Thursday, August 19, 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.