Pigs, calves could join chickens on California’s cage-free list

Published 8/30 in The Sacramento Bee by Jim Miller

Nearly a decade after winning a nationally watched California campaign to require more space for egg-laying hens, the Humane Society of the United States on Tuesday moved to return to the state ballot in 2018 with another far-reaching initiative.

The proposed “Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act” would impose new rules for cage-free hens as well as set strict limits on confining calves and pigs.

“Californians know that locking farm animals in tight cages for the duration of their lives is cruel and compromises food safety,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “All animals deserve humane treatment, especially those raised for food.”

Pacelle’s group contends that many egg producers have skirted Proposition 2’s intent by rearranging hen cages to comply with density rules. An industry-friendly decision by the state Department of Food and Agriculture further undercut the 2008 initiative, activists claim.

The proposed November 2018 measure would require, by the following year, that eggs produced and sold in California come from “cage-free” hens that have one square foot of space apiece. By 2021, all hens would have to live in cage-free systems.

By Dec. 31, 2019, all veal would have to come from farms that don’t lock calves in veal crates. And gestation crates for pigs would be prohibited by Dec. 31, 2021.

Aided by thousands of volunteers and the timely release of undercover videos showing purported mistreatment of farm animals, Proposition 2 received to 63.5 percent of the vote in November 2008 despite facing well-funded opposition by egg producers and other agricultural industry groups.

State lawmakers later required that all eggs sold in California had to comply with Proposition 2, not just those produced in the state. Agricultural trade groups, backed by politicians in other states, sued to overturn California’s rules but ultimately lost in court.

Once proponents receive title and summary for the latest measure, they will have to collect 365,880 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Other supporters include the Center for Food Safety, San Francisco SPCA, San Diego Humane Society, and The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

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