Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Sonoma chapter.

This November 2018, California citizens participated in the midterm elections. However, there was something a little different about the ballot in the section regarding various propositions. Among the tax raises and social programs, Prop 12 stood out as the ethics of dealing with agricultural animals in the industry. To be specific it stated:


Prop 12: Establishes minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals. Prohibits sales of meat and egg products from animals confined in non complying manner. Fiscal Impact: Potential decrease in state income tax revenues from farm businesses, likely not more than several million dollars annually. State costs up to $10 million annually to enforce the measure.


A vote YES means:

There would be new minimum requirements on farmers to provide more space for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal. California businesses would be banned from selling eggs or uncooked pork or veal that came from animals housed in ways that did not meet these requirements.


A vote NO means:

Current minimum space requirements for confining egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs, and calves raised for veal would continue to apply. The current ban on businesses in California selling eggs not meeting these space requirements for hens would remain in effect.


At first glance, this proposition sounds great. I mean let’s be honest, more room for cute little cows and chickens? Awesome. Not allow these greedy ugly slaughterhouses and big industries to just do whatever they want? Even better. We’re forcing businesses to be nicer to the animals they are dealing with, and fiscally affecting them if they don’t. These are all good things. So when it came to my turn to fill out my absentee ballot a couple of weeks before the official elections, I was surprised at the sight of prop 12. As a vegan activist who is thrusting her life at legislative change for more ethical policy towards people, animals and the environment, I was thrilled to see this type of prop on the ballot! But something seemed a little odd so I did some research.

Multiple large groups are against prop 12. These groups include PETA, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, Friends of Animals, The Humane Farming Association and many others. Multiple campaigns and articles had been put out to raise awareness against prop 12 and I gave them a gander. Here’s what I learned after researching then relooking at the fine print of the prop.

Prop 12 is the initiative to follow up prop 2 from ten years back that forbid eggs that were not totally cage-free, which failed due to lack of enforcement. It passed and was supposed to make California entirely cage-free by 2015 already. Prop 2 explicitly stated that the hens are to “. . . fully spread both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens”. Prop 12, now having been approved, is repealing this voter-passed initiative. With prop 12 replacing prop 2, egg-laying hens will remain in their cages till 2022 and after which they will be allowed 1 square foot of space in their dark crowded warehouses. Massachusetts already had a bill passed years ago allowing 1.5 square feet for egg-laying hens, and they’re not even as high and mighty progressive as us Californians are. This is really a step back given that these businesses are already technically required to be cage-free. The United Egg Producers and the Egg industry are endorsing this prop. Why might that be?

Once passed, the fine print of prop 12 also allows the Legislature to change the prop at ANY TIME without the consent of voters. The prop also claims to do justice for veal calves and pregnant pigs by not allowing the trade across California lines that do not meet the prop’s requirements. There is legislation already in place to go around such a requirement, and it does not speak for the calves and pigs raised and already in California’s border! Prop 12 will buy the industry time to develop policies manoeuvering around these new California sanctions.

To put sanctions on something bad does not make it go away. Putting a limit on how many slaves a plantation owner could buy did not stop slavery(this is not to ilude that the two are of equivalent measure). To lessen something does not stop it. We are still allowing horrendous conditions and torture to be placed upon animals for agriculture with this prop despite its “vote to end animal cruelty” slogan. Instead of making these hens’ cage-free, the prop distinctly legalizes caging for years to come.

I tend to keep politics to myself but I will disclose that even after reading this I personally voted yes on prop 12. Although agreeing with all of these arguments, and that the allocation of such a practice is still unethical, I’d like to think that the mention of any ethics towards animals even acknowledged on a ballot is in fact progress. This is in no way an excuse for our horrendous business practices, simply admitting to a valid point on the pro side. To tell big corporations that the public cares about ethics to any degree and will attempt, in small steps, to prohibit the production and sale of unethical products, is a good thing. Although not perfect, I believe prop 12 was practical, however, we should understand all arguments and the gravity of our vote.


Read next!

Geniuses Shake Their Foot

The Logical Argument Behind ‘Free the Nipple’

Kids with ADHD and the U.S. School System

I'm Rebecca DeMent(she/her/they/them), a Buddhist Catholic vegan ecofeminst, and I am a junior at Sonoma State University studying Philosophy in the Pre-Law concentration with a minor in Business. 
Contributor account for HC Sonoma