Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California ballot proposition that would regulate animal confinement draws varied opposition

On Nov. 4 Californians will vote on Proposition 2, the proposed Standards for Confining Farm Animals Act, which would regulate how animals are kept in cages. But there are concerns by some animal rights groups who feel that the animals could be worse off under Proposition 2 and by farm groups that say it could greatly reduce egg production in California.

Proposition 2 is targeted mainly at the egg industry, since the state does not have a veal industry to speak of and the use of pig gestation crates is not widespread. Under current law hens can be kept in battery cages which "typically house five to 10 birds a cage, with cages stacked up to six levels high," writes Emily Charrier-Botts of The Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Proposition 2 would require poultry to "be housed in indoor cage-free confinement systems where tens of thousands of birds are kept together within divided areas inside immense barns," adds Charrier-Botts. This prospect has set off some alarms. "Some animal welfare groups have said cage-free environments are actually more dangerous to the health of birds than battery cages, which are intended to make egg collection more efficient and prevent the birds from cannibalizing each other," writes Charrier-Botts. "In a cage-free system, the birds must sleep, walk and, to some extent, lay eggs in their own fecal matter, which can breed disease." There is also a fear that Proposition 2 would cause an exodus of large egg producers to states without similar laws.

The proposition is supported by Democratic U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and the city councils of San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, among others. Opponents include the Association of California Veterinarians, the National Animal Interest Alliance and the Agricultural Council of California."(Read more)

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