Elections are just around the corner and you’ve probably made up your mind about a number of the issues after seeing the debates, watching the commercials and listening to both sides. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that a certain proposition has fallen below your radar. Yeah, the animal rights one – Proposition 2.

Since becoming aware of animal rights issues in 2006, I have struggled with my knowledge of abuses within the meat, egg and dairy industries and my feelings of helplessness for the millions of animals who suffer because of them.

Cages are miniscule to maximize numbers, many animals are forcibly impregnated every year and workers are encouraged to move fast — often at risk of hurting themselves or increasing the pain for the animals. Most of these animals are perpetually stuck in their own filth and are treated like products, not living beings, long before they become meat or lay eggs.

If you’ve ever been to www.meat.org, you’ve seen that pregnant and nursing pigs are forced into undersized cages that prevent them from taking even a step forward or backward. Similarly, veal calves, taken from their mothers soon after birth, spend their lives in tiny crates that are specifically sized to prevent simple movements and muscle growth. Fortunately, Proposition 2 gives California voters a chance to change these practices.

Hoping to make animals’ lives more bearable, Proposition 2 creates new, more ethical standards for egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs and veal calves. According to the attorney general, the law would require that by 2015 these specific animals be confined only in ways that allow them “to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs and turn around,” with exceptions for transportation purposes. A violation of the measure would result in a misdemeanor, a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months.

The abusive treatment of animals lin the meat industry, which extends far beyond what I’ve covered here, ultimately led me to become vegan. I don’t expect the knowledge of abuse to animals to have that kind of effect on everyone, but I do expect that as university students you are willing to think critically about structures of power – including the treatment of animals. It’s a little weird to do at first if meat-eating has been a natural part of your life for a long time, but however ingrained in our habits we are, it’s important to question industries that have so much power and influence over us.

If you’re feeling a little daunted, just remember that it is possible to be an educated eater and eat what you want. Buying less meat or choosing organic and free-range products can make a major impact. Try going vegetarian for a week and see what new recipes you discover. If you can’t afford to make these choices, simply educating yourself and others about the meat industry can help to improve animals’ lives. Before the November elections, ask yourself the following questions: Is the abusive treatment of animals justified because it satisfies my passing desire for a certain taste? Are larger cages a step toward fairness or an unnecessary regulation? Does Proposition 2 align with my ethics and worldview?

Only you can really answer these questions for yourself. Don’t worry about the opinions of others and decide for yourself what is right for your lifestyle and ethics when it comes to voting and what you eat. I strongly encourage you to check out www.yesonprop2.com and your voter’s guide to learn more so you can cast an informed vote in November.