Why the proposed Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act in California is historic​

December 07, 2017

History is about to be made in California, where advocates are fighting to get animals on the ballot. Soon, Californians may be able to vote for what would become the most progressive animal legislation in the world—and The Humane League is excited to be on the front lines of this effort. We are currently on the ground in California organizing volunteers and gathering thousands of signatures to get the proposed legislation on the ballot next November.

In 2008, Californians voted overwhelmingly for the groundbreaking Prop 2, which ensured that farm animals in the state would not be confined so intensely that they couldn't stand up, lay down, turn around or spread their limbs. The law was followed up in 2010 by AB 1437, which made it illegal for eggs from caged hens to be sold in California.

When passed, these were among the most extensive farm animal protection laws in the country. In the following years, the progress continued in a sweeping wave across the egg industry, a campaign that The Humane League has spent the last decade working on. Many major companies—such as Walmart and McDonald's—have stated they will boycott egg farms that use battery cages, and others have pledged not to purchase pork from crated pigs. We have also seen more state-wide legislation pass, including the most recent victory in Massachusetts in 2016.

The proposed CA act builds on the progress that our movement has won by considerably raising the standards for farm animals. Here are some of the details of the initiative:

  • For pigs: The act would ban the use of crates in CA and ban sales from farms that use crates, impacting nearly all of the pork sold in California (and thus many farms around the country). Additionally, the space requirements in this law go beyond nearly all current non-crate sow housing policies (18 square feet per pig) by setting a new minimum of 24 square feet per pig.
  • For calves: A sales ban on veal from crated calves will help finally put an end to this issue. Even in group housing, calves are typically given 18 square feet each. The act requires 43 square feet per calf, which would require considerable welfare improvements from virtually all veal farms in the country.
  • For chickens: The act will ban cages and require 1.5 square feet per bird in barn systems (i.e. chickens on the floor) and one square foot per bird for aviary systems (the vertical space afforded by the aviary systems mean that each bird actually has more space than those in the floor systems). It also has a number of other behavioral protections, like perching and dustbathing, and covers liquid eggs in addition to shell eggs.
  • For legal standing: Current law in California requires a prosecutor to handle violations of the law. The act gives legal standing to consumers, retailers, and even egg producers to sue to enforce the law, building in a powerful enforcement mechanism.

Taken together, these changes will serve as the next generation of farm animal protection laws, creating meaningful improvements in the lives of tens of millions of animals and setting a new standard for other states to work toward. It is important for the animals who are suffering that we win achievable, tangible goals that improve conditions and reduce real pain, even as we also work to reduce the overall numbers of animals being raised and killed.

Understandably, the industries that profit from cruel cages are gearing up to fight this legislation—which means we need your help to win. Visit the campaign's website and help make history.