Proposition 2 debate continues in California

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More than 300 people attended a debate on Proposition 2 in Modesto, Calif. a few weeks ago. The debate was part of the First United Methodist Church’s Faith and Politics series. It has been estimated that there will be a drop of several million dollars in tax revenue from farm businesses if Proposition 2 passes in California. 

Panel members included:

Yes Prop 2

  • Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO of the Humane Society of the United States
  • Rev. Michael Bruner, Presbyterian minister, adjunct Professor of Religion, Azusa Pacific University, consultant, the Humane Society of the United States (Rev. Bruner’s bio says he is also a former and advertising executive and writer)
No Prop 2
  • Bill Mattos, California Poultry federation
  • Jill Benson, JS West & Companies (4th generation egg farmer)
  • Dr. Nancy Reimers, DVM (specializes in poultry medicine) 

Here is a summary of the debate that took place:

Rev. Michael Brunner said at a minimum animals should be allowed to express god given natural behaviors. 

Wayne Pacelle said that the Hallmark/Westland meat packing incident was a good indicator that the agriculture industry is failing to pay attention to animal welfare. He stated that they believe the public’s response to Proposition 2 is going to be just like the Hallmark/Westland meat packing incident. “Should we treat animals as production units – or let them exhibit natural behaviors.” Pacelle pointed out that states have anti-cruelty laws for animals – however farm animals were left out and they want them included in the laws. He asked the audience - “Is it too much to give to a creature that is going to die for human consumption?” 

Dr. Nancy Reimers, a veterinarian specializing in poultry, is very concerned about food safety if the new regulation passes. Eggs are covered with thousands of pores and bacteria can go in like air during incubation, and if the eggs come in contact with the poultry litter there will be a lot of food safety issues. She stated that California’s eggs are the safest that Calif. Consumers can consume. If Prop 2 passes, poultry producers will be required to provide more than 5 feet of space for each bird. Their other concern was the housing proposed by Prop 2 would expose the birds to avian influenza. 

Jill Jensen produces 100,000 dozens eggs each day. Her birds are kept in climate controlled barns at 77 degrees F. She stated that Prop 2 would triple her production costs. If it passes Prop 2 will almost completely eliminate egg production in California within five years and drive the state’s egg industry out of business, as costs to comply are so onerous that California producers can’t compete with imported eggs trucked in from out-of-state or Mexico, where we’ll be forced to get our eggs in the future.  “Prop 2 doesn’t change how eggs are produced – it changes where they are produced,” Jensen says.  

Bill Mattos, head of the Poultry Federation, said Eggs are the cheapest source of protein, and with the housing market crash, several counties in California are amongst the poorest in the nation, and prop 2 would raise the price of eggs to the point where people could not afford to purchase them. Mattos says, California businesses and consumers significantly depend on California egg production, which produces 4.9 billion eggs annually valued at $323 million. California currently consumes all eggs produced in the state. Mattos also says, passage of Prop. 2 will result in a loss of 5,750 jobs and hundreds of millions more in lost state economic activity. 

Wayne Pacelle pointed out that CA Vet Medical Association has voted to endorse the measure, the Center for Food Safety voted yes and another 1,000 vets & organizations have voted yes. During the debate Pacelle defined the term “factory farming” as anything that is considered a CAFO. He also asked the audience several times “If you were an animal would you want to move?” He also said animal welfare isn’t going anywhere. “We continue to believe animals should have the opportunity to walk and move freely.”


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