As the Nov. 4, Election Day fast approaches, debate surrounding California's Proposition 2 is heating up. The animal-welfare referendum continues to generate attention, including proponents' television appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show and the Ellen Degeneres show.

As the pork industry knows all too well, if passed Proposition 2 would prohibit crates or stalls for gestating sows, veal calves, egg-laying hens by Jan. 1, 2015. At issue, according to activists' spokespersons is "confining in such a way that they cannot lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs, or turn around freely without touching the sides of an enclosure, during the majority of the day."

The reality is that the animal-rights groups are using this mechanism to further pressure and end food-animal agriculture. For example, University of California-Davis studies suggest that Proposition 2 will eliminate the California egg industry.

But other animal-ag industries not directly cited in the voter referendum are concerned about the impact, and well they should be. Pete Kistler, DVM, with Valley Veterinarians in Tulare, Calif., points out that in 2006 the Animal Legal Defense fund sued the Mendes Calf Ranch in nearby Tipton, Calif. The calf ranch was accused of animal cruelty and keeping calves in enclosures that were too small for the calves to comfortably stand up and turn around. At issue were the calf huts commonly used in the dairy industry to individually house calves.

The case was dismissed because at the time there was no statute defining dimensions of farm-animal enclosures, Kistler says.

“This proposition is not about chickens in cages or how we raise animals. The real agenda is that the Humane Society of the United States wants to eliminate the consumption of animal tissues, period,” says Bob Cherenson, DVM, Lander Veterinary Clinic in Turlock, Calif. “This is an animal-rights initiative, not an animal-welfare initiative.”

Cherenson and Kistler believe this is only the beginning. They encourage all food-animal producers across the United States to be proactive in educating consumers, as similar — or even more onerous — legislation could be introduced in other states. California is the third state, behind Florida and Arizona, to present the issue to state voters.

A recent Center for Food Integrity survey says that 47 percent of consumers would support a law in their state to ensure the humane treatment of farm animals.

For more information on Proposition 2,  click here.