A ‘do over’ of 2008’s Proposition 2
Proposition 12, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, proposes to revise commercial animal-confinement standards previously passed by voters in 2008’s Proposition 2. As in Proposition 2, new standards would apply to the same groups as in Prop 2 — veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens.
Prop 12 is in practical terms a “do-over” of Prop 2, a measure opposed by the Association of California Egg Farmers as being “too vague.” Prop 2 proposed confinement standards based on animal behavior, such as space adequate for affected livestock to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. Prop 2 also had no state agency enforcement power, defaulting enforcement de facto to local law-enforcement agencies.
Prop 12 proposes to revise confinement standards from animal behavior to precise square footage. It also assigns enforcement to two state agencies, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the California Department of Public Health. The measure makes violations misdemeanors with fines up to $1,000 for each violation and imprisonment in a county jail for periods not to exceed 180 days, or by both fines and imprisonment.
Prop 12 proposes to ban the sale of meat from calves raised for veal, and breeding pigs and eggs from hens confined in areas below a “specific number of square feet.” Beginning in 2020, banned would be:
• whole veal meat from a calf confined in an area with less than 43 square feet of usable floor space per calf;
• whole pork meat from a breeding pig or the immediate offspring of a breeding pig confined in an area with less than 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig;
• and shell eggs and liquid eggs from an egg-laying hen (chicken, turkey, duck, goose or guinea fowl) confined in an area less than 1 square foot of useable floor space per hen.
Also, beginning in 2021, producers would be required to confine egg-laying hens in cage-free “housing systems” based on the United Egg Producers’ 2017 cage-free guidelines.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts potential decrease in state and local tax revenues from farm businesses, likely not to exceed the low millions annually and potential state costs (of regulation) of up to $10 million dollars annually.
The Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, various SPCA chapters throughout the state and other kindred organizations in-state and nationally are the primary supporters of Prop 12.
In opposition to the measure are producers including the Association of California Egg Farmers, National Pork Producers Council and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society said, “Californians know that locking farm animals in tight cages for the duration of their lies is cruel and compromises food safety. All animals deserve humane treatment, especially those raised for food.”
Jim Monroe, spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council, said, “Livestock production practices should be left to those who are most informed about animal care — farmers — and not animal rights activists. Additionally, changes in housing systems, which come with significant costs that increase food prices, should be driven by consumer purchasing decisions, not the agenda of any activist group.”
The text of Prop 12 is available online where “cage-free housing system is defined as “an indoor or outdoor controlled environment for egg laying hens within which hens are free to roam unrestricted.”
But in defining possible complying systems, included are “multi-layered aviaries” and “partially slatted systems in which hens have access to elevated flat platforms under which manure drops through the flooring to a pit or litter removal belt below.” The last defined cage-free housing system is a single-level, all litter-floor system.
Measure supporters have raised $4.5 million; opponents $550,000.
Media support echoes what measure supporters claim, such as this from the Monterey Herald: “While we would prefer, as we do with most ballot measures, the Legislature deal with these issues, improving the lives of hens, pigs and calves was the right thing to do in 2008. It still is.”
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said this in opposition to the measure, “We can’t and don’t consider it remotely humane to confine birds to a miserly 1 square foot of space — and this wouldn’t even be required until years in the future. If the initiative is passed, the paltry improvements outlined in it would send the wrong message to consumers, a false message that we’ve had to campaign hard against in recent years: that you’ve done something kind when you buy ‘cage-free’ eggs and that somehow it’s humane or ‘good enough.’ Labels and assurances suggesting that groups that endorse allowing 1 square foot of space per hen are ‘humane’ not only sell hens short but also promote eating eggs. They make consumers feel as though they’re doing the right thing when they buy eggs — when instead, they’re actually perpetuating long-term cruelty to animals.”