Yes on California Proposition 12

Proposition 12 would set minimum space requirements for farm animals, adding specificity and enforcement mechanisms to 2008’s similar Proposition 2.

The benefits for animal welfare go without saying, but Prop 2 could also help fight climate change. Minimum space requirements make meat production more expensive, which should therefore reduce consumption and the associated greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Researchers from Virginia Tech and USDA found that removing farmed animals from the US food supply would reduce GHGs by 2.6 percent (28 percent of agricultural emissions). Another study found that substituting beef for beans “could achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the US.”

Reduced meat consumption could also free up land for reforestation. The Department of Agriculture estimates that livestock consumes 41 percent of US land in the contiguous states, compared to just a quarter for forests.

Source: Bloomberg

While minimum space requirements would benefit animals and the environment, the regulations would be more adaptable if enacted legislatively. The extent to which these changes could be legislated is unclear, since they amend Prop 2 as written (ballot measures can only be amended by subsequent ballot measures), but may be able to be written as additions rather than amendments. Even if possible, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) says it would be difficult. This is probably due to the agricultural lobby holding disproportionate power in the Legislature.

Prop 12 may be the only way to improve farm animal welfare in a way that could also benefit the environment. Vote yes.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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