This past week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will essentially prohibit, starting in 2015, any egg from being sold in the state that comes from caged hens. This bill became law 20 months after a majority of California voters approved Proposition 2, making it clear that concern for the living conditions of livestock is no longer the province of animal rights activists alone.
Recognizing how widespread concern about the humane treatment of farm animals has become, the California Milk Advisory Board has recently ramped up its 10-year "Happy Cow" advertising campaign with a new series of ads proclaiming that "Great milk comes from Happy Cows. Happy Cows come from California." These ads are now being shown across the nation.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the ads. For one, they weren't filmed in California at all. They were filmed in Auckland, New Zealand.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Current Milk Board ads claim that 99 percent of the state's dairy farms are family owned. But in order to arrive at this figure, they count as "dairy farms" rural households with one or two cows. Meanwhile, there are corporate-owned dairies in the San Joaquin Valley which have 15,000 or 20,000 cows. It is these far larger enterprises that produce the vast majority of California's milk.
My concern, let me emphasize, is not with small-scale family farms. I have no problem with the many hard-working families who treat their cows well, take care of the land and try to bring a healthy product to market. My problem is with the much larger agribusiness enterprises, the factory farms to whom the animals in their care are nothing but sources of revenue.