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October 2, 2008

In my Opinion…

Proposition 2 helps animals, people, and the environment

By Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D.
Special to the Times

One of the most simple and straightforward initiatives on November’s ballot is also one of the most important. Proposition 2, Standards for Confining Farm Animals, will require that certain farm animals are allowed enough room in their living environment to stand up, lie down, turn around and stretch their limbs.

This measure may surprise some people, who are unaware that farm animals such as veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens are currently forced to live under conditions that are so inhumane that they cannot even make these minimal body movements. It just seems like common sense that no living creature should be treated in such a manner. Unfortunately, factory farms do treat animals in exactly this way, with complete disregard for the wellbeing of their animals, the quality of the food that they produce, or the impact that they have on our environment.

This is an issue, which should concern anyone who cares not only about animal welfare, but also human health. As a physician, I have seen first-hand the impact that immobilization has on human patients who are bedridden in hospitals. Muscles atrophy, joints stiffen and sores develop. The psychological stress that these patients experience weakens their immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections.

These same things happen to animals on factory farms. The result is that these animals are predisposed to diseases, including such infections as salmonella and e coli, which can be transmitted to humans. Additionally, animals with compromised natural immunity are more likely to require treatment with drugs such as antibiotics and steroids, which contaminate our environment in large doses. Concentrated waste from factory farms is a major source of pollution in rural areas, spreading into our waterways and putting our entire food supply at risk.

It is for these reasons that Arizona, Oregon, Florida, Colorado and the European Union have recently passed laws similar to Proposition 2, ending the practice of keeping animals so tightly packed together on factory farms. The impact of this legislation has already been felt in the United States, as major veal and pork producers have moved toward less restrictive housing environments for their animals. Having these requirements in place supports local family farmers, who already consider animal welfare, food quality, and environmental impact when designing their operating systems. With Prop. 2 regulations in effect, corporate “factory” farms will no longer be able to cut corners and drive these smaller farms out of business.

Voting yes on Prop. 2 is an important step in moving away from food that is produced in an inhumane, unsafe, and unsustainable manner, and towards food that is locally grown, higher quality and less detrimental to our environment. Conscientious consumers, concerned about the health risks of industrialized food as well as animal welfare, are increasingly buying meat, dairy products, and eggs from farms that treat animals better. When Prop. 2 is passed, California will become the nation’s leader in providing higher quality food. It’s good for our local economy, but more importantly, it’s good for us.


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