The Humane Society of the United States has introduced a ballot initiative aimed at making farm animal welfare regulations more rigorous in California. The state already has some the most demanding laws in the country pertaining to farm animals, but the new initiative looks to tighten rules for pigs, chickens, and cows even further.
The proposed “Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act” would mandate all pork and veal sold in California be produced without restrictive crates. It would also require all eggs produced and sold in the state to be cage-free. If passed, California would be one of only two states to have such regulations on farm animal welfare.
Proposition 2, which was put into effect in 2015, already requires hens, pigs and calves to have the ability to stand up, lie down and fully extend their limbs. Those same standards were also applied to eggs sold in the state after the state Legislature implemented AB1437.
Further changes to hen housing can carry significant costs. Cage-free production is also problematic as hens can be aggressive, increasing the overall mortality rate. Those costs would likely be passed on to the consumer, as seen in a 2016 study from Cornell University which showed a 49-cent increase to the cost of a dozen eggs after California banned battery cages.
The initiative would have the biggest impact on the pork industry. Producers from other states would have to adhere to the regulations in order to sell their products in California. A national transition away from gestation crates is estimated to cost the pork industry anywhere from $1.9 billion to upwards of $3.2 billion dollars.
The proposed November 2018 measure would require that by 2020, each cage free hen will require more than 144 square inches of usable floor space each and veal will also have to come from farms that do not use veal crates. Gestation crates for pigs would also then be prohibited by 2022.
Organizers will have to collect 365,880 valid voter signatures within 180 days to qualify for the 2018 ballot. Supporters of the initiative include the San Francisco SPCA and San Diego Humane Society.