This November, California citizens may have the chance to vote for farm animal welfare. A coalition of stakeholders is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would strengthen the California law that bans extreme confinement of farm animals. It would require that all veal, pork, and eggs sold in California come from animals who are not raised in extreme confinement, even when produced out of state. If the measure passes, California would be the second state to have such a comprehensive anti-confinement law; in 2016, Massachusetts overwhelmingly passed a similar ballot initiative. This push for farm animal welfare comes at a time when several states and hundreds of companies are reforming policies and banning cruel confinement practices.
Along those lines, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest producer of pork, recently announced that its transition from isolated gestation crates to group housing is complete. However, caveats are in order: It only applies to sows after 5–6 weeks of gestation in the crates. Further, sows with piglets are still housed in cramped farrowing crates. And finally, at this time, the transition applies only to Smithfield-owned farms, not to independent farms that raise pigs for Smithfield. (Smithfield is “recommending” that its contractors make the transition by the end of 2022.) This all underscores the necessity of continued pressure for legal protection, like the California ballot initiative, to ensure that farm animals are allowed the basic freedom to stretch their limbs and move around. In addition to California and Massachusetts, 10 other states currently have some form of confinement ban on the books.