In West Virginia, chickens outnumber people almost eight to one. 1 Unfortunately for West Virginians, however, the creation of a state board in 2010 greatly reduced state citizens’ say in how those chickens live. 2 This might not matter all that much if all chickens roosted in lovely red barns 3 and were raised by farmers with at least as much concern for animal well-being as for personal profit. Nationwide, because this balance is distinctly not the case, several confinement practices—including the confinement of chickens to battery cages—have been questioned and banned in a handful of states. 4
If West Virginians were to decide that they too opposed the confinement of chickens or other livestock, they now have an additional burden above and beyond soliciting their state representatives to address the issue. Citizens either must convince the West Virginia Livestock Care Standards Board to promulgate new rules or convince the state legislature to bypass the board, something quite unlikely to happen given how contentious confinement improvements are; indeed, some have asserted that Livestock Care Standards Boards were created for the distinct purpose of removing power from the public to make laws on this subject matter. 5 This Essay argues that Livestock Care Standards Boards unnecessarily remove power from the public because (1) consumer autonomy should trump farmer autonomy, (2) confinement issues evoke more than merely irrational attention, and (3) consumers are capable of making the primarily economic assessment involved in improving livestock living conditions.