We all work under unseen laws. We’ve heard for a long time about the Law of Attraction. This was strongly emphasized in the best-selling book “The Secret”. All kinds of classes and workshops were built around the Law of Attraction. There were outrageous claims and lots of money was made selling prosperity and the Law of Attraction.
I never hear anyone speaking much about another law, the Law of Unintended Consequences. How about some workshops around this law? Probably no money to be made but they could help. Here’s a case in point in California. Several years ago Proposition 2-to eliminate caged chickens- was passed. Sounded great and the voters thought why not. Let’s vote for it and get chickens out of those awful cages and on to the pecking floors of barns and barnyards. Hence, we now have happier chickens–or will have on January 1st when the law goes into affect. Admittedly, the cages were cruel and changes needed to be made. Using industrial farming, such as caged chickens, allowed America to provide inexpensive foods to her citizens. Americans overall, are completely separated from how their foods are produced. Basically, it comes in a package in Trader Joe’s. Granted farmer’s markets help but they are expensive and cannot produce enough for Americans.
Hence, the law of unintended consequences. We now have happier chickens, good show! However, they are estimating egg prices will go through the roof. Many egg farmers are getting out of the business and those who stay, have had to cut their flock in half to accommodate larger spaces for the chickens. Other states that provide eggs to California will have to comply with the same law in order do business in California. This will most likely become a nationwide movement. It is not impossible that we could see ourselves importing our eggs.
I was at Nickels Diner in Los Angles this weekend. This is a tops, don’t miss place to eat. It’s on the list of the Best 100 Drive-Ins and Diners in America. Anyway, the owners (two women) were talking to me about how they expected their egg pricing to almost double soon. Many restaurants, especially breakfast and bakeries establishments, are stressed over how they will handle the added costs and pass them on to their customers. In the next breath they mention that the simple egg was one of the cheapest foods for the poor. It delivers protein and amino acids and has always been something the poor could afford when they couldn’t buy other more expensive proteins. Good question!
They went on to say that so many of these propositions sound so good but are so poorly thought through. Who would think that Proposition 2 for enhancing the life of the chicken would, perhaps, take away from the poor an inexpensive form of protein.
What my takeaway from this is the standard Law of Unintended Consequences. So many of our decisions are made without enough thinking, especially long-term thinking. We made decisions for the short term not the long term. In our own personal lives, when we are making important decisions, think deeply about the potential for unintended consequences. Some of these consequences are painful and long-term. Think and then think again. We do not get to eat just one slice of the bread, we will eat the whole loaf.
This is an interesting Proposition 2. The Department of Food and Agriculture will use its food safety authority to audit whether each bird gets at least 116 square inches of space but it can’t enforce either Proposition 2 or the egg import law. The initial proposition approved by voters did not empower a state agency to monitor cage size. California is also relying on the out of state producers for assurances of their production. January 2014 saw a dozen eggs in California cost $1.34 by December the average in California was $2.77. Expectation for additional price jumps of 10 to 40% in the next 3-6 months. Lawsuits are growing and out-of-state producers are suing so we’ll see where it all goes.
Meantime “specialty” eggs such as “free range”, “cage-free”, “pasture raised” or “organic” may start coming down over time as all eggs are basically now cage-free. In the 1980’s there were 2,500 major egg farmers. Today, there are 172. It is a small margin business and egg farmers have either sold out to larger industry farmers or quit the farm. California egg production has fallen by 22% over the past 2 years. Six states supplying eggs to California have sued California, saying the rule violates the US Constitution by impeding interstate commerce. The out-of-state producers are huge and California needs them as they must import eggs. The lawyers will do well and the taxpayers will pay because of a poorly created Proposition. The idea is worthy and we need to treat our farm animals more humanely. We need to think it all through prior to our vote.
I agree with the comment above . We can do better to improve the lives of those we eat! I don,t even think we need to be eating animals anymore, or at least I’ll speak for myself.. Millions are slaughtered daily. A friend who has a stray chicken hanging around her yard (near the Beverly Center, no less) said the hen is so intelligent and witty she can’t bear to eat any chicken. A new book entitled Chained is now out, featuring a quartered pig on the cover, and it,s being hailed as the next Sinclair-like muck raker. If a person makes a decision to reduce suffering in the world rather than add to it, this is a very good place to start.
Greetings, Gail, and happy new year. Thanks very much for this thought provoking post. Looking from the retrospective point of view, the conditions that led to the conception and ultimate passing of Proposition 2 were the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution, the legalization of corporate personhood, economies of scale, prioritizing and protecting the interests of shareholders (few) over stakeholders (many), etc.
Although the becoming of Proposition 2 as law has unintended consequences, I don’t believe continuing to comply with the current consequences of the corporate and societal structures we created in the past bodes any better for society in the long run. Given the complexity of the world we live in, every decision, law, action we make and take will have unintended consequences of some sort. If we start to second- and third-guess every change for the better we consider because of uncertainly over the unintended consequences, we’ll paralyze ourselves from doing anything useful at all.
I am not suggesting we should implement changes blind to the potential unintended consequences. The big changes we propose deserve their due analysis of all the potential risks and rewards. However, I do suggest that the changes pursued in the interest of co-creating a more loving, life-affirming, and sustainable planet for all sentient beings are worth the trials, discomfort, and adjustment to get there.