Stop animal abuse at the fair

As students, alumni and faculty of the UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine and UCLA schools of law, we are writing to urge the UC Board of Regents to cease its support of and participation in the cruel confinement of pigs at the annual California State Fair.

Recently, we were horrified to learn that pregnant and nursing pigs at the UC-sponsored state fair are confined for more than three weeks in crates that restrict the pigs’ movement to such a degree that they cannot even turn around or extend their limbs. The pigs are not provided with bedding material to protect their skin from the metal flooring, causing them significant discomfort and frustrating their maternal nesting instincts. The pigs suffer like this, restless and depressed, chewing the metal bars of their crates, for the entire three-week duration of the fair, without so much as a single break to stretch their legs.

The pigs also endure needless suffering before the fair even begins, as pigs are transported to the fair in the final two weeks of their pregnancies, a stressful process that can cause the pigs to abort. If the unborn piglets survive the transport, the mothers are then forced to give birth with a crowd of strangers looking on just four feet away, causing additional suffering, as pigs have a strong instinct to isolate themselves before, during and after birthing the piglets.

There is simply no justification for this cruel practice, be it legal or scientific. California Penal Code § 597t prohibits the confinement of any animal without adequate exercise. Moreover, studies have shown that piglet mortality rates are lower when piglets are kept in open pens. The Alameda County Fair, for example, provides open pens instead of farrowing crates, precisely because doing so enhances the welfare of both the sow and her piglets.

The UC-sponsored state fair purports to provide “big fun” and “education” to “inspire the young and young at heart,” but animal suffering is not “big fun,” and sharing methods for causing such suffering is not the kind of education we value in the UC system. By propagating this outdated and illegal cruelty with taxpayer dollars, the regents are acting in direct conflict with the university’s stated mission of “transmitting advanced knowledge and discovering new knowledge.” In fact, the modern-day trend is just the opposite, with more and more farmers moving toward humane, environmentally friendly alternatives such as open pens. And yet, rather than simply ceasing this cruel and illegal practice, the regents are expending taxpayer resources to defend it in court.

Through the use of open pens, the Alameda County Fair provides persons in attendance with a far better educational experience than does the regent-sponsored state fair: Open pens allow the public to observe pigs’ natural behaviors while also conveying the importance of respecting all animals — and in particular, those we exploit for food. As for “big fun,” if you asked a child whether he or she would rather watch a pig frolic in the mud or lie straitjacketed in a metal crate, the child would invariably opt for mud.

As members of the UC community, we are ashamed to be affiliated with this cruelty. We ask that the regents follow the lead of the Alameda County Fair by switching from inhumane farrowing crates to open pens. Until they take that step, the regents continue to besmirch the good name of the university and those of each of us within it.

 UC Law Schools United Against Cruelty includes the National Lawyers Guild Chapter at the UC Davis School of Law, Gillian Kuhlmann and Elizabeth Tissot at the UC Irvine School of Law, Rebekah DeHaven and Matthew Hamity at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Kelsey Rinehart at the UCLA School of Law, and Mary Vegher, Angel Korer and Megan Miller at the UC Hastings College of the Law.

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