On election day, there were two propositions on the California ballot that would grant or remove rights to historically oppressed groups. Prop 2, if passed, called for more space for chickens, pigs, and calves in California agricultural facilities. Prop 8, if rejected, would uphold the recent California law granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Prop 2 passed, granting farmed animals a bit more comfort and space. Prop 8 also passed, taking away the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
In the aftermath, I have read and heard too many people implying that Californians like animals more than people; that it’s “ironic” that animals received rights while humans lost them.
For the record, I supported Prop 2 and opposed Prop 8. I believe that animals should not be, in essence, tortured in factory farms, and I believe that people should be able to marry, whether they are gay or straight. I was extremely disappointed that Californians amended their constitution to ban gay marriage.
But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.
In our society, we abuse farmed animals mercilessly. Hens are crammed into cages so tightly that they are barely able to move and unable to stretch a single wing. Their beaks are severed (without pain relief) as chicks to keep them from killing each other under these conditions. They stand on sloping wire that cuts into their feet...for a year or more. I’ve visited such facilities, and they are far worse than I’ve described here. If you were to put your pet parakeet into conditions like these, you’d be in violation of virtually all state anti-cruelty laws.
Pregnant and nursing sows are currently confined in “iron maidens,” cages that prevent them from moving at all beyond standing and lying down. Veal calves are chained at the neck in stalls so that they can’t even turn around. These are "normal" agricultural practices, even though they would be illegal if perpetrated on dogs and cats, and Californians, rightly in my opinion, passed a proposition that will simply grant these abused animals a bit more space. These animals will still be exploited for human palates, but the degree of cruelty will slightly diminish.
I believe that gays and lesbians should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals, but we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.
Image courtesy of bobster1985.