Farm initiative qualifies for ballot


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An initiative that would prohibit what its supporters call ‘cruel confinement’ of farm animals such as pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens has qualified for the November ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen has announced.

The Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act would prohibit tethering or confining any farm animal which lives in a covered space in a manner that would prevent it from lying down, standing up and fully extending its limbs and turning around freely. The initiative qualified when 536,605 of the 782,507 signatures submitted were determined to be valid after a random check of signatures.


Animals covered are calves raised for veal, pigs during pregnancy and egg-laying hens, such as the ones pictured in cages below. Exceptions include animals used in scientific or agricultural research; examination, testing or treatment for veterinary purposes; transportation; and rodeo, state or county fair exhibitions and 4-H programs. In addition, the initiative would not cover animals during the slaughter process and the seven-day period before a pig’s expected date of giving birth.

A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail or both.

Supporters of the measure include many animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States and Californians for Humane Farms (which are holding outreach events); Assemblymen Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco); chef Wolfgang Puck; and actress Daryl Hannah.

Opponents, organized as Californians for Sound Farm Animal Agriculture, say egg prices would rise if the measure passes, and that the practices it would ban, such as the use of veal crates and gestation crates for pigs, are rarely used in California and are being voluntarily phased out this year.

Scott Macdonald, spokesman for the opposing group, told the Sacramento Bee that the initative would be ‘tremendously expensive and, in fact, drive the egg industry out of the state.’

Macdonald noted the proposed law would require a lot more space for hens, which are better kept in cages, farmers say, to control diseases.


-Francisco Vara-Orta