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NC State Economist

NC State Economist: Cost of Animal Welfare Regulation, Ballot Initiatives, and the Vote-Buy Gap

Rhode Island Red hens in cages laying brown eggs

By Tomislav Vukina, Professor and Extension Economist
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, NC State University

Over the past two decades, 19 agricultural policies involving regulations of farm animal welfare (FAW) have been enacted through legislative bills or majority-vote ballot initiatives in 11 states (see Figure 1). Among the laws enacted, 10 of them involve confinement standards for egg-laying hens or the sale of eggs from hens raised in so-called battery cages, 11 involve confinement standards for gestating sows, and 11 involve confinement of veal calves (Hopkins et al. 2022).

Ensuring an animal-friendly environment in animal husbandry practices is part of a larger global trend following the European Union laws that banned battery cages for egg-laying hens in 2012. When it comes to FAW regulation in general and egg-laying hens in particular, California is the indisputable leader. In January 2015, California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act and Assembly Bill 1437, together known as “Proposition 2,” went into effect. Proposition 2 banned the use of battery cages for all the table eggs produced and sold in California. In November 2018, Californian voters overwhelmingly passed (with 61%) the referendum on “Proposition 12” which completely bans selling eggs produced in any type of cages by the end of 2021.