Prop 2 passes in California


Passage of Prop 2 will mean big changes for California's food-animal industry.


-A major overhaul of the way food-animal businesses in California operate is coming, as voters approved Proposition 2 by a nearly 27 percent margin on Election Day.

Getty Images Farming organizations were opposed to Prop 2, saying it could be costly to the agriculture industry and cripple many farms. Humane groups argued that current animal-housing standards are inhumane and contribute to disease among farm animals, but some veterinary groups say more movement of food animals actually could increase the risks of disease outbreaks.

Still, the passage of Prop 2 means that farms must provide enough room for animals to stand up, turn around and extend their limbs. The law will go into effect in January 2015.

"California voters have taken a stand for decency and compassion and said that the systemic mistreatment of animals on factory farms cannot continue. All animals deserve humane treatment, including animals raised for food," Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a statement following the election.

But not everyone believes Prop 2 was even necessary. In fact, the issue in California was so divisive, it splintered the California Veterinary Medical Association's (CVMA) membership. In fact, veterinarian opponents to Prop 2 formed a new association called the Association of California Veterinarians.

The CVMA, the largest state association in the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) House of Delegates, supported the ballot measure, arguing that cramped agriculture housing violates its principles of animal care, and that there is plenty of time to implement new housing strategies before the proposed law would take effect.

"I really think we'll be able to come up with an improved confinement system in seven years," said CVMA President Dr. William Grant II.

But those who opposed Prop 2 said caging practices are not inhumane, that the law could cripple farmers, negatively affecting the practice of food-animal medicine in California.

"Our biggest issue is having the humane societies dictate animal-welfare laws," says Dr. Michael Karle, chair of the CVMA's agricultural committee. "Let the free market dictate what's going on."

More movement of farm animals also could lead to more disease outbreaks, Karle adds.

The AVMA released a statement applauding concern over animal welfare, but cautioned against the consequences of Prop 2.

"[Prop 2] is admirable in its goals to improve the welfare of production farm animals; however, it ignores critical aspects of animal welfare that ultimately would threaten the well-being of the very animals it strives to protect," the AVMA reports.

"Changing housing standards without consideration of how this may affect animal welfare, such as protection from disease and injury, will not be in the animals' or society's best interest," says Dr. David McCrystle, AVMA's Executive Board chairman.

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