While it’s human nature to focus on returns of the presidential and congressional elections, the factor that might be the most concerning following the Nov. 4 balloting was California ballot initiative Proposition 2. The proposition, which won’t become law until 2015, 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. It carries criminal penalties for violations, including fines and jail terms.
This proposition passed by a 2 to 1 margin, and effectively will eliminate egg production in the state of California – affecting 95% of the state's egg production. What is significant is that agriculture spent a lot of money, and 30 of the state’s largest newspapers came out in opposition to Proposition 2. Yet it passed overwhelmingly.
The two main supporters of Proposition 2 were anti-ag groups Farm Sanctuary and Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS). They’ve already indicated they will carry this and similar measures to other states. They’re clearly focusing on states with ballot initiative procedures, avoiding those where legislatures have the time to study the facts and due diligence relative to the scientific facts.
In Colorado, the livestock industry recently put into effect voluntary measures to eliminate sow crates and the like. They did so when HSUS threatened to go to a ballot initiative and livestock interests realized they didn’t have the dollars or political clout to compete with HSUS on a statewide ballot initiative. In fact, it’s estimated that both sides in California spent a total of $16 million on both sides on Proposition 2.