Why California proposition 2, now in effect, is not protecting farmed animals

by Brad Miller, Founder, Humane Farming Association

California Proposition 2, passed by voters who hoped to protect farmed animals in November 2008, officially goes into non-effect this week.

The Humane Society of the U.S. promised donors and the public that Proposition 2 would outlaw cages for laying hens and would result in a “cage-free” California. To this day, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle claims that was Proposition 2’s “clear intent.” The measure’s opponents also said that Proposition 2 would require cage-free. So, believing that they were voting to outlaw cages, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2.

Which, of course, brings us to one inescapable, infuriating, and heartbreaking reality: Had Proposition 2’s language actually reflected HSUS’s rhetoric, California would be ”cage-free” at this very moment!

Instead, millions of hens in California are still suffering in cages. Far from going “cage-free,” the egg industry is currently investing in new cages––as well as simply modifying their old cages.

“Negligence,  arrogance,  and outright dishonesty”

All of this could have been avoided if not for the negligence, arrogance, and outright dishonesty of HSUS.

More than six years ago, I personally, repeatedly, and with witnesses present, informed Pacelle that the continued use of cages would be the disastrous result of Proposition 2 unless HSUS corrected its fatally flawed language prior to circulation. As did several others. I also appealed separately to other HSUS staff. That was back when HSUS was seeking the Humane Farming Association’s endorsement and money for their campaign. Although there was still plenty of time to correct the language before the deadline––still plenty of time to clearly spell out exactly what was being called for––HSUS ignored all the warnings, refused to correct the language, and marched ahead with its hopelessly screwed-up ballot measure.

Now, the chickens have come home to roost. And, unsurprisingly, they’re being locked in cages.


As far as the meager amount of space within those cages, due to some confusing press reports, some people think that California’s 116 square inch standard is how Proposition 2 is officially being enforced. That is not the case.

Proposition 2 is not being enforced in any way, shape, or form! The 116 square inch requirement comes not from Proposition 2, but from separate regulations promulgated by our California Department of Agriculture. Those standards were adopted independently with the stated intention of reducing salmonella. The California Department of Agriculture has been explicit in stating that it is are not enforcing Proposition 2. Like virtually everyone else, CDFA says that it has no idea how much space Proposition 2 calls for. Nor does local law enforcement.

No veal calves affected

To distract from HSUS’s historic blunder and abject failure to deliver on its promise of a “cage-free” California, Pacelle claims that Proposition 2 nevertheless “improved” the lives of veal calves. That is also bullshit.

Not one single veal calf is, or ever was, affected by Proposition 2. Not even slightly.

As HSUS is well aware, we got rid of veal crates in California more than a decade prior to Proposition 2 even being considered. Indeed, Pacelle himself openly acknowledged that the reason Proposition 2 included a reference to veal calves was to capitalize on the public awareness HFA had created on that issue. (Much in the way that, years later, he acknowledged that HSUS included references to strangling hogs in the Ohio ballot measure that it first promoted and then withdrew in 2010, in exchange for some largely unfulfilled promises from in agribusiness, in order to capitalize on the publicity generated by HFA’s 2006 Wiles Farm expose and ensuing court case.)

Went with symbolism

As before, HSUS intentionally went with symbolism––substance be damned.

The result: To this day there are calves in California suffering in crates where they cannot even turn around as described in Proposition 2. They are replacement heifers. They are the same species and the same breed as veal calves. That cruelty is still allowed because, against the vehement objections of HFA and many others at the time, HSUS deliberately excluded those calves from protection under Proposition 2!

In other words, HSUS decided to “outlaw” crates which didn’t exist, and which had not existed for years, while intentionally allowing the continued use of calf crates that did exist, and which still do!

If it is fair for HSUS to credit itself for “banning” egg factory cages, and for “improving” the lives of crated calves––as they have famously claimed for the last six years––isn’t it therefore also fair to assign appropriate blame when it ultimately turns out that the exact opposite has occurred on account of HSUS’s own negligence?