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Animals deserve more than Prop. 2

The existence of animal rights is a central component of a compassionate society. Modern factory farming is the antithesis to such compassion. Ripping newborn calves away from their mothers to suffer in unbelievably small crates is unarguably cruel. Cramming egg-laying hens into battery cages so small they can hardly walk is again cruel. But California’s Prop. 2 won’t end up doing much for the animals, despite what many are saying.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, said the campaign is “the most important election that you’ve never heard of” this November. One that would go further than current referendums which already exist in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon; one which, if passed, would be “a major gain for the animal rights movement.”

The Yes! on Prop. 2 campaign-a coalition of the Humane Society, Farm Sanctuary, and the like-is publicizing this as a measure that would have landmark changes for the way farm animals are viewed and treated. Its website urges voters to back Prop. 2 to “support family farmers,” “help stop animal cruelty,” “improve our health and food safety,” and “protect our air and water.”

Yet, in reality, the terse language of Prop. 2 would accomplish none of these objectives. It would only prohibit factory farms from confining farm animals in enclosures where they cannot stand up, lie down, extend their limbs, or turn around. It has numerous exceptions and if passed won’t go into effect until 2015.

Under the measure, more than 20 million farm animals will still be slaughtered in the Golden State each year. These animals will still live in cramped conditions, in their own waste and without access to sunlight. The only real way to stop animal cruelty, protect our environment, and improve our health is to shut down the intensive confining of animals.

We aren’t practicing compassion by promoting such an ill-conceived measure that will, at best, do little for animals’ rights and, at worst, succeed only in removing human guilt for consuming animal products.