By Tracy Reiman
PETA has always supported changes that reduce suffering for farmed animals. It was PETA’s campaign in 1995 that brought the first acknowledgment of cruelty to chickens by a major restaurant chain when McDonald’s implemented some minimal animal welfare standards.
Twenty-three years and an ocean of public awareness later, the standards pushed by Proposition 12 are a step backwards at a time when there is impetus for real change. We truly cannot understand why some groups set the bar so terribly low.
This initiative ensures hens will continue to suffer far into the future. It will allow tens of thousands of hens to be crammed into giant warehouses with only 1 square foot of space per bird, the same amount that the farming industry already requires for “cage-free” labeling.
Proposition 12 also does something insidious: It misleads kind consumers into thinking that it’s “humane” to purchase eggs. PETA investigations have revealed time and again that what people think “cage-free” means is vastly different from reality. At a supplier of Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, 20,000 birds were crammed so tightly into one shed that it was difficult to avoid stepping on them. The tips of their sensitive beaks had been cut off in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent feather-plucking among the stressed chickens.
We recently interviewed people who bought Nellie’s eggs expressly because of the image “free-range” conjured. After watching video footage taken inside one of these farms, they called the label deceptive and false advertising and said they would not buy Nellie’s eggs again.
We must not ingrain cruelty by passing a regressive law that will keep hens in abhorrent conditions. We know that chickens are thinking, feeling beings that want to truly spread their wings, not be confined to a prison with thousands of others.
Hens deserve better. Vote “no” on Proposition 12. Go egg-free, not cage-free.
Tracy Reiman is executive vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Los Angeles.