Proposition 2, or the Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act, would create a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. This would include bans on cages for egg-laying poultry, and restrictive crates for sows and veal calves. The measure would impose misdemeanor penalties and potential jail time for violators of the new codes.
A poll released on July 22, 2008 by Field Poll showed Proposition 2 with 63% support and 24% opposition.
The YES! on Prop 2 campaign is run by Californians for Humane Farms, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals.
Joe Ramsey is the official sponsor of the initiative. In addition to humane societies and animal welfare groups, the measure is also backed by the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club, the United Farm Workers, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The measure has also been endorsed by the California Democratic Party and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
As of July 13, 2008, the Humane Society of the United States had donated $1,360,000 to the measure. Farm Sanctuary had donated $150,000.
Jennifer Fearing is the campaign manager for the "Yes on Prop 2" campaign. Progressive Campaigns, Inc. was the signature vendor for the initiative, at a cost of $416,756.
Californians for SAFE Food has been formed to oppose the initiative. When the signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot were turned in, the group released a statement, saying, "This measure is primarily an effort to ban the use of a scientifically proven method for housing egg-laying hens. If implemented it would trigger unintended consequences which are likely to include increased farm costs, decreased in-state production and higher egg prices for California families."
Estimated fiscal impact
As released by Secretary of State, Debra Bowen’s office, on July 22, the fiscal impact is:
"Potential unknown decrease in state and local tax revenues from farm businesses, possibly in the range of several million dollars annually. Potential minor local and state enforcement and prosecution costs, partly offset by increased fine revenue."
However, according to a study commissioned by opponents to Prop. 2, ninety-five percent of the California egg industry and its accompanying economic output would be lost by 2015. The study also stated that egg production costs would increase by 76%.
UC Davis also conducted a study, concluding that the provisions outlined in Prop 2 could “incur costs of production that are at least 20 percent higher” than current practices. The study also estimated that the entire California egg industry would relocate to other states during the 5-year adjustment period, and that the implication of this would be that consumer costs would increase by at least twenty-five percent.
Currently, about half the eggs consumed in California are produced outside the state. The provisions of Proposition 2 would not apply to out-of-state egg producers.
Eggs account for a little more than 1 percent of California's $32 billion annual farm production. The state's egg industry employs about 3,000 people.
Key Arguments support Prop 2:
- Prop 2 prevents cruelty to animals, since it is simply wrong to confine animals in tiny cages barely large enough for their bodies.
- Prop 2 improves our health and food safety by requiring better conditions for animals.
- Prop 2 supports family farmers, who are driven out of business when factory farms cut corners and put profits ahead of animal welfare and our health.
- Prop 2 protects air and water and safeguards the environment.
- Prop 2 is a reasonable and common-sense reform, which will take effect in 2015 and won't be costly to implement.
Key Arguments opposing Prop 2:
- If it passes, egg supply will go down and egg prices will go up;
- If chickens are not in cages, they are more vulnerable to attacks by predators, including other chickens;
- Veal grates and gestation crates for pigs are "practically non-existent in Californiaor are being voluntarily phased out this year."
- The initiative doesn't require farmers to keep chickens outdoors. Battery cages have been banned in Europe effective 2012. Farmers making the transition there are not providing free range conditions for their chickens but are instead finding other ways to keep chickens in barns.
- If egg companies don't want to deal with the new regulations, they can move to other states or Mexico, taking their benefits to local economies with them.
According to a study put out by the University of California-Davis, if Prop 2 passes, it is likely that it would "force the state's $300 million egg industry to move out of the state or out of business entirely".
- The cost of producing eggs would increase by 20% or more.
- The egg business would have to invest about $500 million on new ways to house chickens.