Capitol Alert

More space for pigs, calves and hens? California voters will soon decide

Raley's announced it will transition all private-label eggs to cage-free by this July. In November 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, which included language restricting farmers from putting laying hens in small cages. The Humane Society of the United States has filed a proposed November 2018 ballot measure that would expand on the 2008 law.
Raley's announced it will transition all private-label eggs to cage-free by this July. In November 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, which included language restricting farmers from putting laying hens in small cages. The Humane Society of the United States has filed a proposed November 2018 ballot measure that would expand on the 2008 law.

A new initiative aimed at expanding living space for egg-laying hens, pigs and calves has made its way onto the November ballot, the secretary of state's office announced Friday.

The ballot measure builds on the passage of Proposition 2 — a 2008 initiative that prohibited California farmers from housing pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens in cages or crates that don't allow them to turn around freely. The new initiative offers greater specificity by setting explicit standards for animal confinement.

By 2022, egg-laying hens would need to be placed in cage-free housing. Breeding pigs and calves raised for veal would also be required to have at least 24 and 43 square feet of floor space, respectively.

The Humane Society of the United States is the primary backer of the initiative. Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection at HSUS, said it is important for California farmers to treat animals more humanely.

"Cage confinement systems are the most cruel, inhumane abuses done to farm animals," Balk said.

Chad Gregory, president and CEO of the United Egg Producers, said in a statement that his organization doesn't have a position in the matter.

"Our farmer-members support all types of hen housing," Gregory said in a statement. "Changes in hen housing are complex and costly, and they require close collaboration with customers. Our focus remains on proper management of hen health and well-being, and meeting or exceeding all food safety requirements."

An analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's office estimates the state would face up to $10 million in potential costs to enforce the measure.

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