Thanks to the hard work of volunteers throughout California, voters in the Golden State are now likely to vote this November on whether or not to create the world’s strongest farm animal protection law. Recently, the coalition Prevent Cruelty California, which is composed of a wide variety of animal protection, environmental, and food safety groups, gathered 600,000 signatures to place a measure on the statewide ballot that, if passed, would ban the sale of products from caged pigs, hens, and calves.
With the signatures now turned in, the coalition’s attention turns to fundraising and obtaining endorsements for the campaign Unsurprisingly, a coalition of animal agribusiness groups is opposing the measure, including the Association of California Egg Farmers, National Association of Pork Producers, and American Veal Association.
Even though voters passed a measure a decade ago to require better living conditions for laying hens confined in the state, most of the eggs sold in California stil come from caged hens. This pending ballot measure would require that within a year, eggs sold statewide must come from birds given at least 144 square inches per animal. (The norm today for eggs sold in California is between 67-116 square inches per bird, depending on whether the eggs are sold in liquid or shell form.). And by 2021, the law would explicitly require these birds be housed in cage-free environments.
To be clear: cage-free doesn’t mean cruelty-free. But it’s a serious improvement over keeping the birds locked up in cages. Not only can cage-free birds walk, they can flap their wings, dust-bathe, perch, lay their eggs in nesting boxes, and engage in other important social behaviors. Rather than allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, animal advocates are supporting this measure because they know that it will reduce an enormous amount of animal suffering.
The secretary of state should certify the measure for the ballot in the near future. When that happens, you can expect the battle lines to be drawn, and California will become the epicenter of the national debate about the treatment of farm animals for the rest of 2018.