On July 11, a proposed ballot initiative was submitted to the California attorney general’s office that would effectively ban individual confinement of several livestock and poultry species.

The California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would “prohibit 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.”

The initiative measure would apply to calves in veal crates, gestating sows in individual stalls and egg-laying hens in battery cages.

The California attorney general’s office has 60 days after the petition is filed to complete a verification process, and prepare the title and summary information that would appear on the initiative petition. Once that process is completed, the attorney general’s office forwards the document to the secretary of state’s office to set deadlines for collection of signatures and posting of the ballot initiative for a referendum.

“This is the third state to attempt a ballot initiative,” says Ginger Langemeier, deputy director of Government Relations for the National Pork Producers Council. Earlier ballot initiatives were passed by referendums in Florida and Arizona.

“The proposed language of the bill appears to be very similar to the language that was passed in Arizona and Florida, except that this is the first time that individual cages for laying hens have been included,” she notes.

There are six exceptions to the proposed provisions:

  • During scientific or agricultural research;
  • During examination, testing, individual treatment or operation for veterinary purposes;
  • During transportation;
  • During state or county fairs or similar exhibitions;
  • During the act of slaughter; and
  • During the seven-day period prior to the pig’s expected date of giving birth.

If approved by California’s voters, the proposed act would become effective Jan. 1, 2015.

“We are very aware of this situation in California, and of course, we think this is a misguided effort,” comments Neil Dierks, CEO of the National Pork Producers Council. Several years ago, a number of groups put forth a series of ballot initiatives in California to place restrictions on livestock housing in the name of animal welfare, but those all failed, he says.