California voters ban gestation stalls for sows, battery cages
By Janet Kubat Willette
Gestation stalls for sows, battery cages for hens and stalls for veal calves will be outlawed in California beginning in 2015.
Voters approved the change in their state’s constitution on Nov. 4. The measure passed with the support of 63 percent of the voters.
California is the third state in the nation to outlaw stalls for pregnant sows through proposition or constitutional amendment, said Randy Spronk of Edgerton, Minn., a member of the National Pork Producers Council executive board. Florida voters passed a ballot initiative in 2002 to outlaw stalls beginning in 2008 and Arizona voters passed a ballot initiative in 2006 to outlaw stalls by the end of 2012.
State lawmakers in Colorado and Oregon have passed laws banning gestation stalls. The bans take effect in 2012 in Oregon and 2018 in Colorado.
Spronk, who has housed sows in both group pens and individual stalls, said he moved toward using stalls because of his desire to improve the well-being of the animals.
The animals’ well-being is more influenced by how the animal is cared for than by housing, he said. Poor management can happen in either system.
He said he thinks the majority of people who voted on the proposition were not well-informed.
"Ballot initiatives are a very flawed process in order to decide what is best for animal agriculture," Spronk said.
He said passage of this measure will raise the cost of food. Either production will move out-of-state and food will need to be imported or it will just cost producers more to produce the same food.
A Los Angeles Times article quoted a study by the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center that estimated California farmers’ cost of production could increase by an estimated 20 percent in order to retrofit barns to meet the standards established by the proposition.
The state’s egg-laying industry is expected to be hit the hardest by the mandate. California has 20 million hens and few veal producers. The state’s largest pork producer is voluntarily eliminating stalls, according to the L.A. Times article.
California has 1 percent of the pigs that the state of Iowa does, Spronk said. He expects the Humane Society will try to eliminate gestation stalls, veal crates and battery cages in other states.
The Humane Society of the United States was a chief proponent of the proposition in California.
"California voters have taken a stand for decency and compassion and said that the systemic mistreatment of animals on factory farms cannot continue," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society in a press release. "All animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food."
The Yes! on Prop 2 campaign received donations from 25,000 individual contributors, according to the Humane Society press release.
California voters voted on 12 propositions. Six passed.
A proposition that would have required public and private utilities in California to get at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and 50 percent by 2025 failed, with 60 percent of voters voting no.