Proposition 2 – Yes or No

prop2Now I'm really confused.  We've gotten some great comments on both sides of the Proposition 2 argument and I'm not sure how to vote.  This will obviously require some additional reading on my part, and some soul searching.

My initial thought was to vote yes.  Even though I knew that the measure didn't go far enough.  I'm usually of the philosophy that every little bit helps.  Then I read that  the Humane Society was advocating a yes vote on this proposition.  That was enough for me.

But after posting about it, Sat of Bacon and Tofu submitted a comment which lead me to a post by Gary Francione, entitled What to Do About Proposition 2 on the Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.  My takeaway from that post was that this proposition has the potential to do much more harm than good, as it will lull people into a false sense of doing good, when the proposition doesn't go nearly far enough.

Recently I was speaking with my brother, who is not a vegan, and will probably never consider going vegan.  He does however, eat only organic meats, raised and slaughtered by a local farmer.  By doing this, he has a sense that he is doing good, and this is a valid solution.  The animals fare much better than those raised on commercial farms.  But he has no counter to my comment that eating this way is not a viable option for the bulk of the population.  As a society, we would not be able to produce enough meat to feed the population (at the current rate of consumption).  He is reply to that is that he doesn't care about the bulk of the population.  He cares about what he and his family are doing.

Wow.  And this is my environmentally-minded brother, who has children who will inherit the mess we leave behind.  (Our conversation was more about eating locally versus eating vegan, and how that impacts the environment.)  He's not looking for a sustainable solution.  He's looking for a solution that makes him feel better about his personal actions.

So that got me thinking that if the bulk of the population is so me-centric, then there is validity to Mr. Francione's point that  this proposition will make the public even more complacent than they already are, and that we should hold out for something that will make more of an impact.  And that led me to a "no" vote.

But then I read through your comments, and there are some compelling reasons to vote yes.  Without summarizing each and every one (and if you haven't read the comments, I'd suggest doing so...  it's quite a good conversation over there!), below are some of the points you've made that I've found most interesting. and are the things I'll be mulling over in the near future:

Gary of Animal Writings, who's opinion we respect very much, suggests that the measure is worth supporting even if it falls short of the mark:  "The overwhelming message of Prop 2 is that certain cruelties to animals are unacceptable and should be outlawed." and "Though a desire for happy meat is misguided and morally insufficient, it’s better than having no consideration whatsoever for the animals who are raised and killed for food. Recogniton of farmed animals as thinking, feeling individuals provides a basis for further lifestyle and moral evolution. It is a critical first step."  (He has many other interesting points too.)

Bea E. is concerned that Prop 2 will result in people thinking the problem has been mitigated and it is okay to eat meat since the standards for raising these animals have been improved.

Kim is voting against Prop 2 because she objects to the "happy meat" message too.

Sue H. doesn't believe it's an "all or nothing" measure.

Barna of SF Vegan points out that some of the commercial animal ventures are strongly supporting this measure, because it will result in an increase in their profits.  (Please see Barna's comment below for clarification.)

kim of Alls Well That Ends Vegan advocates for Prop 2 as it will increase awareness of animal suffering.  She asks "How do you change public perceptions of animals’ “rights” unless you take advantage of large campaigns that at least address such issues?"

laura also advocates for Prop 2 and provides links to additional reading, if you're interested.

And Elaine Vigneault strongly suggests writing the Humane Society and explaining a "No" vote.  Which is something that we will do should we decide to vote "no."

So, if you have an opinion on this matter, keep talking to us.  We haven't made up our minds yet, although we're back to leaning towards a Yes vote (I know, how fickle we are).  Even if you don't live in California, you have the opportunity to influence two votes, at least.  😉

--  Lane & Jane


  1. I’m still voting yes on 2.
    I’m under the impression that showing the public, government and farming companies that any sort of animal welfare/rights bill has some sort of market or voter base is the critical first step to any further cruelty legislation.

  2. Hi,

    I pointed out that *some* corporations will profit from it, but that was only a tangential point I made.

    Note that I am not campaigning for either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ vote by anyone, and have never said which way I would like to see others to vote. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m disqualified from voting myself (Green Card holder).

    I frankly don’t think that it’s worth wasting a lot of time on pondering whether to vote yes or no on this. I don’t think it makes much of a difference either way.

    I am essentially arguing that it is sad comment about our ‘movement’ that 1) this is considered the best we can do come up with, 2) we spend millions of dollars on this and 3) we’re getting to a point where critical thinking is considered blasphemy and ‘divisive’ by the majority. This ‘even if it sucks, we must be unified in our support for it because it’s the right thing to do’ sentiment is reminiscent of Bushie neocon rhetoric, quite frankly.)

    If we’d have a real social movement that is informed by a consistent, well-developed ideology as well as ongoing open debate and critical thinking, and one that would be based on grassroots activism — instead of the personality- and money cult that currently is called the “AR movement”, we wouldn’t be at a point where something like Prop. 2, a campaign that is riddled with problems and inconsistencies, and is NOT aimed at reducing the consumption of animal products, would be considered a “pioneering victory for the animals”.

    *That* is my point, in a nutshell. 🙂

  3. First, I want to thank you for encouraging good debate on this issue. I’m afraid that many people who actually care about animal rights are getting roped into supporting this animal welfare measure without giving the fundamentals a lot of thought.

    I think this is a tremendously exciting time for animal rights activism because a large number of people are starting to question the tactics of big “animal rights” organizations such as PeTA and HSUS. As Barna points out, there are those who think that everyone needs to uncritically accept the status quo in animal activism. A lot of people care about animals and would be open to a message of true animal rights if only it were being effectively presented.

    Detractors are apt to point out that “most people just aren’t ready” for an AR message so incremental reforms are the way to go. Personally I think this approach is a bit deceptive as it relies on the concealing our true intentions until we can get people to go along with small changes. In the end, people must still make that leap from “well, at least they are being treated nicely” to “it doesn’t matter if they are treated nicely as they aren’t merely objects for us to use.” Better to be direct in our message and promote vegan education than to try some circuitous route that still requires a giant step from welfare to rights.

    Nevertheless, I hope the debate continues. Whether you are voting yes or no on prop 2, you owe it to the animals to continue discussing the best way to fight for them.

  4. I have a concern similar to Bea’s, which was only heightened when HSUS put out that animated video with the dancing, singing pig. Others have found the video cute and effective, I know, but I found it horrifying. People like us, who are already on the side of the animals, don’t watch a video like that and think that after Prop 2, animals will suddenly be pain-free and gleeful, but I’m not so sure that we can say the same for people who don’t know and get what we do. I think that video, even if unintentionally, sent a really unfortunate message to people who want to keep eating animals and who desperately want to believe that it can be humane if only they vote on this proposition. (I ranted about this in a bit more detail here:

  5. Of course this doesn’t call for nearly enough change but if it helps these doomed animals even a little, I think it’s a step in the right direction. If you vote no, it may be interpreted as an “I don’t care about the animals” response. I say vote yes and keep pushing for more!

  6. If I could vote I’d vote yes. Why? Because we’re not going to change the country/world overnight. It’s unrealistic to expect that the whole world is going to go vegan, I would love that to happen but it just isn’t going to happen. Prop 2 isn’t idea no. I’d love to see a return to small farms, where animals roam free. But I would vote yes because it’s a step in the right direction. It shows the country that people DO care, and so should you (general you). Also once it’s in place it’s possible then to push for more changes. We’re not going to change a multi BILLION $$ industry overnight, it didn’t get that way overnight, baby steps are better than nothing.

    I think the point of the animation and prop2 in general is to make the general population THINK about where their meat comes from. Most don’t have a clue (or don’t want to know). If we can make just 1 or 2 people THINK about the plight of the animals then IMO it’s worth it!

    Oh and I also agree that if you don’t vote yes that you shouldn’t vote no. That tells the world that its OK that the animals are mistreated, even though that isn’t your intent.

  7. I agree that this debate has been very constructive, thought-provoking, and informative. And polite and respectful.

    I think Sat brings up some good points. From my experience as a vegan advocate, I think the question of whether people are “ready” for an AR message is much more complicated than “yes” or “no,” but I’m pretty sure I feel the public would be much more responsive to vegan outreach than HSUS thinks they would be.

    Nonetheless, people’s rate of switching to veganism, even when they know the issues well and have been exposed to extensive outreach – and even when have their own personal advocate (friends, parents, and siblings, anyone?) – tends to be a long, drawn-out, multi-year process, and usually ends far short of veganism. Thus, it is virtually a given that billions, possibly a trillion animals will spend their lives inside the horrid factory farm system before America goes vegan. To those animals, we owe them some relief from their constant and unending suffering.

    I also share Sat’s concern about not being completely honest about our end goals when we preach reform rather than abstinence from eating animal products. But my concern is abated for these reasons:

    – Most people sort of know the end goal.

    – It’s not as though on Tuesday HSUS tells people to go cage-free and on Wednesday they switch their campaign to “stop eating eggs.” I suspect it will be a gradual shift and the public won’t feel like they’re being whiplashed. Norms tend to change incrementally in any event.

    – Most of the vegans I know followed the welfare-to-vegan route. That’s what many of my close vegan friends and I did, and for us it went rather smoothly. We never felt lied to, we just dug deeper and became more committed in our own lives to ending our contribution to exploitation. Had advocacy groups conveyed a more consistent vegan-only approach, would it have hastened our conversion? Possibly. But it’s hard to say. The first time I met a vegan advocate, I tuned him out completely. But the suffering message I got right away. And one thing led to another.

    Also, how honest are any of us about “end goals?” Is our end goal to make everyone in the world vegan? To end all exploitation of humans and non-humans? To give a certain set of legal rights to animals? Which rights and which animals? To foster compassion that goes beyond merely refraining from exploitation? To abolish companion animals? To end hunting throughout the world? To restore predator populations? To decrease humanity’s overall impact on the earth? By how much? My point is not to hash this out right now, but to submit that we all may be engaging in some vagueness about end goals. Must those to whom we advocate know the ultimate desired end point in order to make incremental improvements in their lifestyles and attitudes?

    I share Stephanie’s criticism of the Prop 2 video in question, and of all Prop 2 messages that convey a false sense that Prop 2 will end farmed animal cruelty. By the same token, the great majority of pro-Prop 2 conveyances, including TV interviews, commercials, photoessays, web commentary (including Wayne Pacelle’s blog), and print media editorials, have been sobering, serious, and not over the top. Despite sometimes unfortunately sidestepping the immense cruelty that remains post-Prop 2 – not to mention the more far-reaching moral questions about mass-killing living beings for pleasure or out of habit – HSUS has repeatedly stated that Prop 2 is a very modest measure that only addresses the most heinous cruelties in animal agriculture.

    We may all agree that that the Prop 2 campaign has its share of shortcomings. I can’t think of one campaign by any group that couldn’t stand some improvement. But there is no way I could, in effect, tell the hundreds of millions of animals imprisoned in California factory farms, “Sorry, I’m not going to let you turn around, spread your wings, and walk on solid ground, because this campaign wasn’t ideal.”

  8. I agree with Gary (above, not Francione). I would vote yes, and I’m encouraging my Californian family members and friends to vote yes.

    I think if it were really as simple as Francione makes it out to be than industrial agriculture wouldn’t oppose it. It will reduce their profits and it will make turning animals into profit less attractive.

    I think there are a ton of positives to this proposition (and its promotion). I think the negatives compose a more compelling argument against indirect action (such as legal reform) in general than a compelling argument for voting no. That is, I think anyone who doesn’t like Prop 2 should consider not voting at all and instead spend the time doing direct action for animals, like open rescue or vegan outreach.

  9. The reason I’m inclined not to support it is that people concerned about animal suffering, who might otherwise have felt compelled to give up consuming animal products, will think the “animal welfare” guidelines mandated by bills like this make it a morally tolerable compromise.

  10. Oprah’s footage of the actual conditions underwhich farm animals live was shocking to many viewers. Out of sight, out of mind. Passing Prop. 2 will allow Oprah and other media types to revisit the issue (just as she did for puppy mills) in the future and keep the plight of farm animals in the consciousness of the eating public.

  11. no on 8.
    i dnt have enough money to be buying meat.
    farms well go out of business and econmoy will get worse in california.
    it sucks.

  12. ditto on Prop 8. no way!!
    My question: Why be concerned? Vegans don’t eat meat or any product from live animals .. for example.. eggs, cheese, milk, and such. If you do, you’re not a true vegan, right?

    Besides, I worked on an egg ranch (gathering eggs) with 30,000 chickens. Those “girls” could lay down, stretch, and stand up. They liked it in there. I was friends with all of them. They didn’t poop on their eggs. Prop 2 would destroy the egg industry. Ranch owners can’t afford to make adjustments to make YOU happy!!

    Prop 2 with ruin Petaluma California.. the egg/chicken capital the WORLD!!

  13. Thank you everyone for the great comments. There is much good, thought-provoking conversation here.

    While I’m not prepared to address each of the comments here, I did want to address Elise who asks why we vegans, as non-consumers of animal products, should be concerned about farm animal welfare.
    In a nutshell, many vegans are vegan because they believe very strongly in animal rights. Some vegans consider that an integral part of the definition of “vegan.”

    Over time, many great thinkers have been more eloquent on the topic than I could ever hope to be:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Ghandi
    Other vegan quotes.

    It is a shame that the egg industry will be hurt in California (as California is the first state to tackle this issue on this scale). But that is not a reason to hinder the forward movement for animal welfare. When slavery was abolished, most of plantation owners suffered financial hardship as well. It helped to bring about the downfall of the plantation system. In today’s society we have evolved beyond thinking of humans as property, before the civil war that was unthinkable. Perhaps in a hundred years, we will have evolved beyond thinking of animals as property. I fervently hope that we will evolve beyond the point of treating animals inhumanely. 6 or more chickens to a cage the size of a sheet of paper certainly seems inhumane to me.

  14. Actually there are about 100 farming organizations *supporting* Prop 2. They are doing so because they know, by making people feel better about consuming other animals, that they will *make more money* (which will obviously increase suffering and death of other animals). What? You actually thought they recognized that their “livestock”, their property, their means of making money, has interests that need protecting? Really? Who here was born yesterday?

    Industrial agriculture obviously understands how “reforms” work and is only “opposing” this one for the appearance of resistance in order to stifle any other campaigns that will actually threaten their bottom line (Every industry is only concerned with the bottom line and this is a classic reaction to “reforms” that “threaten” it).
    I mean, look at how many animal “rights” activists (“rights” used very loosely) are pacified by this measure (“triumph”?) and then look at how much money is going into it and how little it does *for the other animals* involved if it actually does come into effect in *2015*. It’s absurd.

    All that money could build many platforms to educate many more people about veganism, which would, by it’s very nature, decrease animal consumption by humans, all while not hiding our true message; Animals are not ours to use! And there’s no need to wait until 2015 to help them!

    Has anyone even read the “exceptions” sections of Prop 2?
    How about the “enforcement” section?

    Prop 2 is, and I’m being polite, a freaking joke. I personally think it’s pathetic that this is the best animal “rights” activists (does anyone understand animal rights theory?) can do to “protect animal interests”. Just my opinion.

    Now… Get out your checkbooks and assimilate into the profit-based capitalist system built on oppression of “others”! That’s how to be an animal advocate these days, right?

  15. I want to start out by stating I have been vegetarian for 8 years because of my moral objections to eating meat.
    I also work closely with the meat industry. I personally know the goals of meat producers.
    It’s true that they want to maximze profits, but today’s producers understand and acknowledge the evidence that shows HAPPY animals produce the BEST product. The industry is not in medieval times. Enclosures protect young and provide the HEALTHIEST enviroment for the animals in question. Producers take their product very seriously and are continually working to enhance the quality of life of their stock and therefore the quality of meat produced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.