What it would do:

Place specific size requirements on the coops and cages used to contain breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens. By the numbers, these news standards require at least:

  • 43 square feet of floor space per calf by 2020
  • 24 square feet of floor space per pig by 2022
  • 1 square foot of floor space per hen by 2020 and cage-free by 2022

It would also require all egg-laying hens be raised in specified “cage-free” conditions by 2022. California businesses would be prohibited from selling any food products that come from animals not raised in compliance with this law, even if they come from out of state.

What it would cost the government:

Not much. It might increase enforcement costs and decrease tax revenue from farms that might suffer under the new regulations.

Why it is on the ballot:

In 2008, voters passed Proposition 2, an initiative sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, which required that farm animals be allowed to stand up and turn around in their cages. After Prop. 2 passed, commercial egg growers insisted that it did not require them to go cage-free, while animal welfare advocates (including Prop. 2’s sponsor) argued otherwise. This measure, again backed by the Humane Society, would add new, more specific requirements by including square-footage specifications. A cage-free requirement will be phased in after four years.

Full text of Prop. 12

Still undecided? Check out our interactive ballot guide that helps you get to a decision about how to vote on each ballot measure through a series of questions.


Arguments in Favor:

Proposition 2 showed that we can improve the welfare of animals on farms without jeopardizing our food supply. Let’s write specific cage-size measurements into law so that the California agricultural industry can’t wiggle their way out of these rules. And California is such a large state that when we act to make our food system a little less cruel, egg layers and other farmers across the nation are forced to follow.

Arguments Against:

Agricultural industry groups say this will require farmers across the country to completely overhaul the way they operate, potentially driving some out of business and raising the prices of eggs, pork, and veal.

Other animal welfare groups argue the proposition does not go far enough. This law wouldn’t require egg-laying hens to be raised in cage-free conditions until 2022, something Prop. 2 should have banned by 2015. Forget this half measure—ban the cages now.



Humane Society of the United States

Mercy for Animals

Central Valley Eggs

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

California Democratic Party

United Farm Workers



California Pork Producers Association

Association of California Egg Farmers

Humane Farming Association

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Friends of Animals

California Republican Party

The California Farm Bureau

Sacramento Bee editorial board


See for yourself


Prop. 12 Campaign Contributions

Going Deeper

What makes a chicken cage-free? California ballot measure would spell it out

Prop. 12 would set minimum space standards for chickens in California. An earlier measure in 2008 did not spell out how much space was required. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press 2007