California Proposition 2, Standards for Confining Farm Animals (2008)

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This article is about a 2008 ballot proposition in California. For other measures with a similar title, see Proposition 2.
Proposition 2, or the Standards for Confining Farm Animals, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was approved.

Proposition 2 created a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The law is set to go into full effect on January 1, 2015.

Voters in other states had previously voted to eliminate calf and pig crates, but Proposition 2 in California in 2008 was the first time voters were asked to eliminate the practice of confining chickens in battery (small, confining) cages.


On February 4, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 2. Opponents of the measure claimed it does not specify the exact dimensions of housing for chickens, is too vague and, therefore, cannot be implemented reasonably. The court, in disagreement, concluded, "All Proposition 2 requires is that each chicken be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely… Because hens have a wing span and a turning radius that can be observed and measured, a person of reasonable intelligence can determine the dimensions of an appropriate confinement that will comply with Proposition 2."[1]

Election results

California Proposition 2
Approveda Yes 8,203,769 63.5%

Turnout: 79.4% of registered

Final results from the California Secretary of State (dead link)'

Aftermath of Proposition 2

Apply to all eggs sold

In the aftermath of Proposition 2's victory, California state assemblyman Jared Huffman has introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require that Prop 2's provisions apply to all eggs sold in the state, regardless of where the eggs are laid.[2]

Idaho, Nevada lure egg farmers

Idaho State Senator Tim Corder, who seeks to lure disaffected California egg farmers to Idaho

As the 2010 session of the Idaho State Legislature opened in January 2010, Tim Corder, a Republican state senator, announced that he is introducing legislation designed "to attract California chicken farmers who might consider relocating" to Idaho. The Idaho legislator and others say that Idaho will give egg farmers who might want to leave California in advance of the time that Proposition 2 goes into full effect in 2015 "friendlier regulations and lower costs."[3]

Officials in Pershing County, Nevada are also visiting with poultry farmers from California and "aggressively" encouraging them to pull up stakes and move to Nevada. Economic development officer Kathy Johnson said, "We wanted to let them know that we do have the land, the climate, and we'll work with them. We don't have these stringent regulations that are being imposed now in California."[3]

Debbie Murdock, executive director of the Association of California Egg Farmers, said that for egg farmers to move to a new state would entail significant expenses. Pointing out that there are currently 20 million hens in California, she said, "It's a huge expense for us to have to move. It's a huge expense for us to change our housing. A move like this, especially in this economic climate, can be very scary."[4]

Clarify guidelines

California's egg farmers are asking for guidelines that carefully define the minimum amount of space they must provide for each hen. Some egg farming associations say that Prop 2 doesn't specifically outlaw all cage systems.[2]

"Turned upside down"

Arnie Riebli, an egg farmer, is the chair of the Association of California Egg Farmers. He was also a member of the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District, but on July 1, 2009 he announced that he was resigning from the health care district's board to focus on his business, saying, "My personal business world has been turned upside down."[5]

J.S. West lawsuit

J.S. West & Co., a commercial egg producer, filed a lawsuit in December 2010 in Fresno County. The lawsuit seeks clarification on exactly what type of housing is acceptable under Proposition 2, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2015. According to the lawsuit, Proposition 2 does not define how much space is required to allow for the behaviors it mentions (lying, sitting down, standing up, turning around, fully extending limbs without touching another animal) and it does not ban cages for hens, but Proposition 2's sponsor (the Humane Society of the United States) is saying that Proposition 2 does ban cages for hens.[6]

The egg industry has set 67-87 square inches per hen as its space standard for how much space each hen should have. In 2010, J.S. West opened a colony housing system for hens. This colony housing system was the first such hen housing concept to be built in the United States. It provides 116 square inches per hen. J.S. West asserted that its colony housing system was Proposition 2 compliant. The Humane Society of the United States then said that it wasn't, and that in fact, Proposition 2 is "crystal clear" in its requirement that hens must be housed in "cage-free environments."[6]

Enriched colony systems

J.S. West & Company, an egg-producing company based in Modesto, said in September 2009 that it plans to build a $3.2 million "enriched colony system" for egg-laying hens. The "enriched colony system," according to the company, gives each hen 116 square inches of room. They believe that this new method of chicken farming will satisfy the requirements of Proposition 2.[6]

  • In the colonies, 60 laying hens are housed together in four-foot by 12-foot-off-the-ground enclosures. The enclosures have perches, scratching areas, claw shortening mats and privacy areas for laying eggs.
  • The chicken enclosures meet the standards of the European Union.
  • The Humane Society says that the enclosures do not meet the requirements of Proposition 2.[6]
  • The Association of California Egg Farmers says, "We are pleased to see a California farmer step forward to construct new housing that will meet voters' desire to provide egg-laying hens more space."[6]

Association of California Egg Farmers lawsuit

The Association of California Egg Farmers filed a lawsuit against Proposition 2 in November 2012 seeking to have a California state court declare that Proposition 2 is "unconstitutionally vague."[7]

Animal confinement practices


In California in 2008, chicken farmers were allowed to raise chickens in what are called "battery cages." These are stacked wire enclosures where 95% of laying hens live out their lives, with six to eight hens to a cage. According to the United Egg Producers, a trade association, about 30 farms in California produce most of the state's annual 5-billion-egg harvest, an average of more than 600,000 hens per farm.[8]

Calves may be raised in veal crates and sows may be raised in gestation crates.

Egg production

In 2008, about half the eggs consumed in California were produced outside the state. The provisions of Proposition 2 do not apply to out-of-state egg producers.

Egg production in the state is concentrated in Sonoma County, the Central Valley and Southern California. San Joaquin County produced an estimated 34.5 million dozen eggs in 2007, worth more than $25 million to farmers. Eggs account for a little more than 1 percent of California's $32 billion annual farm production. The state's egg industry employs about 3,000 people.

The top ten egg-producing states in the country, ranked by number of active hens, are:

  • Iowa, 52.6 million laying hens
  • Ohio, 25.6
  • Indiana, 23.8
  • Pennsylvania, 20.5
  • California, 18.3
  • Texas, 14.1
  • Florida, 10.4
  • Nebraska, 9.9
  • Minnesota, 9.7
  • Georgia, 9.5

Only three of the top 10 egg-producing states allow for citizen initiative (California, Florida and Nebraska).

Text of measure

2008 propositions
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February 5
Proposition 91Proposition 92
Proposition 93Proposition 94
Proposition 95Proposition 96
Proposition 97
June 3
Proposition 98Proposition 99
November 4
Proposition 1AProposition 2
Proposition 3Proposition 4
Proposition 5Proposition 6
Proposition 7Proposition 8
Proposition 9Proposition 10
Proposition 11Proposition 12
Local measures


The ballot title was:

Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Initiative Statute.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 2 said:

  • Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
  • Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.
  • Provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days.

Fiscal impact (official)

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • Potential unknown decrease in state and local tax revenues from farm businesses, possibly in the range of several million dollars annually.
  • Potential minor local and state enforcement and prosecution costs, partly offset by increased fine revenue.

Other estimates of fiscal impact

A May 2008 study by Promar International that was commissioned by opponents to Proposition 2 estimated the fiscal impact of the measure on the California agriculture industry and consumers. This study concluded:

  • 95% of the California egg industry and accompanying economic output would be lost by 2015.
  • The total current economic output of the industry is $648 million and 3,561 jobs.
  • Egg production costs would increase by 76%.[9]

The University of California Agricultural Issues Center (AIC), attached to UC-Davis, issued a July 2008 study about the fiscal impact. That study said:

  • The best evidence from a variety of sources suggests that (non-organic) non-cage systems incur costs of production that are at least 20 percent higher than the common cage housing systems. This is due to higher feed costs, higher hen laying mortality, higher direct housing costs, and higher labor costs.
  • The study also estimated that the California egg industry would relocate to other states during the 5-year adjustment period.
  • The study concluded that the cost to consumers of the cheapest California-produced eggs would increase by at least 25%. However, since the egg industry shall have relocated to other states, in the opinion of the study, they conclude that the cost of eggs to California consumers will increase by about 1 cent per egg.[10]

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a key supporter of Proposition 2, filed a lawsuit against UC-Davis relative to this study.[11]



The YES! on Prop 2 campaign was run by Californians for Humane Farms, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals.

Joe Ramsey was the official sponsor of the initiative. In addition to humane societies and animal welfare groups, the measure was also backed by the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club, the United Farm Workers, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.[12] Proposition 2 was also endorsed by several politicians, including the California Democratic Party and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.[13]

Jennifer Fearing was the campaign manager for the "Yes on Prop 2" campaign.[14]

See also: List of Proposition 2 supporters.

Arguments in favor

  • Prop 2 prevents cruelty to animals, since it is simply wrong to confine animals in tiny cages barely large enough for their bodies. To emphasize this argument, supporters of Prop 2 released a video on October 14 that according to the Los Angeles Times shows "egg-laying hens crammed into filthy cages, while, nearby, discarded birds are left to die in piles of corpses."[15]
  • Prop 2 improves our health and food safety by requiring better conditions for animals.
  • Prop 2 supports family farmers, who are driven out of business when factory farms cut corners and put profits ahead of animal welfare and our health.
  • Prop 2 protects air and water and safeguards the environment.
  • Prop 2 is a reasonable and common-sense reform, which will take effect in 2015 and won't be costly to implement.
  • The price of cage-free eggs will go down.[16]
  • See California Proposition 2 videos


$10,499,162 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 2.[17]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
Humane Society of the United States $4,070,307
Audrey Steele Burnand $500,000
Farm Sanctuary Inc. $314,634
Fund for Animals $250,000
Anne Wojcicki $100,000
Leslie L. Alexander $100,000
Laurie C. McGrath $100,000



Californians for SAFE Food opposed Proposition 2.[18] When the signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot were turned in, the group released a statement, saying, "This measure is primarily an effort to ban the use of a scientifically proven method for housing egg-laying hens. If implemented it would trigger unintended consequences which are likely to include increased farm costs, decreased in-state production and higher egg prices for California families."[19]

Arguments against

  • If it passes, egg supply will go down and egg prices will go up.
  • Some egg farmers in California who already practice cage-free chicken farming are fearful that the ballot language is ambiguous and that their farming would also be subject to the provisions of the initiative.[20]
  • If chickens are not in cages, they are more vulnerable to attacks by predators, including other chickens;
  • Veal crates and gestation crates for pigs are practically non-existent in California or are being voluntarily phased out this year.[21]
  • The initiative doesn't require farmers to keep chickens outdoors. Battery cages have been banned in Europe effective 2012. Farmers making the transition there are not providing free range conditions for their chickens but are instead finding other ways to keep chickens in barns.[8]
  • If egg companies don't want to deal with the new regulations, they can move to other states or Mexico, taking their benefits to local economies with them.[8]
  • According to a study put out by the University of California-Davis, if Prop 2 passes, it is likely that it would force the state's $300 million egg industry to move out of the state or out of business entirely.
  • The cost of producing eggs would increase by 20% or more.
  • The egg business would have to invest about $500 million on new ways to house chickens.[22]
  • Consumers would buy trucked-in eggs from other states and Mexico which would be more exposed to salmonella, and the hens more vulnerable to bird flu.[23]
  • According to the National Taxpayers Union, Proposition 2 would place additional regulations on how livestock owners must handle their farm animals, which could increase food costs.[24]
  • Los Angeles pundit George Skelton says, "I'm for chicken compassion. But I feel more compassionate about the chicken farmer in this bankrupting economy."[25]
  • See California Proposition 2 videos


$8,973,429 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Proposition 2.[17][26]

Donors of over $100,000 were:

Donor Amount
Cal-Maine Foods $591,211
Rose Acre Farms $517,256
Moark LLC $495,883
J.S. West Milling $340,792
Midwest Poultry Services $260,000
Foster Poultry Farms $250,000
Demler Enterprises $234,200
Pine Hill Egg Ranch $205,000
United Egg Producers $185,000
Gemperle Enterprises $162,473
Fort Recovery Equity $131,814
Demler Egg Ranch $131,283
Nucal Foods $122,390
California Farm Bureau Federation $119,007
Herbrucks Poultry Ranch $117,500
Williamette Egg Farms $100,362


See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided
July 2008 Field 63 percent 24 percent 13 percent[27]
September 2008 SurveyUSA 72 percent 10 percent 17 percent
October 18-28 Field 60 percent 27 percent 13 percent[28]

Editorial opinion

"Yes on 2"

"No on 2"

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

On February 28, 2008, supporters of the measure submitted 790,486 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. This compared to a requirement of 433,971 valid signatures. In early April 2008, the California Secretary of State announced that the signatures were sufficient and the measure would proceed to the November ballot.[54][55][56][57]

Initiative supporters say that their petition drive was invigorated in February when a video of sick cows being abused at a packing plant in Chino, California surfaced and was widely viewed on the internet.[58]

The signatures were gathered by a combination of volunteers throughout the state, plus paid signature gatherers employed by Progressive Campaigns, Inc. at a cost of $416,756.[59]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information:



Additional reading:


  1. Los Angeles Times, "Egg-laying hens in California win another court battle," February 4, 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 Press Democrat, "Egg farmers seek guidelines for hen confinement," June 22, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wall Street Journal, "Poachers Arrive at Egg Farms," January 13, 2010
  4. Los Angeles Times, "Idaho, others prepare for California egg exodus," February 8, 2010
  5. Sonoma News, "Riebli steps down from SVH board," July 2, 2009 (dead link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Feedstuffs, "Egg producer sues California for interpretation of Prop 2," December 9, 2010
  7. Sacramento Bee, "Humane Society moves to have Proposition 2 suit dismissed," December 11, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Los Angeles Times, "Chicken Run," July 5, 2008
  9. Economic Impact on California of the Treatment of Farm Animals Act, Promar International, May 16, 2008 (dead link)
  10. Sumner, Daniel A. et al, Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-laying Hen Housing in California, University of California Agricultural Issues Center, July 2008
  11. The Guardian, "UC served legal threat after Proposition 2 study," September 26, 2008
  12. List of sponsors of the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Initiative (dead link)
  13. California Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer Endorse State Anti-Cruelty Ballot Measure, June 19, 2008
  14. Jennifer Fearing personnel profile
  15. Los Angeles Times, "Footage of mistreated hens released in support of Proposition 2," October 14, 2008
  16. San Francisco Chronicle, "Proposition 2: Caging of farm animals under debate," September 30, 2008
  17. 17.0 17.1 Follow the Money, "Donors to Yes on Proposition 2"
  18. Group forms to fight California ballot initiative, Daily Herd, Jan. 8, 2008
  19. United Egg Producers, "Measure threatens science-based farm practices" February 25, 2008
  20. [* Inside Bay Area, "Some cage-free egg producers fear effects of Proposition 2," September 25, 2008
  21. California Farmer, Group Formed to Fight Ballot Measure, May 1, 2008
  22. Record Net, "Measure could send egg industry packing, study says," July 23, 2008
  23. Press Telegram, "Uncertain animal benefits," September 29, 2008
  24. National Taxpayers Union, "General Election Ballot Guide 2008, The Taxpayer's Perspective"
  25. Los Angeles Times, "Proposition 2: Good for chickens, bad for chicken farmers," October 20, 2008
  26. Sacramento Bee, "Ballot Watch: Proposition 2: Standards for confining farm animals," September 27, 2008
  27. July 22 Field Poll results on Proposition 2
  28. Field Poll for the Sacramento Bee, October 31, 2008
  29. San Diego Union Tribune, "Ban on inhumane confinement is sensible," September 15, 2008
  30. New York Times, "Standing, Stretching, Turning Around," October 8, 2008
  31. Mercury News, "Editorial: Vote yes on Proposition 2 to let chickens spread their wings," October 2, 2008
  32. Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Proposition 2 makes humane sense"
  33. Paradise Post, "We support Prop 2 but not Prop 3"
  34. Los Angeles Daily News, "Yes on Prop 2; It's a feel-good egg"
  35. Whittier Daily News, "Vote 'yes' on Prop 2"
  36. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Yes on 2"
  37. Los Angeles Times, "No on Proposition 2," September 25, 2008
  38. San Francisco Chronicle, "Why Proposition 2 is a bad idea," September 24, 2008
  39. Press Telegram, "Uncertain animal benefits," September 29, 2008
  40. Colusa County Sun-Herald
  41. North County Times
  42. Hollister Free Lance, "Why Proposition 2 is a bad idea for agriculture"
  43. Long Beach Press-Telegram, "Proposition 2: Uncertain animal benefits"
  44. Redding Record-Searchlight, "Farmers would bear brunt of Proposition 2"
  45. Madera Tribune, "Prop 2 deserves a 'no' vote"
  46. Napa Valley Register, "Vote No on Proposition 2," October 9, 2008
  47. Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "No on Prop 2"
  48. Record.Net, "Some losing propositions," October 15, 2008
  49. Chico Enterprise Record, "Flawed measures should be rejected"
  50. Press Enterprise, "No on 2," October 16, 2008
  51. Santa Clarita Valley Signal, "Our positions on Nov. 4's propositions," October 18, 2008
  52. Daily Breeze, "Daily Breeze election endorsements"
  53. The Reporter, "Proposition 2 not for voters; Let Legislature make law"
  54. Secretary of State's ballot qualification notice
  55. Nearly 800,000 signatures turned in to qualify anti-cruelty measure for November ballot
  56. Anti-Cruelty Measure Certified for California’s November Ballot, April 10, 2008
  57. Los Angeles Times, "Animals in the voting booth", April 8, 2008
  58. Press-Enterprise, "Proposition 2 petition drive lagged until cow abuse video surfaced," August 17, 2008
  59. Campaign expenditure details