California voters will soon be voting on a ballot in which the initiative language of Proposition 2 would virtually eliminate all egg farms in the state with the exception of free-range flocks. Promar International, a professional economist, has estimated that 95% of the California farms will be forced to free-range and unable to compete with cheaper cage eggs shipped from other states or other countries, especially Mexico.
The initiative is still referred to by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other activists as “Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act,” although the legal title is “Treatment of Farm Animals Statute”. The language of concern is, “Fully extending limbs means fully extending all limbs without touching the side of an enclosure, including in the case of egg-laying hens, fully spreading both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.”
Based upon a hen having a 28-inch wingspan, this proposed measure would require both cage and cage-free production to provide each hen with a minimum of 784 square inches. Cage-free guidelines per United Egg Producer’s (UEP) recommendations and others require space per hen at 1.0 to 1.5 square feet (12 to 18 square inches) depending upon the housing system. UEP guidelines, for cage production requires 67 to 76 square inches per hen based upon the breed. Therefore, it must be assumed that all cage and cage-free systems would be banned by this legislation. Additionally, this proposed measure would ban the use of the new “enriched or furnished” cage systems, which are being mandated in the European Union.
Animal welfare guidelines are based upon the individual hen so we must assume that the initiative language of spreading both wings applies to every hen within the cage, house, barn, or enclosure and that no hen touches another hen.