Californians have always been willing to give an audience to people whose ideas aren’t exactly mainstream. And the ballot initiative process here allows those people to put forward all types of policy suggestions for public consideration.

For instance, animal-rights activists this month began asking Californians for signatures on a proposed ballot measure that would give pigs, cows and chickens some of the same rights people enjoy.

If approved by voters, the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would, beginning in 2015, mostly prohibit the confinement on a farm of pigs, calves, and hens in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. Violations would be misdemeanors.

Because animal-rights protesters are generally loud, obnoxious, uncompromising or naked (and sometimes all four at once), we tend to equate them with the colorful but harmless characters hoisting cardboard signs along the Venice Beach boardwalk.

But the animal-rights movement is far from harmless. And since California seems to be the current animal-rights Ground Zero, it’s worth considering what the movement stands for.

Don’t confuse animal “rights” with animal “welfare,” a more mainstream movement concerned with puppy and kitten populations. Animal-rights activism is more about protest, pressure and raising hell than actual animal care. And the groups pushing the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act are decidedly in the “rights” camp.

Animal “rights” sees the institution of pet ownership, including seeing-eye dogs and police K-9 units, as a form of slavery. Hunting and fishing are incompatible with animal rights. Road kill, the philosophy dictates, should result in felony charges. And leather shoes, from Hush Puppies to Manolo Blahniks, are unforgivable.

But animal-rights activists aren’t just concerned with pet store parakeets and birthday-party riding ponies. Embracing their philosophy requires shifting meatless eating from a choice to an obligation.
Products like beef, eggs, milk, even honey, are taboo. Who knew that an apiary was just a beehive-shaped San Quentin?

Animal-rights activists want to scrap our system of medical research, too. Most Californians would generally be glad to sacrifice lab rats (and yes, even the occasional monkey) to save our mothers, brothers, children, or neighbors. But animal-rights dogma holds that it’s simply unnecessary. Some activists have openly admitted that even if a cure for AIDS were to result from animal testing, they’d be against it.
Activists may start out agitating for roomier calf, hog and poultry cages, but their real goal is the end of all animal agriculture, including small family farms.

That doesn’t bother groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which doesn’t actually operate a single “humane society” pet shelter, or Farm Sanctuary, which views farms as prison camps for animals. They’re providing the money to get the “humane” initiative on the 2008 California ballot.

This isn’t the first campaign they’ve run in an effort to make common farming practices illegal. Farm Sanctuary paid a $50,000 fine for election fraud after a 2002 Florida campaign very similar to the one just launched in California.

Thanks to Farm Sanctuary’s fraud and deceit, Florida’s state constitution now includes a clause giving legal rights to pregnant pigs. The momentum from this illegal election victory provided momentum for a 2006 Arizona initiative that added veal calves to the mix. The California measure includes egg-laying hens.

Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile. And in this case, the animal activists’ chicken proposals alone could triple the cost of supermarket eggs.

It’s possible to be a decent human being without signing a save-the-chickens petition. And kindness to animals – actual flesh-and-blood creatures – is a good thing. Volunteer at your local shelter. Adopt a cat. Get your dog spayed or neutered. Feed your fish.
But recognize that extending human “rights” to animals is a truly crazy notion. It’s possible to be so open-minded that your brain falls out.