The California ballot initiative on farm animal housing passed by a large margin in the November elections, with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Set to take effect in 2015, many believe the initiative listed as Proposition 2 will effectively close down the California egg industry, and force it out-of-state, and will affect the swine and veal industries as well.

According to Farm Futures, Proposition 2 will affect 95% of the state’s egg production and requires that all farm animals, “for all or the majority of any day,” not be confined or tethered in a manner that prevents an animal from lying down, standing up, turning around or extending its limbs without touching another animal or an enclosure such as a cage or stall. It specifically addresses modern cage housing for hens and stalls for sows and veal calves.

Farm Futures reports the proposition carries criminal penalties for violations, including fines and jail terms.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released a statement after the election results, saying implementation of the proposition should include the advice of veterinarians and animal welfare scientists.

“Now that the ballot initiative has passed, veterinarians and animal welfare scientists must be involved in its implementation to make sure that resulting changes in animal housing actually improve conditions for the animals they are intended to help. If we’re not careful, animal health and welfare problems could be precipitated that are as significant as the concerns Proposition 2 aspires to address,” Ron DeHaven, AVMA chief executive officer (CEO), said.

Close to $16 million was spent by those promoting their views on Proposition 2 in California, according to AVMA, which sets new standards for livestock housing in that state. DeHaven points out that the same investment could have gone a long way toward improving conditions for livestock across the country if it had been used to help develop science-based and practical solutions to animal welfare problems.

“We agree that more attention needs to be paid to the behavioral well being of production animals. In doing so, we don’t want to be singularly focused on just providing additional space, as is the case with Prop 2. For example, moving laying hens to free-range production systems may allow them to engage in more species-typical behaviors, but it also increases the hens’ risks of illness and injury because it increases their exposure to disease vectors and predators,” explains Gail Golab, head of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division.

Golab says the AVMA can help California producers protect the welfare of their animals by providing information gained from research at home and abroad on alternative production systems.

“We can use this information to help avoid animal welfare pitfalls as we assist California farmers in meeting the requirements of Proposition 2,” Golab explains.

For information www.avma.org.

Share your comments about this issue below. Do you agree with the new requirements, or do you feel this is the first step toward eliminating modern agriculture and moving America toward a nation that must import its food?