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California and Florida both pass animal welfare laws by a landslide

Voters chose to require more space for farmed animals and to end commercial greyhound racing.

Greyhounds At The Wimbledon Dog Track
Greyhounds race in 2017 at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, since demolished. Florida voters voted to prohibit greyhound racing statewide.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Kelsey Piper is a senior writer at Future Perfect, Vox’s effective altruism-inspired section on the world’s biggest challenges. She explores wide-ranging topics like climate change, artificial intelligence, vaccine development, and factory farms, and also writes the Future Perfect newsletter.

Animal welfare advocates put two major initiatives on the ballot this November and saw emphatic wins on both Tuesday night. In California, they were fighting to set standards for the treatment of caged animals. In Florida, they were working to ban greyhound racing. Both measures succeeded by large margins.

California’s Proposition 12 establishes minimum space requirements for egg-laying chickens, calves raised for veal, and pregnant pigs. It builds on a previous successful proposition for farmed animal conditions from 2008.

“The world’s fifth-largest economy banning the sale of meat and eggs from caged animals is going to have a tremendous impact,” Josh Balk of the Humane Society told me last month.

To prevent industrial producers from relocating out of state to somewhere with laxer animal welfare requirements, Proposition 12’s requirements apply to all animal products sold within the state. That means they might be adopted by out-of-state farmers, too, if they want to sell to California’s nearly 40 million consumers.

Proposition 12 had the support of the Humane Society, the ASPCA, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and Earth Justice. Opposed were the Association of California Egg Farmers and the National Pork Producers Council, which objected that voters shouldn’t tell farmers how to raise their livestock. Less predictably, PETA also opposed the proposition, arguing that it might delay implementation of some requirements from the earlier Proposition 2.

The proposition attracted strong support from voters, with more than 59 percent approving at 11:45 pm Tuesday night.

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, called the vote “ground-breaking for the welfare of animals,” saying California “raised the bar at an important time in our consideration of what farm to table means in this country.”

The victory in California comes after a string of recent victories for cage-free eggs in negotiations and corporate pressure campaigns.

Greyhound racing will be phased out in Florida

Florida saw high turnout driven by closely fought Senate and governor races. Amendment 13, which banned commercial greyhound racing, needed 60 percent support in order to be approved, and it ended up attracting overwhelming support, with 69 percent of voters in favor.

“Because of the decisions of millions of Florida voters, thousands of dogs will be spared the pain and suffering that is inherent in the greyhound racing industry,” said Kitty Block, acting president of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement when the results came in. “We are so grateful to the volunteers, campaign members, coalition partners, contributors and endorsers who came together in support of this historic effort to end the cruelty of greyhound racing.”

Greyhound racing will be phased out over the next two years. “Greyhounds are sweet and loyal companions,” said Kate McFall at the Humane Society of the United States in a statement, “and the phase out of this industry provides an incredible opportunity for thousands of these gentle dogs to find loving homes.”

The results in California and Florida are suggestive of a trend that animal advocates had already noticed: animal welfare initiatives sometimes meet a cold reception in Congress and state legislatures, but have often been a huge success when advocates take the measures directly to the voters. Measures for animal welfare attract broad, bipartisan support. They may be a great vehicle to advance the well-being of animals.

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