California has been very, very good to animals.
So says the Humane Society of the United States, which bills itself as "the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization."
For the sixth straight year, the society has ranked the Golden State No. 1 on its list of 50 states for laws and policies relating to wildlife, farm livestock, pets and animal fighting. Oregon placed second and Illinois came in third.
"Across a wide range of animal cruelty issues, California has enshrined more policies to address those problems than any other state," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Washington, D.C., organization. "There's been a cascade of reform."
The state has passed regulations, legislation and ballot measures to improve animals' lives, Pacelle said. They include bans on dog and cock fighting, hunting of bears with dogs, poisonous lead bullets for hunting, shortening dairy cow tails and the sale and possession of shark fins, the main ingredient in a once-popular soup served in Chinese restaurants.
On Jan. 1, an initiative approved by voters in 2008 took effect, requiring that egg-laying hens have roomier roosts. A 2004 prohibition on the sale of foie gras, a delicacy that requires geese be force-fed, was ruled unconstitutional this month by a federal judge. The decision is being appealed.
Not everyone has been thrilled by the animal measures. Many chicken ranchers fought the more spacious henhouses. Some restaurateurs opposed the foie-gras ban. Hunting and firearms advocates denouncedthe prohibition on lead bullets, which takes effect in 2019, as an underhanded attempt to eliminate hunting.
The Humane Society is "a radical, animal rights, anti-hunting organization," said Lawrence Keane, general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which lobbies on behalf of firearms makers and sellers.
The bullet bill passed, he said, because Sacramento is "dominated by legislators elected from urban areas, where they do not have much exposure or understanding of hunting tradition."
'Hidden gas tax'
Business lobbyists and oil companies last year warned that a California anti-global warming program would force motorists to pay a "hidden gas tax" of as much as 76 cents a gallon beginning Jan. 1.
But the cost increase — passed along by refiners to cover the cost of buying so-called cap-and-trade pollution credits — hasn't happened, at least not yet.
Instead, gasoline prices, which have dropped by more than half since June, are still falling."It doesn't seem like anything can stop this party," said David J. Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, an energy consulting firm in Irvine. "Even the dreaded California cap-and-trade price hike has yet to materialize."
The tax exists but drivers aren't feeling it, insists Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for Californians Against Higher Taxes, a business-backed public relations campaign. "Eventually," she said, "it will impact consumers."