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California ban on cages for chickens, pigs and calves

California has banned the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from animals housed in cages, a ban that came into force in 2022. The move followed a vote in 2018 in which citizens overwhelmingly backed a call for all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free hens.

The ban includes products sold in California but produced elsewhere.

Free range chickens outside eating

In 2015 California outlawed the keeping of hens, calves, and pigs in cages so small that the animals could barely move, but the rule did not specify cage sizes and goods from outside the state were excluded.

Now, calves must have at least 4m2 of floor space and breeding pigs at least 2.2m2. Egg-laying hens must not be confined to cages.

California’s latest attempt to improve animal welfare has not gone unchallenged, however. Californians consume 15 percent of pork in the US but produce only 1 percent of the country’s pigs. Therefore, a large amount of the state’s pork is produced in other states. Producers in those states – backed by the US and Canadian meat industries and other groups – claimed in 2021 that forcing them to abide by Californian rules illegally extended that state’s jurisdiction beyond its boundaries.

A lower court dismissed those claims but in October 2022 the case went to the Supreme Court. The producers’ claims were backed by the US Government. The Court has yet to rule.

There are 13 other US states that have banned or restricted confinement for some farm animals. In Arizona, for example, pig gestation crates and veal crates were banned in 2012. The in-state sale of cage-system products will be outlawed in 2025.


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