Great news for California chickens, cows, and pigs as midterms voters overwhelmingly supported an initiative codifying the most progressive animal welfare protections in the world.
California Proposition 12, which passed with more than 61% of the vote, sets specific space requirements for confined animals raised for food.
Building on a popular but flawed 2008 measure, which was supposed to ensure animals had space to turn around, stretch, and lie down, the updated rules specify square footage for each animal.
Law sets new space requirements for pigs, chickens and cows and also bans sale of caged eggs from 2022
The new guidelines are unambiguous and ban sales from producers who don’t comply – even if they are from outside of the state.
The proposition also adds an enforcement mechanism, giving the initiative teeth its predecessor lacked. The state’s department of food and agriculture, alongside its department of public health, will now be charged with overseeing the regulations and violators could face misdemeanor charges and fines.
The Humane Society was one of several animal rights organizations that backed the ballot, collectively financing more than $13m in support.
“California voters have sent a loud and clear message that they reject cruel cage confinement in the meat and egg industries,” Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote in a statement after the election results were announced.
“Thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers and coalition partners who made this victory happen, millions of veal calves, mother pigs and egg-laying hens will never know the misery of being locked in a tiny cage for the duration of their lives.”
They came up against other animal activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the Humane Farming Association and the Friends of Animals, however, who criticized the move for not going far enough.
The Association of California Egg Farmers and the National Pork Producers Council were also in opposition, emphasizing that the new rules would cause food prices to spike.