Just how big should a chicken cage be? California voters thought they’d already weighed in on the matter. But lawmakers in California think the rules about cages for egg-laying hens aren't strict enough.
In 2008, voters ushered in Proposition 2. The law sought to free egg-laying hens from tiny cages. It didn’t outlaw cages but barred California farmers from keeping hens in pens so small they almost couldn’t move. Now voters are being asked to revisit the issue with Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative.
The Humane Society of the United States says California needs the measure to update standards. They also want to apply the rules to out-of-state farmers selling products in California. The earlier initiative simply stated the animals must be able to turn around freely, stand up, and fully extend their limbs—but set no specifics.
A “yes” vote for Proposition 12 would create new minimum size requirements for confinement: one square foot of floor space each for chickens. It would also require that all egg-laying hens be cage-free by 2022.
Many people oppose the measure. They say it would likely result in an increase in prices, partly because farmers would have to remodel or build new housing for animals. But others say the measure doesn’t go far enough to stop animal cruelty.
If approved, the measure could cost the state as much as $10 million a year to enforce—and millions more in lost tax money from farms that stop or reduce production because of higher costs.
Should government be able to tell farmers how big a chicken coop must be? The Bible says that righteous people care about the animals that they own. (Proverbs 12:10) How does that compare with your answer to the first question?
(AP Photo: Chickens in a cage at an egg-processing plant)