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Prop 12 -- Farm Animal Confinement

AKA what are you DOING to that chicken???

This is tough! The Humane Society and California Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) support it. The Humane Farming Association and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are against it.

In 2008, voters passed prop 2, which said that egg laying hens and breeding female pigs needed to have enough space to turn around in their cages/crates by 2015. Some farms got rid of battery cages by 2015, as required, but there was no real enforcement and the space requirements were non-specific. Some thought it would be better to be specific about space requirements and not play loosey goosey with the birds. Prop 12 would require 144 square inches (1 square foot), which would be better for smaller hens -- maybe still not enough for large hens.

While prop 12 does authorize the CA Department of Agriculture to enforce the standards, this would be logistically difficult and the enforcement of existing standards is already lacking. The idea that prop 12 would also regulate out-of-state producers by imposing the same requirements on them when they sell to California seems ambitious since we haven’t been effectively enforcing regulations here. Besides, is that even legal?

PETA is concerned that through the phase-in process hens would eventually be in cage-free sheds (by 2022) with only one square foot of space per hen. The stress they would experience from overcrowding could lead to the spread of disease and aggressive pecking. PETA says that the United Egg Producers wrote what they wanted as cage-free chicken guidelines in prop 12, and the guidelines allow for multi-level chicken factories where chickens are cage-free but over-crowded. PETA doesn’t want consumers to make the false assumption that chickens will be treated well and have enough space with prop 12.

It appears that prop 12 would be a better lot for pigs. Pigs are smart! BUT there aren’t many pigs in California -- so arguably this is irrelevant -- thus our discussion was more focused on chickens. We took a moment to appreciate that the eggs in our pancakes came from N Street hens with outdoor access and ample space. We could take a break and visit them if we want!

Cost-conscious concerns are that raising the standards would lead to increased food prices when the industry passes its buck (or lack thereof) on to consumers. According to Ballotpedia’s campaign finance section for prop 12, the industries that would be regulated haven’t funded an opposition campaign, which seems suspicious and maybe lends credibility to the argument that prop 12’s regulations are looser than prop 2’s. (Or were they reassured by the ban of sales from producers who don’t meet the requirements?)

There’s still some uncertainty about this prop and whether it could potentially make things worse for chickens. A majority of us leaned “no” in the straw poll. The presenter encouraged us to do more research.

No -- 14; Undecided -- 2; Yes -- 0

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