Just three years ago, HSLF played a critical role in the passage of California’s Proposition 12, which ushered in the strongest farm animal protection law in the world. Proposition 12 built on another ballot measure approved by California voters in 2008, Proposition 2, to ensure that pork, eggs, and veal produced or sold in the California marketplace come from facilities that do not confine animals in tiny, restrictive cages or crates for their entire lives. Proposition 12 not only pertained to the manner in which egg-laying chickens, mother pigs and baby calves are treated in the state; it also covered in-state sales of certain egg and meat products come from producers meeting this standard.
Animal protection is one of many good causes that American voters have affirmed via ballot or referendum initiatives, and this process has played a decisive role in our movement’s success over the last thirty years. Sometimes, in the course of our work, when individual legislators, committee chairs, subcommittees, state legislatures or city councils have placed roadblocks in our path, we and our partners have turned to this time-honored form of direct democracy to advance animal protection measures. In more than two dozen states, citizens have a right to place initiatives on the ballot, giving voters a direct and final say on the passage of animal welfare laws. It is far from easy to carry out a winning campaign, but the record speaks powerfully to the importance of the ballot initiative to our work. Among other things, resorting to the ballot initiative has given us a chance to overcome determined campaigns by elected officials and vested interests to frustrate the advancement of our legislative and policy goals through conventional channels of government.
You often hear from us at the HSLF on the importance of protecting citizens’ access to the ballot and defending the ballot measure and referendum process. Now, we need your help to defend this historic win in California.
Over 62% of California voters supported Proposition 12—a resounding victory for the animal welfare movement in its fight to end intensive confinement—and in doing so they sent a clear message to elected officials and policymakers across the country.
When Proposition 12 comes into full effect on January 1, 2022, it will signal a new era in California—with higher welfare, health and safety standards governing the treatment of farm animals. For several years already, many companies have been preparing to come into compliance, and this law is a major part of the reason why now nearly one-third of the U.S. egg industry is now cage-free, up from single digits just a decade ago. This means more than 100 million chickens every year—now and going forward—will never have to know the misery of cage confinement.
In a sorry turn of events, some powerful outliers in the pork industry have refused to respect the will of California voters and have repeatedly sued to block Proposition 12’s full implementation. Having lost in every round so far, they’ve appealed one of their cases—once again—to the Supreme Court. If successful, their lawsuit could not only overturn California’s law, it could also threaten laws across the country that protect animals from other terrible cruelties. That includes the abuse and suffering of dogs in puppy mills, the intensive confinement of wild animals on fur farms, and painful cosmetic testing on animals.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration has not withdrawn the amicus briefs filed by the prior administration in support of the meat industry’s lawsuits, and the industry is actively using them to support its Supreme Court case.
What’s happening to Proposition 12 is a reminder that the obstructions and roadblocks organized by industry and politicians do not only come before and during a ballot measure campaign, but can come after, as well, through legislative action, a follow-up initiative, or a lawsuit. When voters so overwhelmingly support the passage of an initiative as in this case, working to stop its implementation is to work against the will of the voters and the foundation of democracy itself. We don’t take kindly to such denigration of the democratic process, and we certainly don’t stand on the sidelines when animal welfare is on the line. The Humane Society Legislative Fund is all in behind the defense of Proposition 12 and similar measures, and we’ll stand fast and strong in its defense. Join us in urging the Biden administration to reverse its current stance and go on the record publicly supporting Proposition 12.