Animal Wellness Action, veterinarians, and farmers endorse California proposition to improve treatment of calves, pigs and hens

Statewide ballot measure would require cage-free housing standards and stipulate that veal, pork and eggs sold in the state come from farms that meet minimum animal care standards

For Immediate Release ・June 28, 2018

Contact: Annie Harvilicz, DVM, CVA・(540) 230-9383


(Los Angeles) – The Animal Wellness Centers veterinary hospital, Animal Wellness Action, and two top national egg industry producers have endorsed a recently qualified statewide proposition that would improve the treatment of farm animals. The initiative will be voted on in November.The ballot initiative would upgrade California’s farm animal protection laws by strengthening anti- confinement standards adopted a decade ago for laying hens, breeding sows, and veal calves and requiring that eggs, pork, and veal sold in the state must come from farms that adhere to improved standards. In 2008, 63.5 percent of California voters backed Proposition 2, which stipulated that hens, sows, and calves in the state be given an opportunity to lie down, stand up, turn around, and freely extend their limbs. Two years later, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill to require that eggs sold in California—originating inside or outside of the state—must come from hens raised according to Prop 2’s animal treatment and food-safety standards.

“Consumers and food retailers have indicated that they want the era of extreme confinement of animals on factory farms to end,” said Dr. Annie Harvilicz, a licensed veterinarian in California and founder of the Animal Wellness Foundation. “It’s never acceptable to keep an animal in a cage or a crate so small that she cannot even turn around.” Dr. Harvilicz indicated that veterinarians from her groups would actively campaign in support of the ballot measure.

Farmers and farming organizations are also endorsing the ballot measure, including Matt O’Hayer, chief executive of Vital Farms Eggs, based in Texas, and Jeff Peterson, General Manager of Central Valley Eggs, headquartered in Wasco, California. O’Hayer is also on the board of directors of Animal Wellness Action, the political arm of the Animal Wellness Group.

“Laying hens want to be able to move around and engage in normal and natural behaviors,” said O’Hayer, who has more than a hundred family farmers in his network of egg producers and is already a major seller of eggs in the California market. “Customers want to know that chickens aren’t confined in cages, and this new ballot measure provides that assurance to all California consumers.” Producers working under the banner of Vital Farms adhere to even stronger standards than those called for in the proposed ballot measure by requiring that hens have access to pasture every day.

“All savvy business leaders in the egg industry are moving away from cage confinement and investing in cage-free housing systems,” said Peterson, who operates major cage-free production systems in California’s Central Valley. “You’d have to have your head in the sand to build new cage confinement systems at a time when consumers and food retailers have expressed their preferences for cage-free production. The California ballot measure will accelerate the inevitable movement to cage-free production and provide farmers with the certainty and security they need to make investments in these new housing systems,” added Peterson, whose company is working on a substantial expansion of its cage-free facilities in California.

Since voter approval of Prop 2 a decade ago, McDonald’s, Walmart, Costco, and more than 200 other major food companies have pledged to go cage-free and stop sourcing eggs and other animal products from animals in extreme confinement. As an example, Compass Group—the country’s largest food service company with dining operations throughout California—is completing its transition to cage-free by the end of 2019, while some other retailers are waiting until 2025 to complete the phase-in. The proposed ballot measure will help all retailers honor these cage-free pledges by requiring all of them to go cage-free (for shell and liquid eggs) in California by 2022—an important benchmark on the way to the entire nation going cage-free by 2025.

The measure will also require all food retailers to stop buying pork from extreme confinement facilities by 2022, the same year that McDonald’s, Burger King, and more than 100 other retailers committed to eliminate gestation crates in their own supply chains.

The United Egg Producers, the dominant national egg industry trade association whose producers represent more than 90 percent of U.S. egg production, has indicated that it is not opposing the ballot measure. In 2008, the UEP led opposition to Proposition 2.

“With nearly every major food retailer in the nation having made pledges to abandon purchasing of animal products from cage- and crate-confinement systems, it’s just a question of when the era of extreme confinement of farm animals will end,” added Dr. Harvilicz. “This ballot measure helps the industries sustainability move toward a cage-free future.”

In November 2016, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative similar to the proposed California measure by a vote of 78 percent to 22 percent. If voters approve the California ballot measure, the state will have the strongest farm animal welfare laws in the nation.