California Votes to Enact Strongest Farmed Animal Protections in the US

Within the next few years, California will have what are being called the strongest farm animal protections in the United States, if not the world. Voters have overwhelming passed the “Prevent Animal Cruelty” proposition that will help lessen the suffering of breeding pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens.

Inside many of the state’s factory farms, mother pigs spend most of their lives confined in gestation crates that are the size of coffins. Calves spend their too-short lives inside too-small cages. While hens are required to have room to turn around and spread their wings, their living spaces are still inadequate.

Proposition 12, which received about 61 percent voter approval, specifies the minimum size requirements for confining these animals. It also requires all veal and pork products sold in California to come from animals that weren’t confined and all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free hens. All of these requirements must be met by 2022.

The passage of these initiatives is “the most transformational step forward of all time in regards to animal protections,” said Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which introduced the proposition.

This proposition builds on Proposition 2, which California voters passed 10 years ago. That proposition, also introduced by the HSUS, prohibited farmers from keeping these animals confined to small cages in which they couldn’t lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs. However, it didn’t provide specific size requirements for confinement. Instead, the size restrictions were based on animal behavior and movement, which some farmer groups complained was too vague.

Proposition 12, on the other hand, specifies the minimum square footage for the confinement of hens, pigs and calves in California as follows:

  • Beginning in 2020, every egg-laying hen, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl, must have more than 1 square foot of usable floor space.
  • By 2020, every calf must have at least 43 square feet of usable floor space.
  • Beginning in 2022, breeding pigs and their immediate offspring must have at least 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig.
  • By 2022, every egg-laying hen must be raised in a cage-free environment.

While the California Department of Food and Agriculture and California Department of Public Health are responsible for the implementation of the proposition’s measures, the size requirements will be enforced by local law enforcement agencies rather than a state department. Violators will face misdemeanor fines of up to $1,000.

“The people have spoken today: We will not accept animal cruelty,” wrote Elizabeth Enochs of Mercy for Animals, which supported Proposition 12. “And we will not stop until we abolish every last cage.”

Some Animal Groups Opposed Proposition 12

The “Yes on 12″ campaign was supported by the HSUS and a coalition of over 600 veterinarians, farmers, animal shelters and animal protection charities. But some animal groups, including PETA, opposed Proposition 12 because they didn’t think it went far enough.

“This initiative ensures hens will continue to suffer far into the future,” Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, wrote in an opinion piece last month for the Sacramento Bee. “It will allow tens of thousands of hens to be crammed into giant warehouses with only 1 square foot of space per bird, the same amount that the farming industry already requires for ‘cage-free’ labeling.”

While these may be valid points, as a Californian and animal welfare advocate, I supported Proposition 12 and am very pleased that it passed. Yes, these may be small steps, and up to three years is a long wait to take them, but it’s much better than no progress at all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


joan s
joan silaco19 days ago

thank you

Nic Smith
Nic Smith20 days ago

Good work HSUS. The work all animal welfare groups do is immensely important and appreciated by the community. It's understandable that at times they will see things through a different lens and have different expectations around what's 'better' and what's 'ideal'. The expression of these differing views is healthy and important as it all triggers thought for society. And I think this can be done in a way that doesn't appear to undermine one another but it's something for these groups to be mindful of. Many people outside of these vocations who don't live and breathe animal welfare issues every day will often just read the headline statements without delving into the details, so if they perceive groups to be at complete odds and bickering, it may actually prompt some people to detach from the cause and fence-sit.

Well done California on a positive step forward.

Mark Donner
Mark Donnerabout a month ago

It's better than the hideous and criminal torture of livestock that was going on previously but it's weak; it's just replacing one form of evil for another. Livestock are still murdered in their billions because of the human monkeys perverted fondness for meat. Chickens may get some extra space but it doesn't stop the torture of chickens with the chicks being ground up and hens having their beaks chopped. The "veal" and "lamb" atrocities (mass murder of babies) still continues. The human race is the most evil and vicious atrocity the universe has ever experienced.

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Fantastic Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Awesome Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Great news Thank you for caring and sharing

oliver mally
oliver mallyabout a month ago


Maria P
Maria Pabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

La'neSa'an M
La'neSa'an Moonwalkerabout a month ago

Great example California!