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Farm Animals Win Big in Election

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Close to two-thirds of California’s population voted in favour of a proposition requiring that laying hens, pregnant
pigs, and calves raised for veal be kept in larger enclosures. The increased space must be enough to allow the
animals to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs, according to the law.

Farmers will have until January 1, 2015, to phase out so-called battery cages—small wire cages often stacked
in rows—for chickens and tight crates used to house pigs and veal calves. “This is the most sweeping animal-
protection measure ever passed by ballot initiative in U.S. history,” said Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for
the Humane Society of the United States in Sacramento, California. The society was the main backer of the
initiative.

Florida, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon have passed similar laws for swine and veal, but California will be the first state to
mandate that all egg-producing chickens have more space to roam. The main focus was on California’s U.S. $337-million
egg industry, which produces about 6 percent of the nation’s table eggs. More than 90 percent of California’s 20 million
egg-laying hens are kept in battery cages.

Animal rights activists say the cages, which hold anywhere from three to ten hens, are often so small that birds rub off
their feathers while pressed against the wires. And on some farms, cages are stacked on top of each other, forcing hens
in bottom cages to live in waste, according to the activists. “Egg-laying hens are packed so tightly that they’re given less
space than the size of a sheet [of paper] to live their lives,” said Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary, a New York-
based rescue organization for farm animals that backed the California measure.

“What I believe producers will do is go to an aviary system, and purchase nest boxes where the birds will be allowed to
fly a little bit and be able to move around to give them a more natural life.” Proponents also point to studies showing that
the risk of diseases such as salmonella decreases in uncaged birds.

- National Geographic News

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