Proposition 2 is the first animal rights initiative on the ballot in California since 1998, when Proposition 4 prohibited trapping of fur-bearing animals. Agriculture groups have defeated prior efforts in the Legislature to ban the confinement of farm animals in crowded cages. Laws banning crates for breeding pigs have been enacted in a few other states, but passage of Proposition 2 would be a major advance for animal rights advocates.
Proposition 2 prohibits with certain exceptions the confinement on a farm of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens in any manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The law would principally apply to the state's 18 million egg-laying hens. The measure would take effect in 2015. 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.
Supporters of Proposition 2 are questioning the veracity of a UC Davis report on the Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-laying Hen Housing in California (here). A lawsuit was filed 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 opponents of Proposition 2. 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.
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Public Opinion Resources
Reports and Studies
Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-laying Hen Housing in California. Daniel A. Sumner, J. Thomas Rosen-Molina, William A. Matthews, Joy A. Mench and Kurt R. Richter. University of California Agricultural Issues Center. July 2008. "[I]nformed expectations and careful assessments are that, if passed, the resulting regulations would eliminate the use of cage systems for laying hens in California and may be even more restrictive. If passed, the initiative would mean that remaining egg production in California would be from non-cage systems and could mean that typical non-cage systems would be restricted as well."
Economic Impact on California of the Treatment of Farm Animals Act. Promar International. May 16, 2008. "If passed by California voters, the November 2008 ballot initiative — The Treatment of Farm Animals Act — would create wide sweeping and onerous changes, as well as a significant economic burden, for the California egg farm sector."
"Standing, Stretching, Turning Around" [Editorial, New York Times, October 8, 2008]. "To a California voter still undecided on Proposition 2, we say simply, imagine being confined in the voting booth for life. Would you vote for the right to be able to sit down and turn around and raise your arms?"
"No on Prop. 2" [Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2008]. "According to a University of California Agricultural Issues Center report, cage-free eggs are about 20% more expensive to produce and cost about 25% more to buy. There is a growing demand, but it is still small — about 5% of all eggs nationally are produced by cage-free hens. So California eggs would become more expensive, and many consumers would simply buy the cheaper eggs laid by hens living in cramped conditions in neighboring states or in Mexico. As a result, we fear the result of Proposition 2's passage would not be better treatment of hens but merely the export of their mistreatment. We recommend a no vote."
"California Animal Cruelty Could be Cured by Proposition 2" [Bonnie Erbe, US News and World Report, October 14, 2008]. "Doesn't sound horrendous, does it, to give an animal enough room to stand up and move around? Can you imagine spending your entire life tied to your bed, unable to get up and move around? Even if you don't care a whit about animals, consider what type of food animals living in intolerable situations produce. It isn't pretty."
"A Farm Boy Reflects" [Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, July 31, 2008]. "[T]he most important election this November that you've never heard of is a referendum on animal rights in California, the vanguard state for social movements. Proposition 2 would ban factory farms from raising chickens, calves or hogs in small pens or cages."
Conscious Choices [Oprah Winfrey Show]. Slide show on Prop 2. Features comments and views from supporters and opponents, though the lean seems to be toward the Yes on 2 side
Audio and Video
Center for Governmental Studies