Ag Groups Respond to Passage of Prop. 2

US - A proposal that would ban modern housing systems for egg-laying hens, veal calves and gestating sows by 2015 was approved Tuesday (November 4) by California voters.
calendar icon 6 November 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have passed similar laws for swine and veal. California, however, becomes the first state to require that all egg-producing chickens be kept in more spacious enclosures or free to roam a henhouse. Most pig and veal farmers in the state have already expanded their pen sizes. As a result, the law’s requirements will have the most significant impact on poultry farmers.

Supporters of Proposition 2 said the initiative would guarantee farm animals a better life, giving them the space they need to stand up, turn around, lie down and extend their wings, as well as prevent diseases caused by overcrowding.

Opponents argue that the cost of the measure threatens California's egg industry and may force California livestock and poultry operations into other states or put some out of business.

In approving the initiative, voters rejected the arguments of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the agriculture industry and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

"While caring for their animals is the clear number one priority for America’s livestock producers, it is also clear that correcting misinformation from those opposed to modern farming is a close second."
Bob Stallman, AFBF President

In response to passage, AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven, DVM, said, “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. 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.“

AFBF's Reaction

On Wednesday (5 November), the American Farm Bureau Federation expressed its disappointment in the passage of the bill. Passage of the measure will cause more products to be produced outside the state of California and is likely to have serious impacts for consumers and California’s egg producers.

“The result points out the lack of understanding that people who voted for Proposition 2 have of agriculture, and it highlights the need for all of America’s farm and ranch families to focus on engaging consumers to communicate their knowledge of and commitment to animal care,“ said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The realities of modern, family-owned and -operated agriculture and the professional dedication of our farm families are largely not understood by America’s consumers. As an industry, we must help non-farmers understand our industry.“

The success of this measure and other such anti-animal agriculture initiatives will likely trigger increased food imports from countries that do not have food safety laws equivalent to those in the United States, AFBF believes.

“If eggs and other food products produced by California farmers are displaced by production from other nations, we believe that Proposition 2 will have serious implications for food safety,“ Mr. Stallman said.

Mr. Stallman said passage of Proposition 2 points out the continued need for farm and ranch families to “talk to neighbors, lawmakers, business leaders – essentially anyone who will listen – to help them acquire a realistic picture of modern agriculture.“

“While caring for their animals is the clear number one priority for America’s livestock producers, it is also clear that correcting misinformation from those opposed to modern farming is a close second,“ Mr. Stallman said.

NPPC's Reaction

“We are disappointed that the voters of California adopted a proposition outlawing a husbandry practice deemed appropriate by decades of farmer experience, as well as by university researchers and the nation’s leading veterinarian association,“ said NPPC President Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, Ohio.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians recognize gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy. The groups also point out that the key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills – that is the care given to each animal.

“It is regrettable that animal-rights groups were successful in vilifying honest, hardworking farmers and ranchers who treat their animals humanely and provide them a safe, healthy environment in which to grow,“ said Mr. Black.

The ballot initiative was backed mainly by the Humane Society of the United States, which helped pass similar ballot initiatives in Arizona in 2006 and in Florida in 2002.

“California often is a bellwether, so it’s likely this ban will be pushed in other states,“ Black said. “We certainly don’t expect the Humane Society to stop with California.“

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.
- You can view an article on the impacts of Proposition 2 on ThePigSite by clicking here.
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