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California cage-free egg initiative cleared for November ballot

Cage-free living
Prevent Cruelty California campaign will get ballot number in July.

An enhanced animal welfare measure has been approved for California’s November ballot after receiving more than 660,000 signatures from voters in the state.

The measure would require cage-free housing and improve space requirements in California for breeding pigs, egg laying hens and veal calves. It would also ensure that pork, eggs and veal sold in the state come from operations meeting these same standards.

The Prevent Cruelty California campaign will get a ballot number in July. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals, Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assn. are among the groups that helped sponsor the Prevent Cruelty California campaign.

Kitty Block, acting president and chief executive officer at HSUS, said in a blog post that the next phase of the campaign begins now.

“Ballot initiatives are very difficult to qualify, but they are even more difficult to pass,” Block wrote. “Factory farming corporations are likely to spend millions of dollars fighting this initiative because they know that the success of this ballot measure will be the ultimate game-changer in the fight against factory farming.”

Block added in a plea to its followers, “We will need your help to take on these agribusiness interest groups. 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.”

The ballot initiative would establish that eggs produced and sold in California must come from only cage-free birds and that, within one year of enactment, eggs sold statewide would have to come from birds given 144 sq. in. of space each — which meets the United Egg Producers' (UEP) already established “cage-free standard.” The typical cage system normally provides 67-86 sq. in. of space. The measure subsequently would explicitly require that all birds must live in cage-free systems by Dec. 31, 2021.

The new initiative prohibits sales of pork products derived from farms that confine sows in gestation crates by Dec. 31, 2021, and requires that veal sold in California come from farms that do not put calves in veal crates by Dec. 31, 2019.

Earlier this spring, during the signature drive, Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection at HSUS, said the ballot proposal will build off the success of California's Proposition 2 a decade ago and mandate cage-free conditions for egg laying hens and additional space for mothering pigs and veal calves.

“At the time, Proposition 2 was the most far-reaching law for farm animals,” Balk said. However, since then, major corporations have made commitments to offer only cage-free eggs. “In a natural evolution in farming progressing to better reflect the norms of how animals should be treated, it made sense California standards would mirror how society is shifting,” he added.

TAGS: Policy
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