Hey Knabe.. California Prop. 2: Caging of farm animals under debate

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Well-known member
Feb 14, 2007
From what I have gethered on SP, Knabe is a resident Californian. What do you make of this and have you hear much talk about it around the state? I just wonder when it will be on ballots all across the country and what economical affect it can have on the industry.

Happy chickens equal happy consumers, say proponents of Proposition 2, a November ballot measure that calls for the humane treatment of farm animals.

The initiative, proposed by the Humane Society of the United States, would ban farmers from raising egg-producing poultry, veal calves and pregnant pigs in small cages and crates by 2015.

"The ballot measure is very simple," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief operating officer of the national organization. "All we're asking is that animals are able to stand up, turn around, lie down and extend their wings. It's the difference between an existence and a life."

The measure comes at a time when animal rights issues have grabbed the national spotlight, and the consumer demand for cage-free eggs has captured the attention of national chain stores and fast-food restaurants.

Supporters say not only will laying hens have healthier lives if they are raised in chicken houses where they are free to roam the floor, but the price of cage-free eggs will go down. Currently 5 to 8 percent of the eggs produced in the state come from cage-free chickens. California is responsible for about 6 percent of all the nation's table eggs, a $330 million industry in 2007.

Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have passed similar laws involving rights for swine and veal. But California's referendum is the first to demand that all egg-producing chickens in the state be cage free.

The proposition has ignited a counterattack by large-scale conventional farmers and small, cage-free producers alike, who say if the proposition passes it will put them out of business.

That claim is bolstered by a UC Davis economic impact report published in July.

According to the study, cage-free production costs would keep the California poultry industry from being able to compete with factory farmers from other states, who ship their eggs here. They estimate that it would take half a billion dollars to reconfigure housing systems statewide.

"This is not rocket science from an economic standpoint," said Daniel Sumner, lead author of the study, director of UC's Agricultural Issues Center and a professor of agriculture economics at Davis. "The most likely outcome is that California's chicken farmers will go out of business."

However, he said, it's unlikely to affect the consumer's pocketbook. Because 50 percent of the eggs sold in California come from other states, including Utah, Iowa and Minnesota, the price of eggs would stay roughly the same.

Prop. 2 supporters are questioning the veracity of the study, and filed suit this month in Yolo County Superior Court against the University of California for allegedly refusing to provide documentation showing who paid for the research and whether staff members are covertly working for the other side.

University officials maintain that they have no stake in the outcome of Prop. 2 and that the study was funded solely by the University of California.

Jennifer Fearing, campaign manager for the "Stop Animal Cruelty" initiative, is dubious of the study's economic forecast. She argues that 90 percent of the 250 million broiler chickens in the state are already cage-free and it hasn't put those farmers out of business. She said farmers who raise chickens for eating don't use cages because the birds get banged up in their small confinements, injuring their meat for market.

Most large-scale egg producers house five to eight chickens per cage. The industry standard is that each chicken is allotted 67 square inches of space, Pacelle said. "Birds in these cages cannot dust bathe, nest or perch - natural behavior that's critical in having a decent life," he said. "They keep between 150,000 to 200,000 chickens in a henhouse the size of a football field, sometimes stacking the cages five high. It stinks and there is a cacophony of noise. For anyone to say this is humane is crazy."

But Nancy Reimers, a veterinarian specializing in poultry who is working for Californians for Safe Food, an anti-Prop. 2 group funded in part by the United Egg Producers and Foster Poultry Farms, said that the birds have been specially bred for cages. In fact, she says, statistics show that cage-free chickens have twice the mortality rate and twice the broken bones of their caged counterparts because they tend to huddle and climb on top of each other for warmth and for social contact.

She says the cliche is true, "Birds of a feather really do flock together."

Furthermore, non-caged birds have more contact with their own droppings and are therefore at a higher risk of infecting their eggs with salmonella, Reimers said. Proponents of the bill counter that they have seen chicken cages piled high with manure.

"It's all about good management," Fearing said, adding that as long as you keep a clean henhouse, you're less likely to put your chickens and the public's health at risk.

Steve Mahrt, a Petaluma cage-free chicken farmer and the son of a conventional egg producer, said there is no question that his way is more challenging than his father's. His concern is over space.

"I'll need four to five times more land if this proposition passes," he said, estimating that for the birds to spread their wings they'll need 5 feet of space between them. "This is a huge deal for me and will kill my business."

Pacelle, who advocates aviary-style housing with overhead perches that will accommodate lots of birds humanely, dismisses Mahrt's interpretation of the bill.

"Nowhere does it say that there is a specific space requirement," he said. "And no one believes that all the chickens in the henhouse will be spreading their wings at the same time. We just believe that animals born to move should be able to move."

Proposition 2: Standards for confining farm animals
What it would do: Require farmers to pen egg-laying hens, veal and pregnant pigs in ways that allow the animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Exceptions are made for the transportation of these animals, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.

What it would cost: The state legislative analyst's office concluded that there is a potential that state and local tax revenue from farm businesses could decrease, possibly in the range of several million dollars a year. There is also a potential minor cost to enforce the law, which would partly be offset by increased fine revenue.

Who's for it: U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein; Assembly members Loni Hancock (Berkeley) and Mark Leno (San Francisco); the city councils of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and Davis; the Humane Society of the United States; Oakland Animal Services.

Who's against it: Cathleen Galgiani, Assembly member from Stockton and chair of the Agriculture Committee; the American Association of Avian Pathologists; California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Unite Here, United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council; California State Firefighters Association.


Well-known member
Aug 18, 2008
They tried to pass a similar measure on confined chickens in the state of New Hampshire I understand.  It did not pass.  What the didn't say was there were no chicken operations in that state.  What they were trying to accomplish was to be able to tell neighbor states or the public all the states that have passed these measures.  These proposition should be taken very serious in the animal industry as a whole.  Once they get their momentum, they will be hard to stop.  I believe the public is so misinformed and uneducated on the animal sector here in California that it will pass I'm afraid.  The public rather listen to Pamela PETA Anderson than visit a producer to get the facts.  Hollywood seems to be jumping on their side.  Last year a calf ranch was giving 2 student a tour of his facilities.  Next thing it was being sued.  Went to the State Supreme Court.  Luckily it got thrown out.  Their big financial backer to the students lawyers was Willie Nelson.  Yes Willie.  But he'll show his face on Farm Aid as one of our supporters.


Well-known member
Feb 7, 2007
Hollister, CA
feinstein ignored 80,000 phone calls against the bailout, oops sweetners for people who got too much compensation in too short of time from the exxon valdez.

everyone should read this bill.  it is a total and complete sham.  all we did was address the symptoms, and not the cause.  we complain about health south, enron, world com, and this scandal dwarfs it and yet, barney frank, charles schumer, chris dodd will probably get reelected.

i  haven't heard anything about this bill.  it will probably pass, as most people are completely unaware there is any agriculture in CA. 

agriculture used to be a common topic in school.  everyone knew about the san joaquin valley.

i am convinced, more each day, that we are more divided now than we were in 1860.  the left is completely intolerant of the right and their anger is barely disguised. 

first, it was states rights that were confiscated.  next, will be individual rights (even though the left always complains about inroads from the right.)

now, CA is asking for 7 billion in emergency funds, AND STILL WON'T CUT SPENDING.

believe me, this is coming fast.  the next supreme court justice will be appointed by obama and guns rights will disappear.

actions speak louder than words. 

every initiative on our ballot is a program for at least 1 billion, and i think there are 12 initiatives, including the gay marriage proposal.  bush's overspending will be dwarfed in the next few years.

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