar Chavez), the

National Black Farmers Association and National Womens Farming Association.

And because industrial factory farms are a leading source of air and water pollution, our friends in the environmental community are coming out to support Prop 12 in droves. Sierra Club California, Natural Resources Defense Council, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of Earth are just some of the environmental organizations asking their supporters to vote yes on 12.

Rarely does a California ballot measure bring together such a broad and diverse coalition. Prop 12 would help consumers, family farmers, animals, and our environment. Prop 12 is good policy and deserves your “yes” vote.

Brandy Kuentzel is general counsel for the San Francisco SPCA.

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