In just six weeks, The HSUS and a coalition of leading farm animal protection organizations will deliver the signatures needed to launch a California ballot measure that The Guardian described as “History in the making.”
That’s fitting, because the ballot and referendum process is a true gem of American politics, a chance for citizens to express their will directly about topics of the greatest social importance. The treatment of farm animals is just that kind of concern, for me, for The HSUS, and for millions of Americans who support our work. As I write this, staff members and volunteers of Prevent Cruelty California are on the ground in the Golden State, working to collect the 600,000 signatures needed by April 21st to qualify this critical measure for the ballot.
This initiative would go further than any farm animal protection measure ever considered, banning the sale of veal, eggs, and pork from facilities that force animals to spend their entire lives inside cruel and inhumane cages and crates. Opponents of this measure—the veal, egg, and pork industries—have a much harder burden than we do, because they’re going to be stuck arguing that animals are better off when they’re subjected to such cruelties.
California has long been a leader not just in the ballot initiative process, but for progressive animal welfare laws in particular With the passage of Prop 2 in 2008, Californians created a seismic shift on farm animal welfare. That measure, which required that all egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs, and veal calves raised in California be provided enough space to lie down, stand up, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs, passed by a solid 63.5 percent of the vote. Largely due to its precedent, a dozen states now have laws on the books that crack down on the extreme confinement of farms animals. In 2016, Massachusetts voters passed an initiative that’s similar in its intent to the one that Californians will soon consider.
Right now, most eggs sold in California come from hens confined in wire cages. Most pork sold in the state comes from facilities that confine mother pigs in coffin-like cages known as gestation crates where they’re unable to turn around or take more than a step forwards or backwards nearly their entire lives. And California still allows the sale of veal from calves who spend their entire lives isolated in a crate barely larger than their bodies.
We find this unacceptable. That’s why we’re campaigning at full throttle to support this measure requiring that all veal, eggs, and pork sold in the state come from cage-free sources, regardless of where they are produced. A win will be good for animals, for consumers, and for farmers trying to do the right thing.
Early polling shows that a commanding 72 percent of Californians say they would vote “yes” on this measure on Election Day. With such broad support we are confident about its prospects. But there’s important work to do, right now. With 44 days left, we still need to collect more qualified signatures. The powerful pork, veal, and egg lobbies are already marshaling their war chests, and we know that they will do everything in their power to keep the measure from coming to the ballot.
We have one thing that they don’t have, however, and that’s you. A base of strong, caring supporters, who understand and believe in our commitment to fight for all animals. If you live in California, please sign up here today and volunteer to collect signatures. And anyone can help by donating to the Prevent California Cruelty campaign. Later this spring, with the signature drive behind us, we’re going to pull out the stops on this epochal campaign, and fight with all of our might to reshape the political, social, and cultural landscape for animals trapped in the miseries of factory farming.