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Resolving Animal Cruelty

Spring 10 Bull Pair

I tip my hat to the California Cattlemens Association and Assemblyman Jim Patterson for submitting AB 343 with coauthors Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, Assemblyman Brian Dahle, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein and Senator Jim Nielsen and endorsement by the California Farm Bureau.

It is refreshing to see a bill that truly works to address the issue of animal cruelty in agriculture.

Unlike bills in other states, AB343 protects the right to video and photograph, protects the worker from reporting observed abuse, promotes cooperation with local law enforcement and puts the welfare of the animals above the bottom line and above the next fundraising campaign.

AB343 combines common sense with moral fortitude. It requires that animal abuse is reported in a timely manner, in order to minimize suffering, allow for a proper investigation and see that appropriate charges are brought against the offender.

Finally, an animal welfare bill that those in agriculture and those outside of agriculture, who care about the welfare of animals, can stand together in support of.

…This bill would require any person who willfully or knowingly photographs, records, or videotapes animal cruelty to provide a copy of the photograph, recording, or videotape to local law enforcement within 48 hours of taking the photograph, recording, or videotape, and would encourage the person to provide a copy of the photograph, recording, or videotape to the owner of the animal or poultry, or a representative of the owner. This bill would define animal cruelty for its purposes as any act involving an animal, as defined, or poultry, as defined, described in prescribed criminal offenses…

Another Perspective on Prop 37

The following is a guest post from a friend and former student at Etna High School, Charles Peckham.

Suffice to say that my life and my politics make me the sort of person whom those opposed to genetically modified foods would presume to be playing for their team.

And, my concern with Prop. 37 is that the subject of genetically modified foods is misrepresented, not that Prop. 37 is wrong wrong wrong. There is no scientific evidence to support that genetically engineered foods have negative health effects, and admittedly, the sort of evidence that would be necessary to show long-term health effects of food are difficult to obtain. Statistical data is prone to being legitimized by outside factors, and laboratory experiments conducted on animals have limited utility, since the lifespan of most lab animals is different to the lifespan of humans. Furthermore, the field of genetic engineering is relatively new. By contrast, statistical data to support the theory that excessive alcohol consumption leads to long-term health problems is quite solid, because booze has been around forever, so we’ve had sufficient time and sufficient examples. A quick Googling says that genetic engineering has been around since the early 1970’s. That means science has to determine what will happen to people fifty years from now if they use technology that hasn’t even been around for fifty years. It’s not an easy thing to do.

Regardless, it’s up to science to determine what the health effects of genetically modified food are. Admittedly, genetic engineering seems like a bad idea. There’s a perhaps inherent fear of tampering with genetic material. Plenty of black and white mad scientist movies have played on this fear, and even as recently as Jurassic Park (1993), frog DNA was combined with Tyrannosaurus DNA, with disastrous results (well, disastrous for the people the T. rex ate, at least). But the goal of science is to reach beyond these inherent presumptions. As Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, ‘(Humans) are poor data taking devices. That’s why we have such a thing as science, because we have machines that don’t care which side of the bed they woke up (on) in the morning, don’t care what they said to their spouse that day, don’t care whether they had their morning caffeine. They’ll get the data right.’ The same applies for how aesthetically troubling the subject matter is. Science gives us a system by which we can determine how bad something really is, so we needn’t rely on how bad something seems.

I’ve already voted, and I admit I voted yes on Prop. 37. If I had to do it again, I’m not sure which way I would go. It’s not because I think genetically modified food is unhealthy, that remains to be shown, and it’s not because I have faith in the corporate food industry to have my best interests in mind. With Prop. 37, it’s a question of information. Prop. 37 is asking for food to inform consumers what’s inside, and I think it’s both responsible and personally preferable to have more information rather than less, even if the information is irrelevant.

And, to the best of our knowledge, information about genetic modification is irrelevant to the health of consumers. The only problem is that labeling genetically modified foods is misleading information. It plays into previously mentioned apprehensions about eating food with an otherworldly quality, and this stands to detriment the food industry infrastructure for a silly reason. In effect, the panic over genetically modified foods is (until science shows otherwise) making an issue out of a non-issue. It’s giving people just enough information to confirm their knee-jerk reaction, and doesn’t give them the full picture. The issue is unpleasantly similar to the dihydrogen monoxide hoax, in which propaganda is distributed about a chemical that’s being sold over the counter at your local grocery store named ‘dihydrogen monoxide” (AKA water). The propaganda is full of startling facts about what would happen if, for example, dihydrogen monoxide were to enter one’s lungs, and how dihydrogen monoxide is the primary chemical in acid rain. It’s a good gag. If I hadn’t been told it was a practical joke when I first saw it, I might very well have fallen for it myself.

So the real question is, what is the government’s responsibility when there’s a strong movement turning a non-issue into an issue? Part of me says, if the people want labels, let them have labels. Still, to really get to the bottom of this issue, it would behoove both government and anti-genetic engineering activists to come up with sufficient funding to determine any possible health issues. It’s pointless to stir up more panic over the issue before even demonstrating the issue is there. It would be nice if we could have put the horse before the cart on this one.

Proposition 37, Labeling Lemon

Proposition 37 is plain and simply a bad law….for multiple reasons.

  1. Prop 37 would require labeling for non-harmful ingredients.
  2. Prop 37 does not require ALL products to labeled.
  3. Prop 37 is a California-only regulation on food.
  4. Prop 37 provides loopholes for imports to evade the labeling requirement.
  5. Prop 37 would increase food costs in California by over $400 per year.
  6. Prop 37 would create additional bureaucracy and cost tax payers millions.
  7. Prop 37 would open the door to frivolous lawsuits.
  8. Any proposed regulation, that will have such overreaching impact, should go through legislative and economic analysis, not through the proposition venue.

I fully support the consumer’s right to know if anything harmful is in a product that they might buy. If a product is harmful, it should be labeled, but directed from the FDA, not the state.

Labels informing consumers of the ingredients should be voluntary. There is already an organic label to identify non-GE products.

If there is strong support to identify ingredients in non-organic foods, I would encourage someone to take advantage and create a niche label. It would seem to me, to be a wonderful opportunity.

I support a NO vote on Proposition 37.

Taxes, Wildfires and Missed Opportunity

Smoke rolling in over the Trinity Alps.

Most folks have noticed, it is fire season in California and most of the western United States. What many may not know is that the ‘brilliant’ state of California has also begun to send out ‘fire suppression’ bills to the rural residents of the state to raise an estimated $84 million to help fund Cal Fire, the agency responsible for battling wildfires.

This new tax has been levied on only the rural residents, without a 2/3 vote, simply because they live in the areas where fire is most prevalent and because the state budget was $10 billion in the red, the general fund is empty and the Cal Fire budget has more than doubled over the past 10 years.

I’m sorry folks, but this new tax is wrong, unfair and should serve as a major wake-up call to all residents of the state.

First, most of the western forests are now more than 300% overstocked due to the general public’s support of stopping logging and preventing healthy forest management which has resulted in excessive fuel loads and diseased forests ripe for devastating fire. Second, most of the long-term rural residents of the state have done extensive fire-proofing on their property. Third, public officials have done little to curb development in forested areas, let alone plan for fire events. Fourth, many rural Californians already pay a local fire fee to support local fire districts and fifth, this new tax will discourage rural residents from passing future bond measures and initiatives to support local needs.

This tax needs to be withdrawn, period. Forests on public lands are a public resource and their management should be paid for by the public. It is long past time for active management to return to all western forests. There are jobs to be created, revenue to be generated for local schools and communities and money to be saved from fighting fewer fires, which would be less devastating if management were allowed.

Forests are a renewable resource…and more quickly renewed through active management practices than as a result of recovery from a fire, which often times devastates the soil. It is time to return commonsense to the way we manage our forests and run our government. Just saying….

Immigration and Animal Welfare

Realizing this post may result in a fiery storm of comments, I still wanted to share the following thought, simply to ‘spark’ deeper thought.

I find it interesting that when Arizona passed its immigration law, a group of people strongly supported it and another group strongly opposed it, based on the states’ rights argument. Now, California has passed an animal welfare law (Prop 2) and the group previously supporting Arizona’s rights is now supporting Federal language to overturn, while the group against Arizona’s legislation is now supporting California’s right to enforce Prop 2. Ironic?

To be clear, I supported Arizona’s right to pass immigration legislation and while I disagree with Prop 2, I also support California’s right to enforce it. Without the ability to enforce it, California’s farmers will be at a significant disadvantage and likely be forced out of business due to unfair competition.

I am curious if anyone else has noticed the irony of these two situations.

PS Let’s keep the comments civil :-)

Reference Links:

Midnight Egg amendment

Arizona SB1070

California Proposition 2

 

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