There was a lot more at stake in the 2008 elections than you might think. On November 4, 2008, Californians voted on what was perhaps the most important piece of legislation ever drafted to help farmed animals in this country. The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—Proposition 2—sought to give veal calves, layer hens, and breeding pigs enough space to turn around and stretch their limbs. Prop 2 set the standard for progressive laws limiting the abuses of animals on factory farms in the largest agricultural state in the country.
We may disagree about the details of what laws should protect animals in industrial agriculture, but we can all agree, at minimum, that a fundamental requirement of good animal welfare is the elemental ability to move one’s body—simply to turn around or stretch a wing.” –Statement of Support for the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, signed by Michael Chabon, J.M. Coetzee, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, Nicole Krauss, Michael Pollan, Alice Sebold, and Alice Walker
The changes outlined in the bill were consistent with the policy suggestions of an authoritative Pew Commission report on animal agriculture, which concluded that factory farming methods present “an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food.” If we are to reverse the devastating effects of factory farming, we must take the first step of vocally supporting initiatives like Proposition 2.
The bill, which outlined only a bare minimum of improvements essential to making the lives of farmed animals more bearable faced strong opposition from a coalition of pro-factory-farming interests. But the tide of opinion about the way our culture treats animals is changing rapidly—a wide array of voices from progressive ranchers like Bill Niman to nonprofit organizations and conservative religious leaders have come out in support of Proposition 2.
In a further testament to this progressive cultural shift, eight of the world’s most respected and recognized writers joined with Farm Forward to endorse Proposition 2. “When writers of this stature speak out to curb factory farming—speak out against cruelty to animals—it has a special meaning,” said Farm Forward’s Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Gross, “J.M. Coetzee’s works have helped millions internationally confront South African apartheid just as Alice Walker’s books have helped millions confront the legacy of American slavery. These writers have been our conscience and stretched our moral imaginations. When voices like these come together and call for changes in farming, it’s time for change.”
For information on how you can join these writers and help ensure that important bills like this are made into law, visit Citizens For Farm Animal Protection.
Michael Chabon is the author of the highly acclaimed bestsellers Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and most recently, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2001.
Nobel Prize winner J.M Coetzee has often spoken out against the excesses of factory farming, notably in his 2004 novel Elizabeth Costello, which explores human responsibility to animals, its philosophical implications, and its meaning in our daily lives. Coetzee is also a celebrated literary critic and translator.
Time magazine ranks Jonathan Safran Foer among the writers who have become a “voice of this generation.” He is the author of bestsellers Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a Farm Forward board member.
Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel The Corrections was included on Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels. His nonfiction, including the collection of essays, How to Be Alone, and his memoirs, The Discomfort Zone, have cemented his role as one of the most important writers of the 21st century.
Nicole Krauss’ breakthrough novel, The History of Love, was an immediate sensation in 2005, becoming a New York Times best-seller and book list staple. Alfonso Cuarón, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y tu Mamá También, is making the book into a film. Publishers Weekly wrote that Krauss’ “imagination encompasses many worlds.”
Michael Pollan’s 2006 critique of the food industry, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, was named one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and his latest work, In Defense of Food, continues his groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the ethics of eating.
Alice Sebold’s debut novel, The Lovely Bones, has been translated into more than 40 languages and is currently being made into a film by The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. She is also the author of critically acclaimed bestsellers Lucky and The Almost Moon.
In addition to being recognized as one of America’s most important writers, Alice Walker is a highly respected advocate for environmental and social justice issues. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple in 1982.
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