California joins Florida and Arizona as the third state whose voters approved a referendum dictating the way animals on farms are housed. The well-known Proposition 2 passed this week by a margin of 63.2 percent to 36.8 percent.
Like the two previous states, California will outlaw gestation-sow and veal crates, along with requiring all egg-producing chickens to be kept in more spacious cages or to roam loose within a henhouse. Previous measures required that step only for chickens producing eggs for human consumption. Industry analysts say the new law’s requirements will have the most significant impact on poultry farmers in the state, and that it will touch 95 percent of the state's egg and chicken production.
Specifically, the measure requires animals for "all or the majority of any day" to not be "confined in a way that prevents it from lying down, standing up, turning around or extending its limbs without touching another animal or an enclosure such as a cage or stall." Producers will have until Jan. 1, 2015, to change their housing systems, and the law will carry criminal penalties for violator, including fines and jail time.
In Florida's case, the state's two major pork producers closed their doors. Beyond that, because of the limited number of hogs in the state, there was little effect. In Arizona, the impact of implementing its law will have a greater impact, as Clougherty Packing Company operates a major production system in the state.
According to USDA's 2002 Census numbers, Florida ranked 31st in U.S. pork production with 33,479 hogs; California comes in at 27, with 163,465 hogs. Of course, that data is a bit aged by now as Florida's vote came in 2002 and Arizona's in 2006. Arizona is not reported because Clougherty has such a major share of the state's numbers that as a packer, if USDA released its numbers it would report confidential information. But suffice it to say, that Arizona is not a top-ranking pork production state.
A couple of years ago, Colorado pork producers faced a similar fate, as animal activists were laying the groundwork for a voter referendum. But the industry took it upon itself to voluntarily phase out gestation-crates, thereby controlling the steps and requirements versus having them dictated to them. Colorado does not rank in the top 12 states. Oregon's state house also drafted and passed its own measure to address crates, stalls and cages used in farm-animal production. But, again, Oregon ranks very low on the pork production list.
And that's exactly how the activists like it -- attack "small" production states, make some headway and move on, with the eventual goal of moving up the production scale to more significant states, or nationally.
Despite multiple pork industry, veterinary, livestock, poultry and agricultural-based organizations' efforts to fight such measures, more ballot initiatives will surface. The agriculture industry has been trying to fight such measures, but money helps and its coffers don't run anywhere near as deep as the Humane Society of the United States', which headed up the California, Arizona and Florida efforts.
“California often is a bellwether, so it’s likely this ban will be pushed in other states,” says Bryan Black, National Pork Producers Council president and Ohio pork producer. “We certainly don’t expect HSUS to stop with California.”
“Now that the ballot initiative has passed, veterinarians and animal-welfare scientists must be involved in its implementation to make sure that resulting changes in animal housing actually improve conditions for the animals they are intended to help,” says Ron DeHaven, DVM, American Veterinary Medical Association chief executive officer. “If we're not careful, animal health and welfare problems could be precipitated that are as significant as the concerns Proposition 2 aspires to address.”