Voters Approve Two Key Animal-Related Ballot Initiatives

By John M. Simpson.

Two animal-law-related measures of note were passed during the recent mid-term elections.

Proposition 12.  In California, voters approved Proposition 12 which establishes new standards for the confinement of certain farm animals.  The measure sets new minimum requirements for farmers as to space for egg-laying hens and calves raised for veal (to be adopted by 2020) and for breeding pigs (to be adopted by 2022).  The standards apply, not only to eggs, pork and veal produced in California but also to such products imported into the state and produced elsewhere.

Interestingly, the initiative appeared to divide the animal rights community.  Organizations such the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) backed the measure, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Stop the Rotten Egg Initiative run by Californians Against Cruelty, Cages and Fraud opposed it.  The latter organization took a particularly hard line against its fellow activist group, HSUS:

“When women mobilized against the toxic culture at HSUS, it stemmed from multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Proposition 12’s chief architect, now former CEO Wayne Pacelle.  HSUS’s first response was to question the women’s integrity.  That tactic is now being used against conscientious animal advocates opposed to Proposition 12.  The inescapable reality is this:  If not for HSUS’s deceitful malpractice, California hens would be cage-free at this very moment.”

The new law built upon a prior measure adopted in 2008 and effective 2015 (Proposition 2) which also imposed space requirements but did not reach products produced out-of-state but sold in-state.  Given the impact upon interstate commerce, it remains to be seen whether Proposition 12 will withstand the inevitable dormant commerce clause challenge.  The so-called King Amendment to the currently pending Farm Bill would, if adopted, nullify this type of state-law measure.  Apart from the legal issues, there also is concern about what the measure will do to the cost of eggs, pork and veal sold in California.   One outlet reported that Proposition 12 would add between $.50 to $1.00 to the price of a carton of eggs.

Amendment 13.  Florida voters adopted this ballot initiative which, effective at the end of 2020, will ban greyhound racing within the state.  While the vote in favor of this measure (69 percent, 9 percent more than required) was substantial, it is unclear whether voters focused on the effect this law will have on the dogs.  In addition to the approximately 3,000 human jobs projected to be lost, thousands of greyhounds will be affected.  Florida is home to 11 of the 17 tracks in the U.S. and some reports estimate that as many as 8,000 greyhounds will be idled by the new law.  Racing them elsewhere is not likely given that Florida represents about two-thirds of the greyhound racing industry in the U.S.  The shelter and adoption organization community has not heretofore been confronted with absorbing this many additional homeless animals in such a relatively abbreviated period of time.  What is perhaps worse, the law did not allocate any funds for handling the animals affected by the ban.  As one report glumly noted, “too many dogs coupled with too few adoptions could lead to trainers euthanizing the animals when their upkeep becomes unaffordable.”