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California's Proposition 2 Creates Unrest in Iowa

by 5m Editor
10 November 2008, at 11:09a.m.

US - Sponsors of a California ballot initiative that sets new welfare standards for livestock are pledging to push those changes nationwide.

That's just what livestock interests in Iowa and nationally were worried about, says DesMoinesRegister.com. They contributed millions to a campaign to defeat the measure, which would effectively ban the use of sow stalls and hen cages. Farming interests in Iowa contributed about $300,000 to the campaign against the measure.

The measure won't take effect until 2015, and it's not clear how quickly and widely those standards could be adopted nationwide, industry officials say.

"It's too soon to say what's going to happen," said Kevin Vinchattle, executive director of the Iowa Egg Council, the trade organization for Iowa's egg industry, which is the nation's largest.


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"No state in the U.S. and no agribusiness titan anywhere in the nation can overlook this mandate: People do not want their farm animals treated with wanton cruelty."
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States

California is the sixth-largest egg producer, and if farms there shrink, "that's a lot of egg production that's going to have to be picked up somewhere else," he said. California has no significant hog industry, so the measure primarily affects egg operations.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, which spent more than $4 million on the campaign for the California measure, predicted the passage of Proposition 2 would usher in a new era in farm standards.

"No state in the U.S. and no agribusiness titan anywhere in the nation can overlook this mandate: People do not want their farm animals treated with wanton cruelty," Pacelle wrote on his blog.

Pacelle had said before the vote that passing the measure would bring new pressure on retailers to raise animal-welfare standards for the suppliers.

The California measure would require that all livestock have room to lie down, turn around and extend their legs.

Some companies, including Burger King, have already been doing that. Shortly after passage of an Arizona measure in 2006 banning sow stalls, the nation's No. 1 pork producer and processor, Smithfield Foods, announced it would phase out use of the crates.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said Proposition 2 passed because of its emotional appeal.

"In addition, it's California," the Texas cattle producer said, referring to the state's liberal tendency.

"It highlights the need for us in agriculture to frankly talk about what we do, put the face of the farmer on it," he said.

Confining pregnant sows in stalls prevents fighting, ensures the hogs get adequate feed and saves labor, experts say. Similarly, caging hens is said to protect birds from each other while also protecting eggs from contamination. Both industries are studying alternatives, including group housing methods to replace the sow stalls.

For the egg industry, part of the challenge is that egg production could be higher in barns with cages than in cage-free operations, said Suzanne Millman, an animal welfare specialist at Iowa State University. In cageless operations, eggs can get broken or contaminated by manure, she said.

McDonald's Corp. says cage systems pose less risk of spreading disease, although cage-free farms allow hens to behave more naturally. McDonald's allows use of either system.

Passage of the California measure shows "the average citizen has the concern about the amount of space we're giving animals," Millman said. "That is something we're going to have to work on long-term."