Thursday, November 6, 2008

California vote to force bigger hen cages

SACRAMENTO, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Californians' vote requiring caged chickens to be able to stand, turn around, lie down and fully extend their limbs will spur nationwide change, supporters say.

"This was a landslide victory in favor of animals," Humane Society of America Chief Executive Officer Wayne Pacelle said of Tuesday's Proposition 2 results.

He said the win will inspire similar measures nationwide and greater demand from retailers and restaurants for cage-free eggs, now less than 5 percent of the market, USA Today reported.

Proposition 2 also bans confining crates for veal calves and pregnant sows. But California has few veal producers and the state's largest pork producer plans to eliminate small crates voluntarily.

The measure, which takes effect in 2015, will require egg farms to give hens more room than the standard 67 square inches each, removing so-called battery cages and raising them in hen houses or outside yards.

Producers say the resulting expenses will drive egg prices up and make their eggs uncompetitive with those from other states and Mexico.

The move could increase California farmers' production costs 20 percent, a study by the University of California, Davis, Agricultural Issues Center estimated.

The national United Egg Producers predicted a cost backlash would discourage similar laws in other states, USA Today said.

California produces 6 percent of the nation's eggs, or roughly 5 billion eggs a year laid by 20 million hens, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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