On Michigan's animal welfare reforms

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law a bill that provides more room to protected species. In Michigan's case, defined species include pregnant sows, calves used for veal, hens producing eggs, turkeys, ducks, geese or guinea fowl. Producers have three years to provide enough room for calves in the veal industry to stand up, turn around, lie down and stretch their limbs. They have ten years to provide the same basic freedom of movement to the other protected species. Michigan has 10 million hens used to produce eggs, 100,000 sows used to produce pigs for consumption and, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service slaughters approximately 20,000 veal calves annually.
"Agribusiness would never be able to put up the kind of
money for a successful ballot campaign like [the Humane Society of the United States] can," said Michigan state Rep. Mike Simpson (D., Jackson), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the bill's sponsor.
This is breaking news, people. Agribusiness is so poor they cannot compete with a $200 million dollar animal welfare charity. For example, the veal industry is practically on welfare with their $1.5 billion income. And according to the USDA's Agricultural Statistics Board, the value of egg production in the United States was $8.23 billion and turkey production $4.48 billion. Chicken production is around $28 billion. In Michigan alone, the value of egg production is $211,000,000. The production of pig flesh garnered producers $16 billion in gross income in 2008. In Michigan, the gross income for pig producers was about $255 million. None of these companies can pull together to fund a response to a ballot initiative?

Is Rep. Mike Simpson seriously proposing that multi-billion dollar industries cannot financially compete with one animal welfare organization?

Let us all be honest. Animal agriculture makes a hefty profit off of the exploitation and abuse of animals (both human and nonhuman). They can well afford to fight legislation and they can well afford to advertise extensively (as evidenced by the plethora of meat/dairy/egg based ads I'm exposed to when I have the misfortune of watching cable television with commercials).

In the end, while Michigan's law improves the living conditions of these animals, it does not improve their lives. From day one, they are treated as commodities without moral value. It does not matter if they are hens in the egg-laying industry or male calves on a dairy farm - the end result for them is all the same, slaughter at a young age.

Of course we support these laws and oppose the efforts of agribusiness to make it harder for welfare improvement to occur (as is the developing case in Ohio). We do not, however, think these are laws that benefit animals the most. Animals will still be slaughtered for consumption. Hens will still be debeaked, piglets still castrated without pain relief, sows still deprived of normal maternal bonding with her offspring. Their lives will still be miserable and their deaths still frightening and mind-numbing. Until we stop consuming animals (or their milk and eggs), these welfare laws are only improving animals' conditions of oppression, not releasing them from unwilling servitude as purveyors of flesh, milk or eggs.


Anonymous said...

In the end, while Michigan's law improves the living conditions of these animals, it does not improve their lives. From day one, they are treated as commodities...

Spot on! Thanks you!