Animal welfare groups want Californians to decide whether chickens should have enough space to flap their feathers, turn around and otherwise step out of the box they're in.
They're trying to gather enough signatures to put a law on the ballot that would be the first to extend such rights to egg-laying hens, which according to the Associated Press are typically kept in bird-sized boxes. The law would extend the same rights to veal calves and pregnant pigs, whose boxes are typically too small to allow them to stand, stretch their legs or turn around.
Veal calves already have the right to free movement in Arizona, and both Arizona and Florida have extended that right to pregnant pigs. California's would be the first to do so for chickens -- though the free-range movement has already spurred many to improve conditions for chickens, at least by giving them the opportunity to peck around the yard a bit.
Farmers warn that it could drive up the cost of eggs, chicken, veal and pork products -- since the space needed to house animals would necessitate housing fewer animals per acre.
As the growing legions of eaters who buy food based not only on price and taste, but also on the treatment of animals shows, many are ready to pay a little more for ethically raised animals. Whether the public at large is willing is a question that could be answered -- a least in California -- this November.
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