2016 was a year where farm animals came out on top. Major companies pledged to phase out battery cages and gestation crates (see definition of both below). It was also a year that benefited domestic pets. Puppy mills were banned in several states, pets used in research are getting a second chance, and greyhound racing is becoming a thing of the past. Read below for more highlights.

Lisa Acho Remorenko

Global progress for farm animals: Major companies pledged to phase out battery cages, with some companies pledging to eliminate gestation crates at the same time. These companies include McDonald’s, Burger King, and Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider.

Battery cages are a housing system used for various animal production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens eggs. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the name refers to the arrangement of rows and columns of identical cages connected together, sharing common divider walls, as in the cells of a battery. In the U.S., more than 90 percent of the 300 million egg-laying chickens are housed in battery cage. On average, each caged laying hen is afforded only 67 square inches of cage space, less space than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live her entire life. Unable even to spread their wings, caged laying hens are among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness.

Gestational crates are two-foot-wide metal enclosures that are used in pig farming. A female pig is kept in this type of enclosure during pregnancy and for most of her adult life. The crates are banned in the European Union, Canada, and in nine states in the U.S. (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island). However, farrowing crates, in which female breeding pigs can be kept for up to five weeks, are not banned.

Question 3 Passed in Massachusetts: This ballot measure, which bans the sale and production of eggs, veal, and pork from animals confined in cages, passed with an overwhelming 78 percent of the vote, a greater margin than any animal protection ballot measure in history!

Companies went cage-free: Many major food companies switched from battery cages to cage-free eggs. The impressive list includes Walmart, Kroger, Kraft Heinz, Safeway, and dozens more. These pledges have had a game-changing effect on the egg industry. Because of this success, an NPR headline touted, “Most U.S. Egg Producers Are Now Choosing Cage-Free Houses.”

Federal government wins: 2016 was a year when the Obama Administration closed a loophole allowing downer veal calves to be set aside and left to linger rather than requiring immediate euthanasia. The Obama Administration is also poised to finalize a rule that would dramatically upgrade animal welfare standards for animal products labeled as “organic.”

States crack down on puppy mills: Boston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Portland, Maine, and dozens of other localities enacted ordinances to ban or restrict the sale of puppy mill dogs. Puppy mills are large-scale breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well being of the dogs.

Dogs and cats used in research get a second chance: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law to require publicly funded institutions of higher education to give dogs and cats used in biomedical research and testing a second chance at adoption into forever homes. That’s a lifeline for hundreds of dogs and cats in state-funded institutions.

Greyhound racing ended in Kansas and Arizona: A bill was defeated in Kansas that would have reopened multiple greyhound racing tracks in the state and Arizona finally passed legislation to end the practice there.

Closing down gas chambers: Legislation was passed to prohibit gas chambers for euthanasia in California and South Carolina, and regulations prohibiting the use of carbon monoxide for euthanasia in Kansas were established. The last known gas chambers in Michigan, Nevada, and Oklahoma were also closed.

As we saw in 2016, voters overwhelmingly approved animal protection ballot measures. As those votes reinforce yet again, animal protection is an issue that our nation believes in. There are many pro-animal ballot initiatives coming up in 2017: The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, The Humane Cosmetics Act, and The Pet and Women’s Safety Act, just to name a few.

If animal advocates continue to fight for what we believe in, then 2017 can be a year where the animals come out on top once again.


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