California to vote on new farm animal confinement laws

California voters will decide on a measure that would eliminate the use of cages for hens laying eggs that are produced or sold in California, after enough signatures were obtained to put the measure on the statewide ballot.

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Vector Story, Bigstock
Vector Story, Bigstock

California voters will decide on a measure that would eliminate the use of cages for hens laying eggs that are produced or sold in California, after enough signatures were obtained to put the measure on the statewide ballot.

According to a press release from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the initiative became eligible to be on the ballot for the November 6, 2018, election after it gained the necessary 365,800 valid petition signatures – an amount equal to the total votes cast for governor in the November 2014 general election.

The initiative, if approved, would establish new minimum space requirements for confining veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens in the state, and would require that all laying hens would be required to be raised in a cage-free environment by the end of 2021. It would also prohibit the sale of products from animals not raised according to the conditions set forth by the measure.

Those behind the ballot initiative

The ballot initiative was pushed by a coalition known by Prevent Cruelty California, which consists of the following non-governmental organizations: Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Crulty to Animals, San Diego Humane Society, Marin Humane, Center for Food Safety, Mercy for Animals, the Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, Animal Equality, Animal Protection & Rescue League, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Farm Forward, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Youlo County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, In Defense of Animals, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, Compassion over Killing, World Animal Protection, Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Rescue+Freedom Project.

The proposed animal confinement laws, if enacted, would replace Proposition 2, which requires that all eggs produced in the state be laid by hens that have adequate room to stand up, sit down, turn around and extend their limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage. Similar requirements were established for pigs and calves used in pork and veal production. It would also replace AB 1437, which called for the same egg production standards for all eggs sold in the state.

In a blog, Kitty Block, who has served as the acting president and CEO of HSUS since Wayne Pacelle stepped down in February amid sexual harassment allegations, expressed that getting the measure on the ballot was just the first step in the process.

“Ballot initiatives are very difficult to quality, but they are even more difficult to pass,” she wrote, stating she expected opposition from “factory farming corporations.”

“If the campaign succeeds, not only would the animals in California be better off, but other states would have a strong precedent to follow when they consider their own farm animal welfare laws.”

Criticism of ballot initiative

According to a press release from the Humane Farming Association (HFA), a public hearing was recently held concerning the ballot measure, and during that hearing, HSUS was unable to answer questions asked by California Assembly members.

HFA has formed a campaign committee to oppose the ballot initiative.

Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, asked HSUS representatives why it didn’t write Proposition 2 to include the standards that are being presented, and according to the press release, the animal rights group sidestepped the question. The release further stated that Assembly members Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, and Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, requested details about the campaign’s fundraising and its paid signature gathering process, but HSUS was unable to provide the information requested.

Bradley Miller, HFA director, called the ballot initiative “just a publicity stunt in search of a lawsuit.” He further stated, “Not only does this come at great taxpayer expense, HSUS’s reckless exploitation of California’s ballot measure system is putting in grave danger a wide array of existing consumer, animal and environmental protection laws.”

 

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