Why California’s Proposition 12 Matters To Our Nation’s Pig Farmers, By Wanda Patsche

It’s very concerning when people vote on issues when they don’t understand the ramifications. There is no clearer example than the approved California ballot initiative–Proposition 12. Proposition 12 addresses farm animal housing standards. The problem? Unfortunately, Californians didn’t have enough knowledge to make a good, educated decision. The only way our type of government works properly is if we have an educated electorate.

Let’s dig into this a bit deeper into the requirements of Proposition 12:

California Proposition 12 Specifics


California’s Proposition 12 was a ballot initiative that asked it’s voters to determine livestock animal standards:


Definition of the proposition: Establishes minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals. Prohibits sales of meat and egg products from animals confined in a noncomplying manner.

The proposition was asking its voters to determine how chickens, pigs, and dairy calves should be housed. But my question is, do the citizens of California have enough knowledge to vote on how livestock animals should be housed? Evidently, they feel they do.

So let’s be honest, how many Californian’s really studied this proposition? At first glance after reading the proposition, why wouldn’t you vote for this? It sounds like a good thing. Who wants farm animals confined in noncomplying manners?  No one, right?  It’s definitely a feel-good kind of vote. But what ended up happening is all Californians were given the title of “animal care experts.”

But . . .

Who are the animal care experts?

Are Californians the animal care experts? Do they really know how to care for chickens, pigs, and cows? Or are farmers the animal care experts?

And I will take this one step further, why was this on the ballot?

This would be no different than having each of us vote on specific medical procedures surgeons use. Do I have enough medical knowledge that I can tell a surgeon on what medical procedure they should use? I think not. I would NEVER want to vote on an issue like that. I acknowledge I don’t have the knowledge and I am not the expert. But for some reason, California thinks they are animal care experts.

So how does Proposition 12 affect pig farmers?

Part of the ballot initiative talks about a “noncomplying manner.” For pigs, this specifically talks about the use of gestation stalls. You can read about why pig farmers use gestation stalls. The bottom line is there is NO perfect sow housing. None. There are advantages and disadvantages of both gestation stalls and open pen housing or loose sow housing. We should leave the decision on animal housing to those who know best. Farmers know what is best for their animals. Pig farming success is more dependent on how the pigs are managed or cared for and not how they are housed. The bottom line – we should not be micromanaging farmers. Let’s leave animal care decisions to the farmers and their veterinarians.

Farming is not easy and should not be left to a yes or no vote at the ballot booth.

Now What?

Proposition 12 is making its way through the court system. The concern is Proposition 12 impedes the U.S. interstate commerce clause. Can one state tell another state how to produce its food? That is what the courts will decide. I, for one, certainly hope the courts will decide Proposition 12 goes against state’s rights and therefore, unconsitutional.

Some people may think – why not change the pig housing so it matches what California is dictating? Most people don’t realize the significant cost associated with changing housing methods, especially when it doesn’t mean better care of the animals. Pig farmers do not want to go backward in animal care by being forced into changing their animal care methods. They don’t want their hands tied based on someone who only has an ideological view of farming.

And if pig farmers have to comply with California’s arrogance ways, the cost of food could go up significantly and there may be farmers that will just leave their profession. We as a nation, need to be really careful about what we are doing. It really comes down to, Who Do You Want to Raise Your Bacon?

So What Is The Solution?

Probably one of the most frustrating aspects to farming right now is the disconnect consumers have with those who grow and raise their food. That is precisely why I blog and advocate for agriculture.  It’s imperative that we make a concerted effort into increasing ag literacy.