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CME: Mixed Reactions to Passage of Proposition 2

by 5m Editor
6 November 2008, at 6:20am

US - CME's Daily Livestock Report for 5 November 2008.

This week's election results include one vote that is quite concerning for US animal agriculture: The passage of Proposition 2 in California. The proposition requires that all farm animals “for all or the majority of any day” 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. Those requirements target battery caged layers, stalled sows in both gestation and, apparently, farrowing and stalled veal calves. The requirements become effective in 2015. The law carries criminal penalties including fines and jail terms for violators.

The table below shows data from the 2002 Census of Agriculture for the top 12 states for milk cows (which we use as a proxy for veal calves), hogs and pigs and layers.

Similar ballot initiatives have passed in both Florida and Arizona in recent years. As can be seen from the table, though, the passage of this measure in California is a much bigger deal than in other states. California ranks first in the nation in milk cow numbers and fourth in layers.

The new laws in Florida and Arizona basically ban stalls for sows and veal calves. The new law impacted very few animals in Florida but will have a significant impact on Clougherty Packing Company’s substantial hog operation in Arizona. Clougherty represents such a large share of Arizona hog numbers that USDA does not publish state hog data since they would reveal confidential information for Clougherty. A similar measure in Colorado was withdrawn when Colorado pork producers agreed to voluntarily phase out gestation stalls.

Californians for SAFE Food, an agricultural group organized to oppose Proposition 2, claims that the measure will “essentially close down the California egg industry since it affects 95% of the state's egg production.” Veal and pork producers have been looking at various group housing systems for some time. The layer industry claims that modern cage systems already meet the highest levels of animal welfare prescribed by to ethicists and scientists.

Interestingly, the measure passed by a vote of 63% to 37% — roughly the same percentages witnessed in Arizona two years ago and both losing margins followed aggressive efforts by animal agriculture to defeat the proposals. Proposition 2, like its predecessors was supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Farm Sanctuary. It is likely that these groups will take their effort to other states that have ballot initiative provisions.

HSUS is not the organization that runs local animal shelters and helps with spaying and neutering of pets. That is the Society for the Preventions of Cruelty to Animals or SPCA in most communities.

5m Editor