SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Humane Society of the United States — the animal rights group that recently made headlines with an undercover video that sparked a recall of 143 million pounds of beef produced by Hallmark/Westland, Chino, Calif. — has announced that almost 800,000 petition signatures have been collected in its effort to place a Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on California's 2008 General Election ballot, exceeding by 82% the number of signatures required by the state for a ballot initiative.
The act is narrowly focused on enclosures used to contain specific animals in commercial agriculture operations. If enacted, the law will require the state's pork processors to eliminate the use of gestation crates for breeding sows; veal processors to eliminate the use of veal crates; and conventional egg producers to eliminate the use of battery cages, all by 2015.
“Across California, millions of farm animals are crammed into cages so small they can barely move for months on end,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of HSUS, stated in a release. “We look forward to the vote in November when Californians will vote to establish the principle in law that animals raised for food deserve humane treatment.”
A national phaseout of gestation crates is already under way, with Smithfield, the largest pork processor in the U.S., and Maple Leaf Farms, the largest processor in Canada, ordering their producers to begin discontinuing use of the enclosures a year ago.
For a state with 19 million laying hens, a potential ban on battery cages could be more disruptive to California's egg industry. In a December interview with SN, United Egg Producers President Gene Gregory said that the act “would allow only eggs produced in cage-free systems,” raising the price of eggs produced in California, and leading the state's restaurants and retailers to source lower-priced conventional products from out-of-state farms. In addition, Gregory said that some producers may leave the state when faced with the cost of converting or retrofitting their operations in California.