California Passes Prop 12 on Housing of Farm Animals, With Mixed Reactions

PetMD Editorial
Published: November 08, 2018
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Florida was not the only state to pass animal welfare-related legislature this past election. California voters also overwhelming voted to pass Proposition 12.

The Official Voter Information Guide for California explains that Proposition 12 (also known as the Prevention of Cruelty to Farmed Animal Act), “Establishes minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals. Prohibits sales of meat and egg products from animals confined in noncomplying manner.” It would go into effect in 2022.

Some animal activists view this as a step forward because it closes a loophole left by Proposition 2, which banned animal cages that prevented farm animals from being able to turn around freely, lie down, stand up or fully extend their limbs.

However, “freely” was left wide open to interpretation, leaving many animals tightly confined. And while this proposition applied to the farm animals of California, it did not benefit the out-of-state farm animals who contributed to products being imported into California.

Proposition 12 would close that loophole and ensure that egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and calves raised for veal would have to be housed in spaces that meet the minimum requirement for confinement. Any meat or egg products originating from California or imported to California must come from farms that provide at least the minimal requirements for more humane living spaces.

While this may seem like an undeniable win for animal welfare, support for the proposition is mixed. Those endorsing Prop 12 include The Humane Society, the ASPCA, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club and Earth Justice. It is opposed by some local and national animal welfare organizations—the Humane Farming Association, The Association of California Egg Farmers, the National Pork Producers Council, and PETA.

The ASPCA released a statement where Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA says, “The passage of Prop 12 will protect countless farm animals from cruelty, and we applaud California voters.” The Animal Legal Defense Fund celebrated on their Facebook page, saying, “Prop 12 ends one of the cruelest aspects of factory farming—confining animals in cages so small they can barely move—for millions of chickens, cows and pigs. It also requires that all products sold in California come from operations that meet these modest standards.”

PETA’s objections stem from the minimal requirement of space for chickens being only 1 square foot. PETA explains, “We can’t and don’t consider it remotely humane to confine birds to a miserly 1 square foot of space—and this wouldn’t even be required until years in the future.”

Other farm-focused animal welfare organizations have objections rooted in the very idea of setting confinement requirements. The Humane Farming Association (HFA) argues that Proposition 2 mislead California voters about the fate of cages in the egg industry, saying, “Voters were told, by both sides of the debate, that its passage would ban egg-industry cages statewide by 2015. Instead, the state’s egg industry merely invested in new cages and modified old ones.”

Now with Proposition 12, the HFA says that the government has essentially legalized the very cages they condemned in the first place. “With the passage of Proposition 12, egg factory cages are becoming officially legal in California and will remain so for years to come. Far from improving conditions on factory farms, egg laying hens that were in cages before Prop 12, will remain suffering cages after Prop 12. Calves that were in crates before Prop 12, will remain suffering crates after Prop 12.”

So, while Proposition 12 will ensure that animals have a legally required amount of space, the amount of space defined within the legislation is hotly debated, and it essentially legalizes the use of cages for farm animals.

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