In a move that livestock groups say is not eco-friendly to livestock as claimed, California voters have voted overwhelmingly in favor of banning gestation crates for pregnant pigs. Californians vote 63.2% to 36.8% in favor of Proposition 2, which will require that pregnant pigs, laying hens and calves raised for veal to be kept in enclosures large enough that they can turn around and fully extend their limbs. Producers will have until January 1, 2015 to change their housing systems.
"California often is a bellweather, so it's likely this ban will be pushed in other states," says Bryan Black, president of the National Pork Producers Council.
Voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area voted for the measure by a large margin, while most of the Central Valley, the state’s leading agricultural region, and north state opposing it.
With few veal producers in the state and the largest pork producer voluntarily planning to eliminate small crates, the law that goes into effect in 2015 will mostly affect the state's 20 million egg-laying hens. The measure was championed by the Humane Society of the United States.
Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers, called the results disappointing. “From the very beginning, we knew we were fighting an uphill battle. Animal rights groups succeeded in convincing voters in California into thinking Prop. 2 was about animal cruelty by using images of pets in their ads, when in fact, Prop. 2 simply was a means to try to end animal farming in that state.”
Gregory says that because the wording of Prop. 2 is so vague, the state will have to determine how this new law actually will be implemented and enforced. Under the wording of the ballot measure, laying hens will need to be able to stand up, stretch their wings, dust bathe and do other things that free-range chickens can do.
“Will other states be targeted for initiatives similar to Prop. 2? Probably,” Gregory says. But just because voters in one state like California pass Prop. 2 doesn’t mean that the other 49 states should follow suit.” He notes that the egg industry received support in urging voters to vote no from numerous organizations, and the endorsement of more than 30 of the largest and most influential newspapers in the state, including The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee.
Each side of the issue raised about $8.5 million for its campaign, the L.A. Times says.