Friday, February 12, 2010

Chicken-hearted? Letís hope

When California voters approved a 2008 ballot proposition forcing chicken egg farms to abandon cramming chickens into laying cages by 2015, some predicted the anti-animal cruelty law would chase egg farmers and their businesses into nearby states with more lax standards.

Being one of those states, Idaho has reason to review regulations to avoid animal mistreatment and any air and water problems created by a soaring increase in agriculture activities, such as the population boom in dairy cows—from 180,000 in 1990 to 530,000 in 2009.

Idaho state Sen. Tim Corder, chair of the upper house agriculture committee, said the time is past when agriculture interests can do as they please. He wants Idaho to do it right from the start, at least when it comes to public impacts of industrial chicken and egg production.

But when it comes to how chickens are confined, Corder would leave that to the industry. Instead, Idaho should enact confinement laws of its own.

Until the new law goes into effect, California egg farmers can jam chickens into cages too small to flap their wings. Not a pretty sight.

Giving chickens more room to lay eggs, rather than being crammed cruelly beak-to-beak, not only is good farming sense, but also increasingly meets far more enlightened and sensible ethical standards.

As a prominent leader in the growing science of farm animal welfare, Temple Grandin, says, "Nature is cruel. We don't have to be."

Being "chicken hearted" once was an insult meaning spineless. Today, it can mean being humane.

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