Thursday, 19 August 2010

A touch of madness in California

Californians are the best example of the concept that it is a thin line separating genius from madness.  The genius of Californians is well known. If there is one single place that is deemed to be the most creative in the world, it has to be somewhere in California. Many of the world's greatest inventions originate from there. Maybe its in the water; maybe its in the air, but something makes creativity flourish in California.

It is then a mystery as to why such creative people are adept at scoring own goals. California adopts a particularly virulent form of voter activism. All sorts of ideas are presented to voters in referendums and if passed, have to be observed. A series of such voter passed Propositions have made California virtually ungovernable, at least financially. Witness the annul ritual of theatre in passing of their budget.

In keeping with that tradition, California voters  passed two years ago Proposition 2, designed to create humane standards for farm animals. Laudable objective. Considering that California is well known for tree huggers, this is entirely understandable. We shall pass lightly over the fact that such a law would make Texans double over helplessly in laughter. In keeping with lawmakers' known enthusiasm for pedantry, they have passed laws to state that  egg-laying hens must be able to fully extend their limbs, lie down and turn in a circle within their enclosures.

California's egg producers are scratching their heads in dismay. In keeping with industry's long standing tradition of screaming foul (pun fully intended), they yelled that this was discriminatory and that egg producers from other US states would ruin them. The Governor dutifully signed a law stating that all eggs sold in California, wherever the hens might have laid them,  must be subject to the same rules - hens should be able to flap their wings, etc etc without touching other hens. I know Arnold Schwarznegger is more renowned for his brawn than his brain, but surely did it escape him as to how on earth could he implement this ?

Meanwhile the argument is descending into outright farce. Apparently if you build too big a cage, the hens get frightened and start to huddle together. Then of course they cannot flap their wings without touching each other. So what is an ideal cage. Fertile ground for research and a Phd thesis. More rule making and more law suits. To avoid this, some egg farms thought of making the birds roam free,  with no cages at all . But this causes even more problems. Dominant hens apparently kill weaker hens. And because they are running around in their own $@*&, they catch infection - so antibiotics are needed. That risks violating some other law.

The bird industry is no doubt lobbying furiously, with lobbyists doing good business. Equally so the pressure groups that want humane treatment of animals. They probably employ counter lobbyists. Nice good economic activity all around.

There will be less fun in the world without California. They create iPhones. They also research on hens flapping their wings, turning a full circle and lying down without touching other hens.


Deepa said...

Has to be the marijuana! They are creative and crazy, what else could it be?

Also, the 'Chicken Dance' is a big obsession here. Not enough room to do the chicken dance, would be nothing short of basic human/animal rights violation.

Vishal said...

I had no clue about this law. Hilarious to read for the least.

On a second thought, challenges do help the mind think around 1080 degrees and help the creativity flourish.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - No not the weed. Having a chuckle imagining you doing the Chicken Dance !

@Vishal - A touch of eccentricity is fine, but they shouldn't pas laws when they are in that mood.

Anonymous said...

Very weird indeed and the title fits very well.And your comment is hilarious than all the above.


Deepa said...

Damn that Californian weed. Even mentioning it has made you mix up my name with Vishal!

@chicken dancing- :-D :-D

Ramesh said...

@Ambulisamma - Even dry boring business can sometimes elicit a laugh !

@Deepa - Ahhhh; you caught it !

sandhya sriram said...

hilarious it was!! wow, i am smiling ear to ear now - after a tough week, what a refreshing piece. thanks for this

so many things in life are so strange that one does not know to what extent can one get to correct it. on thursday, i was travelling down from Salem and i saw a open truck dumped with pigs with each pig tied so tightly that you may not be able to pass a small thread between them. i was wondering - oh what attrocity, what if it rains, what if they want to stretch, what if they want sit and i felt sad that life isnt fair to every form of life!! now i am wondering why the farmer would have done that - maybe thats the right way of transporting pigs without getting them hurt?

now coming to the argument of the hens!! well california isnt vegetarian right. so where are the animal rights for those animals which get killed every day to feed their taste buds?

a line cannot be drawn anywhere. you just have to live with the moment, laugh it out if it dosent impact you, fight it out if it does!! - i guess thats what is happening

Thanks again for another beautiful one!!

Anonymous said...

LOL...engenthunga ungaluku mattum ipidilaam topic kedaikuthu :) hilarious :))

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Yes animal cruelty we see everywhere. Its not much life if you are a battery chicken. If people actually saw ho the animals they eat are raised and slaughtered, more will turn vegetarian.

@Gils - :)

Durga said...

Sandhya just echoed my thoughts. We were driving down from Coimbatore to Bangalore (Sunday evening) and I happened to see elephants being tied up in trucks and transported! (Must be for Onam, is my presumption). About 5-6trucks, each carrying an elephant! They were shackled completely that they wouldn't be able to move an inch! I just wondered aloud as to which noble human could imagine doing such an atrocious thing to the animals. Pat came the reply from the husband that only because the elephant shouldn't suffer during the journey, are they tied up while being transported in a truck. Makes sense, considering Indian roads and drivers. But I still can't even remotely apply this logic to the chicken coops! Must be the weed, as Deepa suggested!

sriram khe said...

Ahem, as one who meticulously reaches out only for packages with the words "free range" and "vegetarian fed" because of my ethical concerns over chicken confined in atrocious conditions ....

Implementing such laws are difficult, yes.  But, the law goes after a worthy idea: the ethical treatment of animals.

Ethical treatment of animals is not only when we are ready to slaughter them and consume them.  But, even when it comes to chicken and the eggs (btw, which came first?)  Further, as Upton Sinclair showed through "The Jungle," horrible treatment of animals is often associated with atrocious working conditions and miserable lives for the labor. 

Years ago, there was one class where I asked students how much more they would be willing to pay for a dozen eggs if they wanted to ensure that the chickens would be treated, for want of a better word, humanely.  My idea was to to convey to them that food (or for that matter any good or service) being inexpensive could easily mask the reasons why it is so inexpensive.  The hidden costs that we don't pay for because we don't even know about them.  Once we know about them, ought we not pay for them, whether it is air pollution of chicken in awful conditions?

In my regular life here in the US, I consume chicken and beef primarily because I am separated from the process of raising the animals, killing them, cleaning them, .... I merely get to see neatly packaged products.  But, when I visit India, I rarely stray from a vegetarian menu because often I get to see, without intending to, the act of butchery.  One vivid memory is from three years ago, when with my parents and sister's family I went to Yelagiri, which is a couple of hours from Chennai.  Once during the walk, I noticed two goats tied to a small tree by a stall.  The goats were bleating away.  About twenty minutes later, on our way back, it was now only one goat bleating, while the other was hanging upside down with its innards exposed and red and bloody. 

I think that most people are like me--we prefer not to associate the chicken or anything else we eat with a live animal that once walked or swam about.  Most will also be like me in that we would find it difficult to kill an animal and eat it.  The California chicken/egg law, to me, is merely a reflection of this cognitive dissonance that most of us deal with.

Californians, along with Oregonians and Washingtonians, are typically the leaders when it comes to such issues.  And, yes, the stereotypical Texan makes fun of, and laughs at, all these nutty/hippie attitudes out on the West Coast.  But, I way prefer the West Coast attitudes that I appreciate (mostly!)  If only the hippies would shower more often, and use deodorizers!

Ramesh said...

@sriram - A very "professorial" response. Now who is the "bleeding heart liberal" :):)

One of the reasons why I have stayed vegetarian.

By the way, methinks, you were one of the sponsors of Proposition 2 !!

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