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March 4, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: Happy Cows in California?

Ohlone Humane Society: Happy Cows in California?

By Eric Mills, OHS Community Relations Director and Legislative Liaison

California's November election marked a turning point for farmed animals with the passage of Proposition 2 by a resounding 63 percent. Kudos to all who worked on this humane initiative, which gives animals "room to stand up, turn around, lie down, and extend their limbs." Seems little to ask, no?

This country consumes approximately 10 billion animals every year (not including fish). Most are raised under horrendous conditions, and many never see the light of day or set foot to earth. We can and must do better. Prop. 2 is a good first step.

The new law, which goes into effect in 2015, will provide nominal relief for 19 million egg-laying hens in battery cages and thousands of pregnant sows in gestation crates. The ban on veal crates was a moot issue, since there's no crated veal in California. The new law will prevent any future such operations, however.

Too bad Prop. 2 didn't include dairy "replacement heifers," which number in the tens of thousands, in conditions very like those in the veal industry. Some legislation is in order to fix this.

It should be noted that the Humane Society of the U.S., Prop. 2's major sponsor, closed its Sacramento office in December, reportedly due to falling revenues as a result of the nation's dire fiscal straits.

As if the success of Prop. 2 weren't enough, already there's some positive fall-out. This was a wake-up call for the state's agricultural community, indeed the entire country. They're finally getting the word that the public truly does care about the welfare of the animals it eats and is demanding reforms about the way these animals are treated.

The California State Legislature's Senate Agriculture Committee has since been revamped to include animal welfare concerns and has changed its name to the "Senate Food and Agriculture Committee," chaired by Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter). The other four members are Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), and Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta).

Hollingsworth was a key player in the passage of SB 880 in 2007, which overturned the California ban on kangaroo products. Hollingsworth twice unsuccessfully carried that cruel and anti-environmental legislation. These developments could prove interesting.

Maldonado is a pariah to many in the Capitol for being the deciding Republican vote for the new state budget, while Hollingsworth is the new Republican leader elected in the midst of all the blood-letting. Needless to say, these two are not the best of friends. According to recent PawPAC voting charts, Maldonado has been one of the best Republicans when it comes to voting for animals, while Hollingsworth has consistently been one of the worst. Fortunately, the three Democrats on this committee are solidly "pro animal."

It's worth noting that Hollingsworth led the charge in the political lynching of former Fish and Game Commissioner Judd Hanna two years ago. Hanna, one of our best allies, was forced to resign as a result, a dark day in California politics.

New animal legislation

On February 10, Florez introduced Senate Bill 135. The bill will likely go to the new Senate Food and Agriculture Committee which he chairs, in March. SB 135 would outlaw the brutal practice of docking the tails of dairy cattle, a common industry practice. Reportedly, some 100,000 California dairy cows endure this painful procedure, which involves cutting off about two-thirds of the cow's tail without anesthesia, every year. Dairymen say it's for health and sanitation reasons, which seems highly questionable. Not only is this mutilation painful for the animals, it leaves cows with no defense against flies that swarm around cow manure. SB 135 would amend State Penal Code 597n, which already bans the docking of horses' tails, by adding "cattle" to the language. It deserves speedy passage.

What you can do to help

Please send letters in support of this humane legislation to: Senator Dean Florez, Chair, Senate Food and Agriculture Committee, The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. Copies of your letter should also be sent to all committee members, as well as your own representatives, at the same address. Letters to the Editor of local newspapers would also be helpful. See for bill information. Thanks for caring.

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